|Irish Methodist pastor receives Queen?s Honors|
The Rev. Gary Mason, minister at the East Belfast Mission,
stands in front of a paramilitary mural that is being painted over with a
more peaceful image. The Irish Methodist peace activist will be honored
for his efforts by Queen Elizabeth II this fall.
A UMNS file photo by Kathleen LaCamera.
A UMNS Report
By Kathleen LaCamera*
July 30, 2007
An Irish Methodist peace activist has been recognized for his work in
Northern Ireland with a 2007 Queen’s Birthday Honors award in Great
The Rev. Gary Mason, who has worked for two decades to bring an end
to violence and division in Northern Ireland, was noted for his "service
to community relations." Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, will present
him with the award at Buckingham Palace during a special ceremony this
Mason received an MBE — which stands for Member of the Order of the
British Empire — for "outstanding achievement" and "hands-on local
service which stands out as an example to others."
Delighted by the announcement, Mason said he is pleased not only for
himself but for the recognition it brings to the peace efforts of his
parish — the East Belfast Mission — and all who have been part of that
Blessed are the peacemakers
Mason has served as a Methodist pastor to churches throughout Belfast
during the turbulent years of "The Troubles." He has promoted
ground-breaking, cross-community programs linking Catholics and
Protestants and has forged relationships with outlawed paramilitary
communities responsible for much of the region’s terrorism and violence.
He believes peace and stability can become a reality for Northern
Ireland only when paramilitary "hard men" are brought back into
meaningful roles within the mainstream of Irish society.
"It’s more than just about economics," he said. "There is a whole psychological-pastoral need here."
While the armed paramilitary struggle is officially over, Mason
doesn’t expect change overnight for the people whose lives have been
defined by decades of violence and hatred.
"You have to help people know there’s a future with purpose and
meaning for them," he said. "You have to replace the hate with something
positive. If we don’t, then it can become Mafioso style culture here."
Through his work at the East Belfast Mission and its community
outreach "Skainos" project, Mason has spearheaded grassroots efforts to
support those who are young, old, marginalized, rootless and despised in
Belfast. Skainos is a New Testament Greek word meaning "tent" or
He has raised more than $32 million of the $40 million needed for a
facility to house and support these efforts and provide economic and
social renewal to the area as well. Skainos has been a designated
Advance Special for The United Methodist Church for the past three
"His vision is large," said the Rev. David Kerr, a former Irish
Methodist Conference president, now chaplain to the East Belfast Mission
staff. Kerr noted that Mason "is a voice to be trusted."
"You have to help people know there's a
future with purpose and meaning for them. You have to replace the hate
with something positive."
-The Rev. Gary Mason
Kerr recalled an event when long-time Republican and Protestant
enemies sat together in the East Belfast Mission sanctuary as Mason
conducted the funeral service for David Ervine, a well-known politician
and former paramilitary member.
"That they could sit there together says something about the
relationships Gary has built up over the years," Kerr told United
Methodist News Service. "He has been instrumental in getting (the
paramilitaries) to change their war-like murals, and he has certainly
played a part in diffusing potential flashpoints in the city over the
past two years."
Sharing the legacy
The UK Honors awards date back some six centuries and are announced
twice a year on the queen’s birthday in June and on New Year’s Day. The
awards recognize people for "merit, service or bravery."
Mason is one of two British Methodists on this summer’s Birthday
Honors List. The other is Glastonbury Music Festival founder Michael
Eavis, who received a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire)
for his contribution to music.
Since 1970, Eavis has been opening his Somerset dairy farm every
summer for an event where world-famous musicians perform for crowds
numbering several hundred thousand. The son of a Methodist lay preacher,
Eavis confesses that he is the loudest singer in his local Methodist
church choir. He says he likes going to church because it gives him
"reassurance that there are some really reliable, sensible people out in
More information on the Skainos Project can be found at www.skainos.org.
Credit card gifts in support of the Skainos Project can be made online at http://new.gbgm-umc.org/give/advance/,
The Advance Web site or by calling (888) 252-6174. Checks, payable to a
local church, can be dropped in church offering plates or made payable
to Advance GCFA and mailed directly to P.O. Box 9068, GPO, New York, NY
10087-9068. Checks should include the name of the project and the
Advance number. The Advance Special Project Number for the Skainos
Project is No. 14698T.
*LaCamera is a UMNS correspondent based in England.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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Queens Honors List
UK Honors System