Rev. S. Dianna and Rev. Dr. Henry Masters (photo by Brian Carter)
By Cora Jackson-Fossett
Sentinel Religion Editor
More than a decade of ministry and outreach in greater Los Angeles will end next month for the Rev. Dr. Henry L. Masters, pastor of Holman United Methodist Church, and his wife, the Rev. S. Dianna Masters, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church.
Beginning July 1, the Masters will serve as spiritual leaders of St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church in Dallas, one of the largest African American churches in the state.
“Yes, we have answered the call to return to Texas where we came from 11 years ago. All of this was very surprising to us. We didn’t anticipate getting a call from the bishop to come back. But after some thoughtful prayer, we responded to the call,” said Dr. Masters.
Their appointment by Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe of the UMC North Texas Annual Conference comes after the resignation of Pastor Tyrone Gordon, who stepped down in February in the midst of administrative and judicial complaints from both inside and outside the congregation.
“We are going to minister a hurting congregation and we will use our gifts to help. However, we are at churches that love us and we love them, so we will miss them greatly, too,” said the Rev. Masters.
During their time in Los Angeles, both Dr. and the Rev. Masters enjoyed many successes in their respective ministries. Dr. Masters, who came after the internationally known Dr. James Lawson, implemented many new programs for members and the historic West Adams community where Holman is located.
“The centerpiece of our ministries there has been Disciple Bible Study, a nine-and-one-half month program. Dianna has been the architect of it. Also, our liturgical dance, which is intergenerational, has really blossomed. We also have a new worship aimed at young adults called FUSE and we started the Jobs 4 Kids outreach that puts children to work every summer. About 400 have participated in the program,” said Dr. Masters.
Likewise, the Rev. Masters instituted activities embracing the multi-cultural neighborhood surrounding Wesley UMC, which is also the oldest United Methodist Church on the West Coast and ‘birthed’ Holman.
“I was able to implement leadership training for the laity through the preaching and teaching of God’s word. For many years, Wesley has sponsored educational and tutoring programs at its Rakestraw Center. Right now, we offer a boxing program for youth and we feed the homeless every Thursday with both bagged groceries and meals on the spot to provide an immediate answer to their hunger,” the Rev. Masters said.
In addition, Wesley has partnered with its Spanish-speaking neighbors to hold joint Vacation Bible School, fellowship services and other efforts.
While pleased about their progress in LA, both expressed optimism about life in Dallas as well.
“We’ll have an opportunity to be in the pastoral ministry together as well as live closer to our families,” Dr. Masters said.
When the Rev. Dr. Henry and the Rev. S. Dianna Masters begin a new phase of ministry in Dallas, they will have fruitful Los Angeles experiences to draw upon.
The Masters shared their reflections about life in L.A. with the Sentinel.
LAS: What are some of your accomplishments in LA?
HLM: We’ve built up our Holman Camping Program where children come from all over the city for a week at a campsite in the San Bernardino area. Holman pays for children whose can’t afford it.
SDM: Many come to Christ through camping. It impacts life for youth in a positive way and frees up families, especially single parents, to just have a break in their lives, too.
HLM: Also, we created a permanent Endowment Committee at Holman as a way of sustaining ourselves in the future. That is, getting members to remember the church in their wills and we’ve now accumulated resources approaching $1 million. The interest can be applied to things like scholarships, but the principal is always there into perpetuity.
SDM: As for Wesley, we have our feeding outreach that we do a bit differently. With the poor, we give bags of groceries. But the homeless don’t have refrigerators, stoves or can openers, so we give them an opportunity to come in, wash their hands and face which is a huge thing for them, and give them prepared food which is an immediate answer to their hunger.
LAS: How do you feel about serving in same church?
SDM: We have been married a long time and I’ve always been heavily involved in the church. I love the Lord and had a strong relationship with Him before I ever met my husband. So, we have actually been in ministry together for about 38 years, but I didn’t get paid. I have since become ordained and the bishop appointed me to Wesley, but I have never left Holman as their first lady.
LAS: What will you miss most about living in LA?
HLM: We will miss the people we’ve come to know and love. Many of them are like family. And we will miss spending our Fridays on the beach, studying and preparing our sermons. We’ll have to find some water somewhere in Dallas and pretend as much as we can that we’re on the beach.
LAS: What message can you give to the congregations you’re leaving?
SDM: I asked them to start praying for their new pastor right now. I also reminded them that I love them and we have become a stronger church through the preaching and teaching of God’s word. Continue to pray that the Lord will use us as we go to Dallas.
HLM: I hope I’ve left a legacy of service to the church and community and I hope they’ll be a more innovative and creative in doing things differently at the church. Don’t think about the problem, think about the solution. Maximize our resources in the church.