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Pastor puts on musical about Simon of Cyrene (UM News)

April 7, 2022

The Rev. Henry Masters has a thing for Simon of Cyrene.

Nearly two decades ago, Masters wrote and published a book about the African man summoned from the crowd to carry Jesus’ cross to Calvary.

Now, at age 76 and retired as a United Methodist pastor, Masters is producing his own full-length musical about Simon of Cyrene. It’s to be performed as a special Lenten program on April 8, at Dallas’ Hamilton Park United Methodist Church.

Others might write Simon off as a bit-part Biblical character, briefly mentioned by three of the gospels. Masters finds him fascinating — and highly relevant in a 21st-century America still struggling with race relations.

“Black men, in particular, get caught in circumstances they didn’t create but have to deal with,” Masters said. “That’s Simon.”

With “Simon of Cyrene: The Musical,” Masters is making his debut as a theatrical director. But he has long studied the history of the Black church.

He’s lived a lot of it, too — as a bridge figure between the eras of segregation and integration; as pastor of prominent Black United Methodist churches in Dallas and Los Angeles; and as publisher of By Faith Magazine, which helps connect Black United Methodist churches across the U.S.

He’s even married to a Black United Methodist pastor, the Rev. Dianna Masters, herself recently retired from ministry in the North Texas Conference.

Among Henry Masters’ fans is the Rev. Sheron Patterson, pastor of Hamilton Park United Methodist Church.

“As long as I have been around the North Texas Conference, Henry has been a leader,” she said. “He is the calm, cool, level-headed type who gets things done without a lot of fanfare.”

Masters grew up in a Methodist family in Waco, Texas, during the latter days of Jim Crow.

Over more than four decades, Masters would lead three historic predominantly Black United Methodist congregations in Dallas: St. Paul, Hamilton Park and St. Luke “Community.” He had a long stretch as well at Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, and he served as a district superintendent in the North Texas Conference.