NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Rev. Gregg Alan Mast, Ph.D., president emeritus of New Brunswick Theological Seminary and General Synod Professor emeritus of the Reformed Church in America, died Monday afternoon at Albany Medical Center Hospital in New York after being ill with the COVID-19 virus for several weeks.
He was 68.
Mast was called in 2006 to serve as the 14th president of seminary.
He and his wife, Vicki, came to New Brunswick at a time of financial and staffing instability along with growing concerns over issues of race in the life of the seminary as it became a fully coeducational, multicultural student body representing a variety of denominations.
Mast guided the school through a return to financial stability, the creation of a Doctor of Ministry degree, and the move into a new physical plant with the building at 35 Seminary Place. He also began a long run of teaching worship for the annual intensive courses for the Reformed Church in America’s Ministerial Formation Coordinating Agency.
As President, Mast also gave expression to his longstanding passionate interest in global Christianity, and his commitment to the future of the Christian faith as a global reality. He had traveled widely, visiting, preaching and teaching in Christian churches around the world, not least during his term as General Synod president, but throughout his years of ministry as well.
At the seminary, he experimented with a program to bring scholars from abroad, especially from the two-thirds world, to join the faculty. He also established another program to bring seminary students from churches outside America to the seminary for a portion of their studies.
Mast also took the lead in establishing the Underwood Center for Global Christianity, which cultivates relationships between the seminary and churches abroad in several ways.
In partnership with the Saemoonan Church of Seoul, Korea, he began the annual Underwood Symposium each spring, introducing American and European scholars to Korean Christian audiences.
Mast also had a deep commitment to racial justice, from his days as a seminary intern in inner-city Philadelphia, through his time in South Africa and throughout his career.
At the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, the achievement he was arguably most proud of was the initiative to dismantle any institutional racism at the school through many student and faculty dialogues, major curricular changes and the creation of the Anti-Racism Transformation Team.
This team, with his encouragement and participation, opened the way to a number of fundamental structural and policy changes at the administrative level, to a transformation of the daily culture of the school, to the establishment of annual anti-racism trainings that are still required of all students, faculty, staff and board members, and to the adoption of the Anti-Racism Statement of the Board of Trustees.
In 2014, the New Brunswick Theological Seminary Board of Trustees unanimously agreed to dedicate the new Seminary campus chapel in honor of Mast.
According to his obituary posted on the seminary’s website, “Faculty, staff, administration, students, and trustees in the time of his presidency not only found inspiration in these deep commitments and visions that he brought to his work; they also came to deeply trust his leadership itself. He led by cultivating relationships throughout the seminary community, bringing his ideas and passions into conversations with others, listening to their responses as well as their own ideas and passion, thereby building community and, at the same time, engaging everyone in the process of shaping the school’s life and mission.”
Memorial service plans have not been finalized.
If you would like to make a memorial gift to the Seminary in Mast’s name, please use The Pilgrimage Fund, established upon the occasion of his retirement for gifts in his honor.