An unlikely providence: SBTS grad ready to serve as Red Sox chaplain

Communications Staff — March 10, 2009

The Boston Red Sox did not sign a big-name free agent this winter to help them fend off the hated New York Yankees in the American League East during the upcoming season, but the clubhouse presence of a man who batted .080 in his last year of organized ball could make a significant impact on the team in 2009.

Bland Mason, a two-time graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and New England church planter, was named chapel leader for the Red Sox in January by Baseball Chapel, a Christian organization that has an informal relationship with Major League Baseball and places chapel leaders with each team.

Mason, who received his master of divinity from Southern Seminary in 1997 and his Ph.D. in 2005, seems to be the most unlikely of candidates to serve the Boston Red Sox; Boston is a Red Sox-mad city with fans that number among the most ardent and baseball-savvy in America, able to sniff out a historically naïve, Johnny-come-lately fan from 100 paces.

Mason has been a Boston citizen exactly four months and
prefers basketball to baseball, having last played the
latter in fifth grade, concluding his brief career with a batting average of .080.

And Mason is still catching up on his baseball knowledge. Several years ago when he was a college student, the Red Sox’s new chaplain encountered a friend wearing an Atlanta Braves cap with the trademark “A” emblazoned across the front. Mason asked his friend if he was a fan of the A’s—as in Oakland. While he is not yet ready to dominate at baseball trivial pursuit, Mason points out that God’s ways often confound the wisdom of the wise.

“I have cheered for the Sox for the last five years and yes, I was touched somewhere deep in my soul when they won the World Series in 2004,” he said. “With all of that said, as of November of this year I could not have named more than six or eight players on the Sox’s roster.

“Add into this mix the fact that I just moved to Boston in November of this year and it makes complete sense why I wouldn’t be a good candidate for the position as a baseball chapel leader to the Red Sox. I mean, who would want a very modest Red Sox fan who just moved to Boston and never played baseball beyond little league to serve as the chapel leader to the Red Sox? It seems that ‘God’ is the only answer to that question because logically it just doesn’t work otherwise.”

A native of Gloucester, Va., Mason did not find the chaplain position; consistent with the theology of his Puritan heroes, it found him. A friend in the Acts 29 church planting network was offered the role, but could not fill it; he recommended Mason and Baseball Chapel contacted him. Mason and his family are laying the groundwork for a church plant in Boston.

As a chaplain, Mason’s duties include serving the spiritual needs of the Boston players, both those who play for the
big league club and those in the minor leagues. Each Lord’s Day, he will lead chapel services for both the Red Sox and the visiting ballclub and will offer Bible studies for players during the weeks when Red Sox are playing at Fenway Park.

Baseball chaplaincy offers a profound opportunity to minister to players who play a rigorous 162-game schedule of daily games, a schedule that consumes most every minute of their time for more than six months, Mason points out.

Half of the games are on the road, meaning players are seldom at home with their families and games are scheduled for each Sunday, meaning Christian players seldom worship in their local congregations.

“Most of the players are not from Boston and only live here eight months out of the year,” he said. “Combine that with the fact that they have the most games of any major sport means that the Christians on the team don’t get to their home church most of the year.

“I can offer Bible studies during a home stint for those players that are ready or interested. Within that group there are usually one or more players that are open to being discipled on a personal level. My prayer is for God to allow me to equip and encourage these guys to grow in the Gospel in every area of their lives.”

Since Mason took the position a little less than two months ago, he is getting acquainted with the Christian players who populate the Red Sox roster.

Mason and wife Teresa joined the Red Sox last week at their spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla., where he met two players who were off-season acquisitions, both of whom are strong Christians: former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz and catcher Josh Bard, formerly of the San Diego Padres. Both are active in Baseball Chapel. Mason has also met Justin Masterson, a second year pitcher and follower of Christ.

Not only will Red Sox players receive discipleship from Bland Mason, but Teresa Mason has also accepted a position with Baseball Chapel as a women’s leader and will work with wives and girlfriends of players.

Though it seemed a bit of an odd fit at first, Mason is embracing with vigor the new calling that God has given him to minister to the Red Sox through the ministry of Baseball Chapel.

“I have been reminded that God delights in working things out according to the counsel of His will, despite what we may think. If I can use my sanctified imagination for a minute, I think God smiled when he lined things up and I got the call offering the position to me,” he said.

“I honestly had never remotely considered the idea of being a chapel leader to a major league team…I am reminded of something Jesus said: ‘Oh how small is your faith!’ Knowing that I would have dismissed it, God went one step further to get me in place: have a friend call me. God showed once again that His providence will guide us exactly where we need to be when we need to be there.

“As I begin laying the foundation for a new church here in Boston, it excites me to have the opportunity to serve the Red Sox. The position will afford me instant credibility with Christians and the unchurched across Boston. Teresa will have the great opportunity to minister to the players wives as well.”

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