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New York layman Gene Maston, 74, had ‘compassion for the city’

NEW YORK (BP)–Memorial services for Eugene “Gene” Maston, 74, a key layman in Baptist work in New York City and the Northeast since 1959, were held Dec. 19 in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, and Dec. 12 at New York City’s Metro Baptist Church, of which he was a founding member in 1974.

Maston was the son of the late T.B. and Essie Mae Maston. T.B. Maston was a longtime ethics professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Essie Mae Maston died in June of this year at the age of 104.

Gene Maston died in his New York apartment during the weekend of Dec. 6 of a flu-like condition and a weakened physical condition from diabetes, reported J. David Waugh, pastor of Metro Baptist Church.

In a tribute to Maston, Waugh wrote, “To effectively evangelize cities there must be Christians who are city lovers … persons who are content to live and work in an urban environment, to befriend city folk and to minister among them. Invariably my illustration of such compassion for the city is Gene Maston.”

Waugh recounted a conversation Maston told of having with his father:

T.B.: “Gene, why don’t you come to Texas to continue your ministry?”

Gene: “You believe that God loves everyone don’t you?”

T.B.: “Why, of course, God does. I have dedicated my life to teaching just that.”

Gene: “Well, there are more people in New York City than in Fort Worth so don’t you think that’s a good enough reason to remain in New York?”

T.B.: “If you put it that way, then I guess I can’t argue with your decision.”

During his early years in New York, Maston was “the catalyst for beginning Baptist campus ministry across the Northeast,” Waugh wrote. “… [He] began Baptist student work at Columbia, West Point and Vassar. He was involved in the beginning of similar ministries at Yale and the University of Connecticut, then further north to Brown in Providence, Harvard in Boston and Dartmouth in New Hampshire.

“The positive impact of Gene’s life on countless students through these intervening years is inestimable,” Waugh noted.

In subsequent years, Maston was “a [Sunday School] teacher, pianist, pulpit supply, deacon, historian, hymnist, clerk and door man” at Metro Baptist Church, as Waugh put it, and previously was a Sunday School teacher and deacon at Manhattan Baptist Church; a Bible teacher at the Manhattan extension campus of The College of New Rochelle for nearly 30 years; and a teacher at Harlem Prep, a magnet school to provide innovative educational opportunities for African American students who were failing in conventional schools.

“Gene’s accomplishments were all the more significant,” Waugh wrote, “in view of the personal challenges he faced. Gene suffered from both severe adult diabetes and chronic clinical depression. Both of these illnesses were hard to control medically. The diabetes would send him into insulin seizures and the depression resulted in at least two psychiatric hospitalizations and led to the breakdown of his marriage that ended in divorce.

“Initially Gene could not understand why God did not heal him,” Waugh recounted, “but Gene never came to doubt God’s love for him. He was not ashamed to speak of his hospitalizations or of his on-going struggle with mental illness. He welcomed opportunities to let his own personal struggles serve as teaching tools for others to know how to minister to those who are depressed or to recognize the love of God in the midst of their own illnesses.”

Maston earned an undergraduate degree from Baylor University and a divinity degree from Southwestern.

He is survived by a number of cousins and, as Waugh recounted: “Over the past dozen or so years Gene had enveloped, and been enveloped by, a network of young adults who were proud to be considered his ‘family.’ This cadre of individuals first came to know Gene as they moved to New York fresh out of college to begin their careers or to work on advanced degrees. They joined Metro Baptist Church and participated in Gene’s Sunday School class. As they in turn married and had children, they looked to Gene to serve as the NYC grandfather of this growing new generation — all thirteen of them.”

Waugh concluded his tribute with: “Gene, a lifelong learner, a lover of God, a man of deep personal piety, a dedicated teacher and entrusted friend, will be missed by all who knew him.”

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