George Mason, senior pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church, will retire in August.

About 25 years ago, neighborhood CPA Dennie Brown called me and said the Advocate needed a “faith” column, and he knew exactly the man for the job: Dr. George Mason, the former University of Miami football player and the relatively new senior pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church.

That combination of faith and football, especially in Texas, intrigued me.

Mason, who at the age of 32 became Wilshire’s 4th senior pastor, sat down with Brown (who I did not know prior to his phone call) and me for lunch, and we talked about possible column ideas and reasons readers might find it interesting.

We all recognized the Advocate is not a faith-based publication, nor is it our intention to push people toward, away from or around religion. We are, and always have been, a publication dedicated to writing about neighbors, neighborhoods and what’s happening around us.

The more we talked about it, though, the more we realized that faith is a big part of neighborhood life: Whatever your faith, and even if you don’t subscribe to or even like organized religion, life is built around beliefs, and a column talking about those beliefs in a non-judgmental way could be interesting reading in those times of our lives when a little faith is needed.

And so the column has gone for the past 300 months or so — George has talked about faith, neighborhood issues and the relationship between them. Some of you have liked what he had to say. Some of you have been, shall we say, less enthralled with his thoughts. And hopefully all of you who are Advocate readers have frequently, or at least occasionally, found some wisdom in his remarks over the years.

Fast forward to today: George announced his retirement from his post at Wilshire, effective May 1 — his last day to preach at Wilshire and likely his last monthly column for the Advocate — and Aug. 31, when his role as senior pastor of Wilshire officially ends after 33 years.

“Writing for the Advocate has allowed me to use spiritual muscles I otherwise wouldn’t have flexed just being a pastor,” George says. “Being a public theologian requires an awareness of neighbors from other faiths and those claiming none. Yet, calling us together to build up the community is something all our religious and ethical traditions can come together for.

“It’s been a joy to have this forum. I have had the extra blessing of meeting people all over Dallas who feel like they know me because of this monthly column. I am grateful to the Advocate for the privilege.”

George’s tenure at Wilshire has been both eventful and, at times, controversial.

Under his leadership, women have been ordained, divorced people have been allowed to serve as deacons, and the church began offering full membership to persons baptized in other Christian traditions. Perhaps not surprisingly, these and other decisions led Wilshire to end its relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 and to help form the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a more moderate national group.

In 2016, Wilshire’s congregation voted for full inclusion of LGBT individuals. That decision led to lots of acrimony (and a story by Keri Mitchell in the Advocate). A number of longtime Wilshire parishioners didn’t like the vote’s outcome and left the church, which also wound up severing longstanding ties with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

“We think there will be many positive consequences for being able to say to the LGBT community that they are welcome here fully, in Christ,” George told the Dallas Morning News at the time.

George and Wilshire also stepped up when the Ebola virus reached Dallas in 2014. George ministered to Louise Troh, a Wilshire member and fiancee of Thomas Eric Duncan, whose death from Ebola triggered the citywide crisis. He and Wilshire partnered with the Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes and Friendship-West Baptist Church to promote racial equity and justice in Dallas. And he helped found the nonprofit organization Faith Commons with Rabbi Nancy Kasten and Imam Omar Suleiman; the group produces a podcast entitled “Good God” that George hosts.

Wilshire intends to form a search committee to look for a new senior pastor, according to church officials.

George’s own take on his church and his eventual replacement: “There’s something rare and special about this church. A spirit of adventure, a courage that is always pen to what the Spirit might be leading us to next.”