Cranston native Matthew Jeremy Baker, 36, is about to rewrite local history.
This Sunday, in fact, Baker will be ordained as a Greek Orthodox Church priest by His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston at the Church of the Annunciation, located at 175 Oaklawn Ave. in Cranston.
Baker’s ordination will mark only the second time in 34 years – and just the fourth time in the 109-year history of the Church of the Annunciation – that the ordination of a priest has taken place.
“Ordinations are a rather rare event in local parishes,” said Father Andrew George, pastor of the Church of the Annunciation Church. “Thus, the up-coming priesthood ordination of Matthew Baker is of great significance for us. So very often they occur in seminary settings, so this is especially meaningful for our parish.”
Baker will become only the second priest to be ordained at Church of the Annunciation since the Greek Orthodox Church moved from Pine Street in Providence to its Oaklawn Avenue property in Cranston. The ordination service will begin at 9:30 a.m.
The Rev. Theofanis Degaitas, who is currently serving in Irvine, Calif., was the last priest to be ordained at Church of the Annunciation’s Cranston location.
“This is really another rarity – just four priests ordained in over a century,” Father George noted, adding that the other two priests who were ordained at Church of the Annunciation were the late Vasilios Markopoulos and the late James Kyriakakis.
“Christian communities need to have their spiritual leaders, thus again the importance of ordinations of newer and younger clergy who will minister in future decades wherever they are charged to serve,” Father George said. “Matthew is exactly 30 years younger than me; in fact, he’s the same age of my son Anthony. By coincidence, Matthew and my son were in the same Cub Scout pack back in the mid-1980s. Go figure!”
Father George added, “Matthew has prepared long and hard and is well schooled in our Orthodox theology, and is extremely knowledgeable – a doctoral candidate in fact. Just two days after his ordination, he will begin to teach at Hellenic College in Brookline, Mass., an institution of our Archdiocese.”
Baker, who grew up in Cranston and attended Cranston public schools – Waterman Avenue Elementary, Park View Junior High and Cranston High East, is the son of Evelyn Baker and the late Howard Baker.
He has been involved in various literary, philosophical and educational activities, and taught English for a time at a private school in Virginia. Following a number of years of personal searching and study, he was received into the Orthodox Church in 2001. He married his wife Katherine in Virginia shortly after in 2002.
Baker has received theological degrees from St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary in Pennsylvania and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School in Massachusetts. For the past three years he has been working on a doctorate in systematic theology at Fordham University in New York. His scholarly articles have been published and translated in a variety of languages.
Matthew and Catherine Baker are the blessed parents of six children: Isaac, 11; Elias, 9; George, 7; Eleftheria, 5; Cyril, 3; and Matthew Jr., who is almost 1 year old. The Bakers live in Cranston.
Sunday’s ordination will mark another historic milestone in Matthew Baker’s life.
“For me, priestly service forms a unity with my academic work in theology, my teaching work and family life,” he explained. “I will be teaching this spring at the Greek Orthodox seminary in Brookline while I write my PhD dissertation. I have been blessed to have diverse mentors – in the parish and in the scholarly sphere.”
One such mentor has been Father George, who the Greek Orthodox priest elect said “has been a shining and stellar example, from whom I have learned so much over many years of association and working with him doing baptisms, funerals, liturgies and hospital visits.”
Baker added, “The Orthodox Church keeps the practice of the ancient Church, which was also the practice of the Roman church until the 12th century, in allowing married men to be ordained.”