The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Baker, senior pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church, announced his retirement effective April 1, 2013 in an emotionally moving address to the congregation during worship services Nov. 11, 2012. The Rev. Dr. Patricia Loughlin will remain as associate pastor. The Rev. Victoria J. Starnes, previously of the Baltimore Washington Conference, will begin her ministry as senior pastor with Epworth on April 1, 2013.
Baker has served in pastoral ministry for more than 40 years. He has ministered to the Epworth family and the Rehoboth-Lewes community nearly half that time - a total of 19 years during his two appointments at Epworth. “While I have never neglected my family, they have graciously taken a secondary position in order to allow me to meet the challenges of ministry. The spirit has now moved me toward a change in that priority, making my family my first priority and offering myself to more involvement in global missions.” Baker said during his announcement.
Baker served two years, from 1973 to 1975, as the youth minister and program director for the United Christian Parish in Reston, Va. He was appointed pastor of the Cecilton, Md. parish in 1975, serving both St. Paul’s and Zion churches for seven years until 1982. His first appointment to Epworth UMC came in mid-1982, and he served for 14 years until 1996. In 1996, he was called to serve the Peninsula Delaware Conference as the conference council director, and served in this capacity for two years until 1999. He was appointed senior pastor to Aldersgate UMC in Wilmington in 1999, serving there for nine years until 2008. He returned to Epworth in January 2008 and has served there for the past five years as senior pastor.
During his various pastoral appointments, Baker served at the Methodist General Church level as a delegate to the 1996, 2000, and 2004 General and Jurisdictional Conferences; a delegate to the 2008 Jurisdictional Conference, General Council on Ministries, and the General Commission of Religion and Race. He also served at the conference and Dover District levels as chair for the Peter D. Weaver Congo Partnership; as conference resource director for the director of Connectional Ministries; as the chair of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry; as the chair of the Division of Education, Board of Discipleship; as the chair of the Division of Human Relations, Board of Church & Society, and as the chair of Episcopacy Committee.
He served as the coordinator of Zambia Volunteer in Mission trip, and served on several boards such as the Board of Trustees for Wesley College, the Board of Governors for the Wesley Theological Seminary and on the Board of the Methodist Action Program. He was also a member of the Committee on Native American Concerns and the Conference Council on Ministries. “What a blessing it has been for me to serve the conference, the community, and Epworth; so much has happened, and every day has been filled with surprises of God’s grace and the extravagant hospitality and generosity of so many,” said Baker.
A Day of Celebration for the ministry of Jonathan Baker is being planned for Sunday, March 17, at Epworth UMC. The public is invited to join Epworth for one of the three regularly scheduled worship services (7:45 a.m., 9:15 a.m. or 11:15 a.m.) as Baker retires from the many aspects of his ministry. Each service will be followed by a short reception, with cake, in Fellowship Hall.
Then, at 5:30 p.m. the public is invited to attend a very special Celebration of Ministry - a time of rejoicing, remembrance and music for the ministry and service of Jonathan and Donna Baker to the Epworth church, the Penn-Del Conference and the community. The Celebration of Ministry will be followed by a reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres in Fellowship Hall.