Seraphim Danckaert is Director of Mission Advancement at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary. He holds an M.Div. from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and is a Ph.D. candidate in theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Last night, an outstanding Orthodox priest died in a tragic car accident on his way home from Vespers.
Fr. Matthew Baker leaves behind his wife, Katherine, and six young children: Isaac, 12; Elias, 10; George, 8; Ellie (Eleftheria), 6; Cyril, 4; and Matthew Baker Jr, 2.
Please pray for them, and please consider helping them financially in this time of crisis. You can read more, and donate, here. In the 12 hours since I posted this fundraising campaign, 1,119 people have given a total of $116,519. No doubt, by the time you read this message, the numbers will be even higher. It’s an impressive start, but Fr. Matthew did not store up treasures on this earth, so the needs of his young family are great.
The nature of this loss extends far, far beyond the financial, both for his family and for the Church more broadly. Fr. Matthew was a uniquely gifted man, possessed of encyclopedic knowledge, penetrating insight, deep conviction, and, most importantly, a magnanimity of heart. Unlike many intellectuals, his deepest concern was for his fellow human being. His insight and mentorship touched the lives of many people, from lay people in the pews to some of the world’s most celebrated Christian theologians and scholars in North America and Europe. Among his many lectures, talks, academic publications, and writings, he was a regular writer here at OCN.
Here are just a few of the messages that have been pouring in since Fr. Matthew’s untimely death last night.
Dr. Alexis Klimoff, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies at Vassar College
This horrible news hit me so hard I can barely think. Poor, poor Katie! The loss to her and to the children is beyond imagining, and to the rest of the world is overwhelming, devastating. Matt was endowed by God with extraordinary gifts, both spiritual and intellectual, and in terms of Orthodox scholarship we all expected that his would be a life of great achievement. It was that, but Oh God, the promise was of so much more! It is heartbreaking.
Fr. Jonathan Tobias
I had counted on always having Fr Matthew’s brilliant wit, command of Orthodox thought, poetic sense and warm friendship for the rest of my life, since he was younger. I had already grown to depend on his thinking to help me sort things out in academic theology. But my loss is nothing compared to Pres Katie and their children. I pray fervently for God’s providential care and consolation, with much love.
Dr. Brandon Gallaher, Lecturer in Christian Theological Studies at the Department of Theology and Religion, University of Exeter
[Fr. Matthew] was a stellar scholar (perhaps one of the 2 or 3 greatest theologians of his generation) whose presence now grows each moment when I think of our long and many conversations over Skype… But most of all he was a dear and trusted friend who I could talk to about anything, moving from my deepest pain to Maximus in a moment. Matt, you were and are a gift of God. You were taken from us too soon but now I know your value. Memory Eternal!
Fr. Adam Sexton
The American Church has lost a scholar, a warrior, a servant of God so richly beyond the measure of most men. This is a beautiful soul and a bright spot in my life. I will miss him dearly.
Fr. Matthew was a sign of hope: caring, virtuous, educated, and clear-sighted. Now that the grain has fallen, it’s up to the rest of us to reap the yield. We can start by supporting his family.
Perhaps the most touching note of all accompanied a $10 donation on the GoFundMe page:
My 8 year old daughter is deeply saddened by this news. She right away got her piggy bank and gave me all the money in it for this widow and her 6 kids. God Bless you all.
Please join our effort to help his widow and six young children. Thank you so much!
You can give immediately online on the GoFundMe page, or send checks or money orders to Fr. Matthew’s parish:
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
247 Washington St.
Norwich CT 06360
Updates about the family, other opportunities to help, memorial and funeral services will be posted on the GoFundMe page. Soon, there will be a dedicated website and fund to help the family. If you are a lawyer or tax professional, and can help facilitate this process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.