By Caroline Ferguson
This July sees Fr Paul Baker of St Mark’s Darlington celebrate 25 years of priestly ministry. The Parish will celebrate with a Sung Eucharist in thanksgiving for the dedicated service, comfort and inspiration that has provided to God’s people over the years.
Fr Paul came to the North East from London in 1982 to study Classics at St. Chad’s College, Durham. During his time at university his growing vocation was nurtured by the diocese. Fr Paul graduated in 1985 and then spent a year as an auxilliary nurse at St. Christopher’s Hospice, as part of a vocational placement. In 1986 Fr Paul studied Theology at St. Stephen’s House, Oxford, graduating in 1989 and returning to Durham as an ordinand. He has spent the whole of his ministry in the Diocese of Durham.
He served his curacy at St. Aidan’s Hartlepool, with Michael Whitehead as his training incumbent. Paul was deaconed in 1989 and priested in 1990. He spent several very happy years in Hartlepool, before moving to his first parish in 1993 as Team Vicar of St. Fr Paul’s, Jarrow with St. Mark’s, Jarrow.
Spending 5 years in Jarrow and thoroughly enjoyed working in 2 quite different churches; one ancient and one, comparatively, modern. Fr Paul particularly enjoyed welcoming pilgrims and visitors, continuing the monastic tradition of prayer in such an ancient place. He represented the church on the board of Bede’s World Museum and worked closely with the museum’s education team to welcome schools to the church. It was during his time in Jarrow that Fr Paul met his wife, Elizabeth, who was working in the education team at the museum.
In 1998 Fr Paul moved to Sunderland to be vicar of St. Thomas’, Pennywell with St. Oswald’s, Grindon. Life in the vicarage in Pennywell wasn’t always easy (broken windows and one Holy Week the church hall was set on fire every day!), but Fr Paul loved the challenge of working in an urban priority area. He forged good relations with local schools and worked closely with Pennywell Youth Project to establish a new building on the site of the old church hall which would benefit local young people. Fr Paul and Elizabeth’s 2 daughters were both born in Sunderland.
In 2004 Fr Paul moved to Darlington as vicar of St. Mark’s, North Road. He has continued to practise a ministry of prayerful care to the people of the parish, including local schools and care homes and is an active member of the deanery, Churches Together and Christian Aid.
During Fr Paul’s time as a priest he has trained several curates, worked for many years as a vocations adviser and is a Bishop’s adviser and selector. However, most people who know Fr Paul will say that his most special gift as a priest is as a man of prayer and Christian care. The current curate of St Marks, Revd Caroline Ferguson said “It is great for the Parish to be able to offer thanksgiving for Fr Paul’s ministry in a Sung Eucharist on 13th July. He is a wonderful priestly role model and I know that he is much loved and valued by the people he serves. We are so blessed to have him as our priest. He is a true pastor to his flock”.
Copy supplied by St Mark’s Darlington