New pas­tor ready to step into role at Greater Saint John

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By NICOLE RODMAN nrod­man@ches­pub.com

The Rev. M. Ja­mal Fos­ter is get­ting ac­quainted with his new con­gre­ga­tion and com­mu­nity as he pre­pares to step into his role as pas­tor of the Greater Saint John Bap­tist Church in Turner Sta­tion.

The pas­tor-elect, who has been serv­ing at the church for a year, will be of­fi­cially in­stalled at noon on Satur­day, Sept. 9.

Fos­ter was raised by his grand­mother in north­west Bal­ti­more. From an early age, his fam­ily in­stilled in him a love of God that has en­dured.

“They taught me about fear of the Lord, re­spect­ing my par­ents,

mak­ing sure you do right,” he re­called.

And they made sure he at­tended ser­vices every Sun­day at his church, Con­cord Bap­tist on Lib­erty Heights Av­enue.

Fos­ter grad­u­ated from Ar­ling­ton Bap­tist High School in Wind­sor Mill, Md. He earned his bach­e­lor’s de­gree in pre-law, with a mi­nor in mu­sic, from Le­high Univer­sity in Beth­le­hem, Pa., a mas­ter’s de­gree in church lead­er­ship from Oral Roberts Univer­sity in Tulsa, Okla., and a mas­ter’s in di­vin­ity from Prince­ton The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in Prince­ton, N.J. He is cur­rently a doc­toral stu­dent in Chris­tian ed­u­ca­tion and the­ol­ogy at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

He lives in Delaware with his wife, Daphne, and three chil­dren, Tay­lor, Kee­mya and MJ.

Early on, Fos­ter knew that his vo­ca­tion was to reach out to others.

“I knew that my call­ing was to help peo­ple … help­ing them through the word of God,” he said.

“I was young when I started out on this road,” he noted, “and it’s been a very re­ward­ing jour­ney.”

A U.S. mil­i­tary vet­eran (and a cur­rent ac­tive re­servist), Fos­ter spent 20 years in law en­force­ment at the lo­cal, state and fed­eral lev­els be­fore re­tir­ing in 2009.

Though law en­force­ment was his full-time po­si­tion, re­li­gion has al­ways been a large part of his life.

He be­came a li­censed min­is­ter on May 15, 1993, and be­came a full-time pas­tor in 2004.

“Re­li­gion was al­ways a sec­ondary vo­ca­tion,” he said. “When I re­tired in 2009, I un­der­stood God wanted me to make it pri­mary.”

Fos­ter has pa­s­tored at churches in New York, New Jersey and Con­necti­cut. He was pas­tor of Gate­way Min­istries in Up­per Darby, Pa. for three years prior to com­ing to Greater Saint John Bap­tist Church.

While Fos­ter has never lived in Turner Sta­tion, his wife did and her grand­mother still lives in the area. Fos­ter and his wife were tak­ing her home one day, when she told them about two Turner Sta­tion churches with­out pas­tors. One of those churches was Greater Saint John. His wife rec­og­nized at once that God was call­ing him to a new spir­i­tual home.

Fos­ter ap­plied for the va­cancy and has spent the last year learn­ing about the church and the com­mu­nity in prepa­ra­tion for his role as pas­tor.

He suc­ceeds the Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lewis Sr., now Pas­tor Emer­i­tus at Greater Saint John Bap­tist Church.

He has worked closed with many of the pas­tors in the area and has met with com­mu­nity res­i­dents and lead­ers.

So far, he said, the re­cep­tion has been warm.

He un­der­stands, “com­ing to an his­toric area such as Turner Sta­tion,” that there are “nu­ances to learn,” and he has spent the last year do­ing so. It is a task that he will con­tinue as pas­tor.

As pas­tor, Fos­ter hopes to build Greater Saint John back up. The church, like most others, has suf­fered from an aging con­gre­ga­tion and de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tion in re­cent years.

He hopes to bring back “some of the pro­grams that im­pacted the com­mu­nity,” and he will be in­sti­tut­ing a Bi­ble study from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Satur­days.

He also plans to de­velop a se­nior min­istry and en­cour­age more out­reach in the com­mu­nity.

“We’re go­ing to be look­ing to put some other things in place to build the church,” he said.

“My min­istry plat­form/mantra is hon­esty, in­tegrity and trans­parency,” he ex­plained.

“I call my ad­min­is­tra­tion/ lead­ers in the church The HIT Squad,” he added. “I be­lieve when peo­ple are hon­est, have in­tegrity and are trans­par­ent it is invit­ing for others to come to church and learn more about God. Church is the one place where we are equal, es­pe­cially in God’s sight.”

Greater Saint John Bap­tist Church, at 209 Wal­nut Ave. in Turner Sta­tion, holds ser­vices at 10 a.m. dur­ing the sum­mer. Sun­day school is held at 8:30 a.m.

Start­ing in Septem­ber, ser­vices will be held at 11 a.m., with Sun­day school at 9 a.m.

The church has sev­eral min­istries, in­clud­ing ush­ers, youth choir, Mass choir and Bi­ble study.

Every fifth Sun­day, ser­vices will be cel­e­brated at as dif­fer­ent Turner Sta­tion church as part of the Mis­sions Fel­low­ship Ser­vice.

For more on the Rev. M. Ja­mal Fos­ter and Greater Saint John Bap­tist Church, visit www.face­book.com/PASTORMJF.

COUR­TESY PHOTO

The Rev. M. Ja­mal Fos­ter has come to Greater Saint John Bap­tist Church from Gate­way Min­istries in Up­per Darby, Pa.

COUR­TESY PHOTO The Rev. M. Ja­mal Fos­ter is pre­par­ing for his in­stal­la­tion as pas­tor of Greater Saint John Bap­tist Church in Turner Sta­tion.

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