New pastor ready to step into role at Greater Saint John
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.
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.