The Greek Orthodox community in Norwich is mourning the death of its recently installed priest, who died in a crash on Route 2 over the weekend.
Rv. Father Matthew Baker was supposed to have led Monday’s service at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, but instead it became a memorial to him.
“We’ve only known him five weeks but the man just loved Christ and it just exuded from him. He was just a wonderful, wonderful priest,” said Bozrah resident Kay Booth.
According to police, the 37-year-old priest drove off Route 2 and into the median just west of Norwich during Sunday's snowstorm.
Baker was thrown from the minivan and died. His six children, who were also in the van, suffered minor injuries but are expected to be fine.
“He had a lovely family, just angelic, beautiful children,” said Booth.
A GoFundMe page has now raised more than a quarter-million dollars for Baker's widow and children. His wife posted an update Monday night, thanking community members for their support.
“We have everything we need right now... mostly I need prayers and I need your outpouring to still be there down the road a bit... it's overwhelming right now... we may need to spread it out over time,” she wrote.
The family did not attend Monday’s service, which was emotionally charged and difficult for the priest who is now temporarily filling in for Baker.
After years of studying, Baker was ordained about a year ago.
“It’s a brotherhood and when a brother dies it affects all of us especially one who was so young,” said Father Dean Panagos, of St. Sophia Church in New London.
The wake is set for Friday, March 6 from 5-9 p.m. at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Norwich. A funeral will be held the next morning at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Cranston, Rhode Island. Viewing will take place beforehand.
A friend of the family says Baker’s wife is searching for 10 icons that went missing from the van and were likely lost in the snow during the crash. If someone finds them, the family would like them returned to the church.