Distinguished Alum Awards

Distinguished Alums 2010

Matthew J. Hook

Matthew J. Hook grew up in Birmingham, Michigan.  He attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he earned a degree in music and business; Garrett-Evangelical, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree, and Asbury Theological Seminary to earn a Doctorate in Ministry. 

For two years of field education, and for two years after graduation from Garrett-Evangelical, Hook served at Friendship United Methodist Church in Bolingbrook, Illinois. After that, he served on the staff of Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee; he then accepted a position at First United Methodist Church of Birmingham, Michigan. He currently serves as senior pastor at Dexter United Methodist Church in Dexter, Michigan.

Upon his arrival at Birmingham United Methodist Church in 1995, Hook revived the youth program from less than 12 to over 200 by adding youth leadership opportunities, mission trips, innovative worship styles, and a new confirmation program that often had between 60 and 70 young people and their parents each spring. He used his musical gifts to assemble a praise band and established a fourth worship service known as Sunday Night Alive. Even since his departure in 2002, it still has a solid core of 200 or more worshipers most evenings.

William A. Ritter, then pastor of Birmingham United Methodist Church, says, “It is hard to describe the excitement this youth program generated and the role Matt’s youth ministry played in the growth of the church. Always a large and vibrant congregation, the church had slid, albeit both comfortably and quietly, to 2400 members before my arrival. When I left, the number was 3,200 and Matt was an early catalyst for much of that growth.”

In June of 2003, after completing the coursework for his doctorate at Asbury Theological Seminary, Hook was appointed by the Bishop to Dexter United Methodist Church. There, he has continued his work with youth by helping them open a teen center, expanding their staff to form a solid youth ministry program, adding a third worship service, and realizing the vision of Dexter United Methodist Church, to be “a regional equipping center for Christ-focused life transformation for the unconnected thousands.” When Hook arrived at Dexter, they had a debt of $1.3 million. He conducted a campaign to raise $1.4 million to pay off much of the debt, increase staffing, and build two new buildings, including a youth building of 6,400 sq. ft, 90% of which was built by the congregation themselves. The congregation has grown to 771 members since Hook’s arrival, with a growing average worship attendance of 450.

As a distinguished leader, Hook continues to be involved in evangelism outside of his parish as well, through the multicultural World Methodist Evangelism programs from St. Simon Island. Hook and his wife, Leigh, have four children: Hunter, Jillianne, Graham, and Joy.

Joe Walker

Joe Walker’s record of service to the United Methodist Church has been distinguished and outstanding. 

Walker has served in the Pacific Northwest Conference (1953-1957), as Army Chaplain serving an Army Ski-troop Battalion in Fairbanks, Alaska (1955-57), and in the Oregon-Idaho Conference (1957-1990). From 1969 to 1979 he served on the Board of Global Ministries and from 1982 to 1984 he was a staff member on the Board of Discipleship. During his career, Walker has been invited to be the conference speaker in 17 annual conferences of The United Methodist Church.

As head of the General Advance Special Program of the Board of Global Ministries, Walker raised over $200,000,000 for mission programs, projects, and personnel, including millions of dollars for emergency needs and hunger ministries.

Mission is key to Walker’s life as an executive, pastor, and fundraiser. His knowledge of the local church and its response to mission around the world is profound. His colleague, Lois Miller, observes that the willingness of local churches to become involved in mission was indicative of Walker’s own response to the needs of others around the world. Rev. Tom Tate reflects that “Joe is the complete pastor. He is theologically sound in what he does. He gives attention to every detail. But more than this, Joe’s concern for the outcast—the last, lost, and least—is constant.”

After a visit to Liberia and the Camphor United Methodist Mission, Walker and his wife, Beverly, shared their experiences with several congregations. From that time, Camphor Mission and the Liberian Church has received financial support for scholarships and church constructions from hundreds of United Methodists. Also, during the early days of the civil war in Liberia, Walker and Beverly appealed to the churches of Oregon and Idaho for relief assistance for war-affected Liberians. Bishop John G. Innis (Liberia Annual Conference) writes: “Today, the Oregon-Idaho Conference has a partnership relationship with the Liberia Annual Conference because of his (Walker’s) love for The United Methodist Church in Liberia.”

Walker served as a staff member of the General Board of Discipleship from 1982 to 1984, where he significantly assisted annual conferences and congregations in improving disciple-making and strengthening their ministries as well as outreach in local communities and the larger scene.

In addition to serving as District Superintendant from 1984-1988 in the Oregon-Idaho Conference, Walker gave unique leadership to several strong parishes in the Oregon-Idaho Conference. He completed his pastoral ministry at the 2,250 member First United Methodist Church in Boise, Idaho, often referred to as the “Cathedral of the Rockies.” According to Bishop Calvin D. McConnell, “Walker was appointed at a troubled time in the life of this great church and served effectively as a healer and a bridge-builder during a two year interim ministry.”

In retirement, Walker is an unofficial “associate pastor” of the Rose City Park church in Portland. He and Beverly, who served a number of years as the Lay Leader of the Oregon-Idaho Conference, continue to share their ministry where and when it is requested. In particular, they have given generously of their time, talent, and expertise to the conference’s task force focusing on the partnership with United Methodists in the Liberia Annual Conference.