By Mimi Wood, The Island Eye News Staff Writer
Paul Coleman wasn’t looking to start a new church. As one of the founding pastors of The Church at LifePark in north Mount Pleasant he thought he’d be there forever. “LifePark was growing, says Paul. “As the Next Generation Pastor I oversaw 10 employees, and nearly 600 congregants, from pre-school through high school. I was happy, my wife Jessica and our three daughters were happy; everything was on an upward trajectory.”
And then, while taking a run one evening after a meal at his in-law’s island home, out of the blue (literally) “I felt a ‘very strong impression’ from above. I felt a calling to start a church on the Isle of Palms.”
At first he tried to ignore it. “I didn’t know if it was real. Or if I wanted it to be real,” Paul recalls. But the more he fought it, the stronger he felt the calling.
He finally took Jessica into his confidence. “I have something to tell you,” he started. “You might want to sit down.”
“When Paul told me he wanted to start a new church, I froze. For some crazy reason, all I could think was, ‘He’s going to want to move to South Dakota,’” says Jessica. “I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest with joy when he told me ‘Isle of Palms’ … it’s where I grew up!” says Jessica.
Paul’s associate and friend at LifePark, Pastor Chad Moore, was blindsided. “Yet when I told him about my vision; he was immediately supportive.
‘I’m happy for you, but sad for us,’” Paul recalls, going on to joke that Moore was “so happy, and the LifePark congregation so supportive, I thought, ‘Maybe they were looking to get rid of me!’”
And thus, less than three months ago, DeepWater Church on the Isle of Palms was born.
“We are a faith family, passionately pursuing Jesus, and deeply loving the island and beyond,” Paul says, citing the congregation’s mission statement. “We are multigenerational; we value all ages,” he says. Drawing from his roots as a youth minister, however, “We do have a strong focus on children and youth. I want church to be a place they want to come. I want kids to ask their parents, ‘Is today a church day?’”
“We embrace several core values,” Paul says.
“One is ‘Passionate Worship.’ We are spiritually vibrant. I strive to make The Bible come alive, to be compelling, to draw people to the teachings of Scripture. Also, our music is upbeat and engaging, with a blend of newer worship songs and hymns.”
“We want people to walk in and sense genuine hospitality and care, no matter their spiritual background,” he continues.
Islanders Allyson and Chris Fralish felt exactly that. Their three children were enrolled in Student Ministry at LifePark, but they didn’t really know Paul Coleman personally.
“We were so excited to hear a new church was starting up on the island,” Allyson enthuses, “We reached out to Paul and told him we would like to help in any way we could. It’s a great community; we call it our ’Faith Family.’ And we love that it’s on the island, so close to home.”
“We are here to love and serve the people on Isle of Palms, and beyond,” Paul told IOP City Council, as he introduced himself as an IOP resident and pastor at the November meeting. “How can we serve you?”
Paul estimates his small but growing attendance consists of 45 to 50 congregants, and 35 to 40 kids. “We are in the process of figuring out what the community needs. Obviously we’re not fighting poverty or literacy on the Isle of Palms. But every community has issues. How do we serve, and bless, and make our city better?” he says.
DeepWater Church currently holds its service every Sunday at 5 p.m., at St. Mark’s Luthern Church, 300 Palm Blvd. on the Isle of Palms, across from the IOP Exchange Club. All are welcome. Youth meet at the same location on Wednesdays, from 6:30-8 p.m. Check out Paul Coleman’s video on DeepWater’s website at DeepWaterChurch.cc.