Editor's Note: This is the first story in a weekly feature focusing on people of local interest from the Phoenixville area.
By KATE SAUNDERS
PHOENIXVILLE - "I waited a long time for a church," said Pastor Nathan Coleman, "I really believe I was led here."
"God seemed to have brought our paths together," said Coleman, who is the newly installed pastor at Bethel Baptist Church of Phoenixville.
Coleman, who was chosen by an unanimous vote, said that Bethel Baptist is the kind of church he envisioned. He was seeking a church that strives for balance and community outreach when the Phoenixville church became available.
Located at 412 Fairview Street in Phoenixville, the small church serves about 150 parishioners from the area. Built in 1999, Bethel Baptist is a church where parishioners know each other's names, according to Coleman.
Raised as an American Baptist, Coleman spent time in Louisville, Ky., at a Southern Baptist church. Though Coleman worked as a Christian educator and later an assistant pastor at Zion Baptist Church, which has 3,000 members, he prefers the closeness of a smaller church.
"I want to be around to plant those seeds," said Coleman. He wants to affect parishioners, teach them a value system and how to treat other people because those are the lessons that stuck with him.
"...to remember when I was a student wrestling with questions and to help them because I always had help," said Coleman.
Reverend Nathan Coleman grew up in Coatesville and attended Coatesville High School. He then graduated from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Eastern College where he studied sociology. He continues to give guest lectures in Justice at Eastern College.
"I've always tried to put my head and my heart together," said Coleman, whose father is also a pastor. Coleman, whose father also serves on the deacon board of his own church, believes in dignity, respect and moral day to day living.
Family is very important to Coleman, who married Mildred Butler, a former missionary, on September 17, 1994. The couple have two sons, John, 2 and Joshua, who was born in April 2003.
"This is a place I want to raise my kids," said Coleman who is impressed by the feeling of community in Phoenixville. The church and community has warmly received him and his family since Coleman's first sermon at Bethel on June 15, 2003.
"One thing people always say is that this church is friendly," said Coleman, "I want people to feel welcome." Nathan Coleman also remarked that laughter is common because Bethel's parishioners are fun.
"I'm excited about being pastor. It's scary but that's where faith comes through." Coleman is thankful that the church has a social vision and programs of involvement in global issues and increasing awareness of the world.
Bethel Baptist has local community service projects such as feeding hungry, missionaries and creating college funds. The church is also involved with Phoenixville Hospital in addition to working with other area churches.
"When there's something that needs to get done, they get together," said Coleman of the parishioners at Bethel. "They look out for each other. I'm glad that dimension is here."
"It's incredible," said Coleman of Bethel Baptist Church, "It's everything I expected."
The installation service for Pastor Coleman was held at Bethel Baptist Church in November with the Rev. Thelma Lunsford Gray presiding. Phoenixville's Mayor Leo Scoda and Dr. Louis Beccaria of the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation attended, along with Rev. Dr. Wilson Goode Sr. and The Tri-Tones, who sang at the ceremony.
The Rev. Dr. Dolores McCabe conducted the installation sermon. McCabe was Coleman's teacher, mentor and eventually colleague at Eastern.
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