The Praxis Gathering exists to connect church planters with missional practitioners who are eager to share their experiences and wisdom in a relational, conversational setting. Every Praxis Gathering presenter brings unique perspectives and bona fide practical instruction to the table, all in the name of glorifying Christ and blessing the Church. Don Coleman is no exception.
Don takes his role as a citizen of the Kingdom of God seriously; so seriously, in fact, that he takes being a citizen of Church Hill in Richmond, Virginia very seriously. To him, the call of Christ cannot be separated from the call to serve the public.
This means Don is not satisfied with just being involved in leading a church. He finds a double joy in the call to his church and the call to serve his community. In addition to being a co-pastor at East End Fellowship, “a multi-ethnic, economically diverse community in the East End of Richmond” (CCDA), Don is an influential, highly involved community leader, serving on the School Board of the 7th District, both as member and chairman. He also works with Bless Richmond, a yearly initiative by which scores of churches of various stripes join together for corporate worship and intercession, and to provide much needed items to the community.
Abandoned as a young child and raised in a foster home, Don knew what it was like to be born on the less fortunate side of life chances. That very background now informs his passion to make real differences in the lives of those who are struggling in the East End of Richmond.
Don Coleman has spent much of his life giving back to Church Hill’s populace, the object of his missional heart. His loyalty to the community has encouraged others to reorient their lives around the neighborhood just to be a part of what God is doing there. An excerpt from his website reveals why joining him is so compelling:
- Don believes success is possible for EVERY child. Don understands the challenges of coming from a disadvantaged background. He grew up in a foster home in the East End of Richmond. As a volunteer in the Virginia Heroes Program, Don has been a real-life role model to youth in overcoming challenges.
- Don had a very successful career with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro-Richmond where he helped pioneer clubs in public housing. He worked side by side with parents, developing programming that was dynamic, academically focused and emphasized character development.
- Don has also spent years serving others through ministry. For several years he served in Creighton Court through Charity Family Life. He has been a member of the Richmond Hill Council, which has led partnership programs such as the Micah Initiative. He is Co-Pastor of East End Fellowship and serves on team at Church of the Nations.
- Don serves as mentor to a group of about 20 families committed to seeing the East End become a diverse and thriving community. Quality neighborhood schools are central to their vision.
Don’s personal mission is “to serve others into their own greatness.” He and his wife Florence have two daughters, Shekinah and Selah.
East End Fellowship–The Mission, The Relationships, The Neighborhood Came First
Hear pastors Don Coleman and Corey Widmer share how East End Fellowship Church began from mission instead of intention.
Don Coleman: Local Pastor Turned Public School Champion
“I just see public servants–I believe, as a believer, that that’s just a part of our DNA. You know, to serve–to serve our community. And I’m blessed that the community that I live in is where I’m serving and the place where I’ve lived all my life.” These are the words of Coleman from a video interview with Christianity Today. The interview is part of a greater piece that extolls the approach Don has regarding service to one’s community.
From the article:
Coleman was elected to Richmond’s school board in 2008, and two weeks ago was voted its chairman 9-0. He talks passionately about working with the school board, the city council, and Mayor Dwight C. Jones to give Richmond public school kids a brighter future. But he’s also realistic about the challenges they face: 79 percent of Richmond’s 24,000 students receive free or reduced price lunches and belong to the 20 percent of Richmond residents living in poverty. A third of Richmond students don’t attend its public schools; those who can afford private school go elsewhere. Many of the students who stay come from broken families that are unable to adequately support them.
Coleman believes the answer to that brokenness is for other families and community members to come around those young people. He’s seen the power of such community involvement firsthand: He sat beside a young woman, a high school valedictorian, the day she received a large college scholarship at an awards ceremony. Her family wasn’t there to watch her accept the award, because they were in court facing murder charges. A family from Coleman’s church had supported the young woman for years, and today she is an honors student in a four-year college.
Continue reading the Christianity Today article here.
“If I can overcome it with God’s help, they can, too.”
In a write-up found in the Richmond Free Press, some heartwarming moments in Don’s childhood bear witness to a man who is on a mission to make his longtime community a better place. And he’s certainly succeeding at it.
Pastor Coleman, 54, tells a Free Press reporter how he was raised with four siblings in the Creighton Court public housing community in Church Hill until age 7. He and his siblings then were placed in foster care as his parents fell deeper into substance abuse.
Pastor Coleman said he is grateful that his foster parents — George and Lottie Byrd — insisted he attend church and laid the spiritual path that he follows to this day.
“My foster parents insisted that we get on our knees and say ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ each night before we went to bed,” Pastor Coleman recollects. “That prayer shaped my life.
“My faith is the cornerstone of all I am.”
The article continues with Don’s story, sharing “how two teachers at Armstrong High School — Nelson Colbert and James Bynum, who are now retired — served as father figures to him while he was a student there. ‘They were strong African-American men who encouraged me to be the best I could be.’”
Continue reading the Richmond Free Press article here.
Racial and Denominational Diversity
Hear Don, co-pastor Corey Widmer, and the Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary, Soong-Chan Rah, discuss diversity in the church via The Project on Lived Theology.
7th District: How Things Get Done
In this video we see Don in public-service action. This is a direct look into the nuts and bolts of missional engagement via civic duty. We have chosen to highlight the glory of mundanity to remind ourselves that the work of the kingdom advances through the commonplace, in the unnoticed, unsung work we too often overlook. Here Don’s example reminds us of what it looks like to live incarnationally.