Coronado Community Church ...

Old friends and Christian leaders, Pastors Steve Mather, left, and Eric Smith. Mather has retired from the ministry. His last position was at Coronado Community Church, where he was pastor since 1998. Smith is assuming the helm of this small but powerful church, which will return to in-person church gatherings Sunday, Oct. 17, at the Coronado Unified School District Board Room at 10 a.m.

Coronado Community Church has announced it will return from virtual worship to in-person gatherings on Sunday, Oct. 17, at 10 a.m. The congregation will meet at the Coronado Unified School District Boardroom, at 201 Sixth Street in Coronado.

Also new to the Coronado Community Church is Pastor Eric Smith, who recently returned to his home town of Coronado and has taken over the helm of the church. He replaces another old-time Coronadan, the Reverend Steve Mather.

For Smith, returning to Coronado literally caused his head to spin, as he recalled memories from his childhood, school, teachers and events that influenced him. He shared some of them recently.

“Indeed, this has been a whirlwind homecoming of sorts,” said Smith. “I have so many fond memories of growing up here in Coronado. Both my parents were Naval officers, and my family came here in 1959.”

Smith is the product of Central Elementary, Coronado Junior High and Coronado High School (CHS). He graduated CHS class of 1972.

At CHS he was a student leader, musician and athlete. He was a member and leader of the Islander Marching Band and Pep Band during the years when former rock music legend-turned teacher Bob Demmon was Band Director. Demmon was guitar player for The Astronauts before moving to Coronado.

In addition to band leadership, Smith was an ASB officer and held several more student leader offices. In the great history of Coronado water polo, Smith is a former MVP and All-CIF selection.

High on his athletic and educational successes, Smith accepted a scholarship to play water polo for the University of Arizona. It was here that his spiritual awakening took place.

“I spent an evening with a friend, who told me about meeting Jesus,” recalled the amiable pastor. “It was not something I wanted to hear, and, while being politely attentive, this talk seemed to be going in my right ear and coming out the left.

“The next night, as I lay in bed, I began to think about our conversation, and about life in general. I wondered where I was headed. I remember asking myself whether God really existed or not.”

Smith entertained the question long enough to make an offer: “God if you’re really who you say you are, take my life and do what you can with it.”

Smith became engaged with campus ministry at the University of Arizona and made connections that had life transforming implications for his future.

He toured with a college-age gospel music group called The Continentals. That experience of Christian community led to his decision to pursue full-time Christian service.

He then began volunteering in youth ministry at St. Paul’s Church of the Voyager in Coronado, and Youth for Christ in San Diego. He became director of the Campus Life Club of Coronado and returned to college at Point Loma Nazarene University, where he earned his degree in Religion.

From there Smith moved to the Los Angeles area, working on a church staff and beginning seminary studies at the Claremont School of Theology. He graduated from Claremont with a Master of Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry. And, during those years, he was ordained by the United Methodist Church.

Smith has served Methodist churches for 40 years and retired from active status with the denomination this summer. In his career he has pastored seven churches ranging in size from 100 to 1,300 members. His last congregation was St. Andrew’s by-the-Sea in San Clemente.

As his life and ministry comes full circle, Smith is always quick to share a memory of his youth growing up in Coronado. Anyone who was here during those car-carrying ferryboat years, can’t help but sit spellbound listening to his stories.

“Coronado is my home,” said the tall preacher, with a wide smile on his face (he stands well over six feet). “Coronado is the ground of my being. I was raised, loved, and nurtured on this island.

“I was given so much, by so many, that it has always been my dream to return and offer something back to this community. When I was approached by the Coronado Community Church, there was a wholeness in it that struck me immediately.”

Smith is married to Karen, his partner in life and ministry; she is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and the Equity Actors Union. The Smiths have four grown children and four grandchildren.

“Zoom provided us with a marvelous way to stay in touch with our parishioners during the pandemic,” said Smith. “We are all tremendously excited about returning to church in person. Sunday will be a monumental day in the history of this church and in our community.”

For more information, contact Coronado Community Church, P.O. Box 181680, Coronado, CA 92178, or, www.coronadocommunitychurch.org.

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