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Always Ready

Pastor reaches beyond church walls with role as Auxiliary Coast Guard chaplain.

Paul W. King’s appointment as a U.S. Missions Coast Guard Auxiliary chaplain jibes well with his simultaneously pastoring Lighthouse Christian Center in Port Angeles, Washington. The U.S. Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus (Always Ready) resonates loudly in both of his roles.

“Serving as a volunteer chaplain has extended our church’s influence in the community,” says King, 40. “People beyond the church’s walls are hurting and need to see what life in Jesus is all about.”

Port Angeles is a deep port seafaring city nestled in the shadows of the Olympic Mountains. It is an important gateway to the Pacific Ocean and Alaska via the Strait of Juan de Fuca across from British Columbia. Many of the area’s 20,000 residents either work for the Coast Guard or in logging or tourism. Olympic National Park is a steady four-season attraction.

The U.S. Coast Guard, operating under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, commands the USCGC Active 210-foot cutter and smaller boats from Station Port Angeles, plus helicopters from Air Station Port Angeles. About 150 active-duty staff support and perform search and rescue missions, maritime law enforcement, ports and waterways coastal security, commercial fishing safety, and maritime environmental protection. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is a volunteer organization in which chaplains are commissioned in the U.S. Navy.

Lighthouse Christian Center appointed King lead pastor in 2014. He serves more than 150 congregants representing multiethnic and multigenerational backgrounds. He graduated from Evangel University in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in business, and earned a master’s degree in church revitalization from Northwest University in 2020.

Located 80 miles from Seattle, Port Angeles is a transient community facing many needs relating to homelessness and substance abuses, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both as a pastor and a chaplain, King is able to address these issues.

The church adhered to the pandemic’s restrictions initially with online services, and subsequently launched parking lot services broadcast to people in their vehicles from its in-house FM radio station.

“The pandemic has forced us to focus beyond our borders,” King says. In November 2020, the church partnered with Convoy of Hope to feed 1,800 residents.

King’s new chaplaincy responsibilities have expanded the horizons of his pastoral ministry.

He always kept a soft spot in his heart for the Coast Guard, gleaned from the careers of his grandfather and two uncles who shared their action-packed stories protecting America’s coastlines. While aware of the AG’s Chaplaincy Ministries, King had no idea about Auxiliary Coast Guard chaplains. The AG has only 14 Auxiliary chaplains.

AG Chaplaincy Ministries endorsed King a year ago, before he completed the same rigorous training that active-duty Coast Guard chaplains experience. He learned boater safety, navigation, critical incident stress management, leadership and Federal Emergency Management Agency protocols.

Coast Guard Auxiliary chaplains inspire hope and strengthen spiritual well-being through delivering and coordinating effective religious ministry at sea and ashore. King devotes a minimum of 10 hours monthly to chaplaincy duties visiting the Port Angeles stations, and making himself available for pastoral care on family issues such as alcoholism and drugs, suicidal thoughts, marital problems, and post-traumatic stress.

Search and rescue operations sometimes result in fatalities that can haunt surviving crew members. King offers a ministry of presence, listening to concerns and praying alongside Coast Guard personnel. He is always available for crisis phone calls as well.

He performs weddings, funerals, and special events when requested, and is currently leading a Bible study program.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Devin Burrus has attended Lighthouse Christian Center with his wife, Diamond, since being stationed at Port Angeles three years ago. He connected with King’s sermons immediately.

“Chaplain Paul preaches a true gospel message from the Bible and not a watered-down version,” says Burrus, 24.

Burrus shares his faith with Coast Guard colleagues and invites them to the church. Many are receptive to his offer of prayer because they have noticed something different about his persona.

Peter K. Johnson

Peter K. Johnson is a freelance writer living in Saranac Lake, New York. More than 500 of his articles and short stories have appeared in Christian and mainstream magazines and newspapers, including the Pentecostal Evangel,Charisma, the Saturday Evening Post, Guideposts, and Decision. He also serves as a consultant and contributing editor to a scientific journal.