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SC megachurch pastor dies of apparent self-inflicted gunshot while target shooting

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Darrin Patrick

Darrin Patrick, a pastor at Mount Pleasant-based Seacoast Church, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Seacoast Churck/Provided

A pastor at a megachurch with locations across South Carolina died Thursday from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound while target shooting with a friend in a rural area outside St. Louis.

Darrin Patrick, who lived with his wife and four children in St. Louis, was an author and teaching pastor for Seacoast Church, headquartered in Mount Pleasant.

"We all loved Darrin as an incredible teacher and pastor and for many of us on staff, Darrin was a close friend. This loss is a heavy one for Seacoast and we are going to feel it for a long time," Seacoast leaders wrote in a letter to their congregation.

As a former chaplain for the St. Louis Cardinals, he was an avid baseball fan. And he was an ardent hunter.

"That's what led to the tragedy we've had right now," founding pastor Greg Surratt said in an interview with The Post and Courier on Saturday.

The friend Patrick had gone shooting with had seen him reload his gun, according to Surratt. He did not see what happened next that led to Patrick's death. 

"We may never know," Surratt said.

The incident is being investigated. Patrick's official cause of death has not been released, the church said in a statement, but no foul play is suspected. He was 49 years old.

Patrick had a tumultuous history before coming to Seacoast Church. He was fired from the church he and his wife founded in St. Louis, The Journey Church, for what church elders called misconduct. This included “inappropriate meetings, conversations, and phone calls with two women” and an abuse of power, according to Religion News Service.

But according to friends, Patrick admitted his faults, got counseling and returned to ministry, sharing his experiences in hopes of preventing other pastors from facing similar problems.

"Mourning today the loss of my friend and fellow pastor. Darrin was such an encourager to me over the years," J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh, N.C., wrote on Twitter.

Surratt, having known Patrick previously, was part of the team to help him through his "restoration process." Then, two years ago, he came on staff at Seacoast. His first sermon was about that experience.

“He was very authentic about the struggle he had had and what recovery looked like,” Surratt said, which is what he thinks drew people to Patrick.

"Just about every time he preached he had people feeling like 'that was for me,'" Surratt said. "'How does he know that about me? I have those same issues,' and then they find hope in the midst of it."

Every four to six weeks, Patrick would come to Mount Pleasant from Missouri to preach and train staff at the church. He was there last weekend with his 14-year-old son. They went fishing.

Surratt said the family had been looking to buy a house here.

With the coronavirus pandemic taking church services online Surratt invited Patrick to his home to watch the Saturday night service. Oddly enough, it was the one where Patrick had been the recorded speaker and Surratt teased him as they watched.

"I didn't know that would be the last time we would do that," he said.

Patrick's wife Aime, on Facebook, thanked people for their outpouring of support.

"We are heartbroken beyond belief, terribly confused, and missing Darrin in ways that feel unbearable," she wrote from her husband's page. "Darrin was the rock of our family, the great love of my life, and a fiercely devoted father to our amazing children ... We will be a mess for a good while, but we will be ok."

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