The church experienced a devastating loss in March 2015 when the only pastor in its history, Rev. Dr. Sherry Kennedy, passed away suddenly. An MCC interim pastor is hired during these types of transitional periods and is specially trained to help with the grieving process. Although interim pastors usually serve 12 to 18 months, Rev. Durbin says this will be a longer term since Sherry was the church’s only pastor.
“It’s understandable that many are still grieving,” Rev. Durbin says. “Some have moved through their grief, but as different things come up that remind them of Sherry, some of that grieving comes back up.”
To help the congregation deal with this grief, Rev. Durbin holds workshops in which a therapist helps members cope with grief and allows them to identify where they are in the grief process. Rev. Durbin also holds one-on-one pastoral care appointments.
“The fine balance as a pastor is loving them and allowing them to heal,” Rev. Durbin says. “That’s my goal right now.”
Rev. Durbin hails from St. Louis, Missouri. She has held a variety of careers over the years such as medical coding, physician billing and IT support specialist. However, Rev. Durbin says her passion has always been people, and she dreamed of becoming a church minister. In fact, she says her favorite part of IT work was when people would sit down and talk to her about personal matters, much like they do in pastoral care.
Rev. Durbin’s journey to becoming a pastor was a difficult one. In 1994, she was kicked out of her church when the congregation discovered she was a lesbian. Rev. Durbin decided at that time that she would never attend church again. In 2000, she discovered the MCC of Greater St. Louis and regained her faith.
“A whole new world opened up,” Rev. Durbin says. “I was able to reconcile being a follower of Christ and also a lesbian. A lot of healing took place during that time, and the call that I had into ministry was renewed for me.”
Rev. Durbin graduated in May 2014 from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis. She was ordained in June 2014 and became interim pastor for Heartland MCC in Springfield, Illinois. When Rev. Durbin was invited to join the SunCoast MCC family, which would involve a cross-country move away from her family, friends and support system, she knew she would have to do some soul searching. She accepted the offer after praying about the decision, and gained her wife’s support.
“I have a pastor’s heart,” Rev. Durbin says. “Pastoral care is something SunCoast is in need of, especially with grieving the loss of their pastor.”
Rev. Pressley Sutherland, associate director of Church Life and Health, has known Rev. Durbin three years and attested to her talents both inside and outside of pastoral care.
“I’ll never forget the first time I heard her sing,” Rev. Sutherland says. “There is something very special about her voice. She’s a great musician underneath all the pastoral training, and she brings that creativity and presence to all she does as a pastor.”
Rev. Durbin says she especially enjoys church entertainment events such as SunCoast MCC’s third annual variety show last month. She says the funniest part of church variety shows is watching the staff perform skits.
“Laughter is a great medicine,” Rev. Durbin says. “People come in, they smile, they laugh and they enjoy themselves. It’s a great way to connect to other people outside of worship.”
Rev. Durbin says her vision for SunCoast MCC is to help the congregation identify their dreams for what type of church and ministry work they would like to do. To do this, she examines the church’s history to evaluate where they are now and where they would like to go, in addition to discovering who they are being called to be currently and in the future.
“For SunCoast, because they only had one pastor, their vision and identity were probably wrapped up more into who Rev. Sherry was and what her visions were,” Rev. Durbin says.
Rev. Durbin lives in Port Charlotte with her wife Kelly, who is also ordained through MCC, and their two Boston terriers, Emmett and Toby. The couple initially met and became friends at church 15 years ago. They have been together 11 years and got married in 2009 in Iowa. Rev. Durbin has two stepchildren in St. Louis: Jonah, 19, and Grace, 17.
“The best thing about (SunCoastMCC) is the people – their hospitality,” Rev. Durbin says. “They are a very warm and welcoming congregation, which is always helpful for a new person coming into that community. Now we get to know each other as we walk through this journey together.”