Gina Durbin was faced with a challenge when she was appointed as interim pastor for Suncoast MCC in August, after the church experienced the death of its beloved pastor, Rev. Dr. Sherry Kennedy in March – the only pastor Suncoast had ever known. Durbin has been working to help the church heal ever since.
“It’s been quite amazing to get started working here and to get to know this congregation and to love them as their interim pastor,” Durbin says.
“[I’ve been] allowing them to begin to heal from the grief that they have and to begin to think about not only investing in the future, but investing in themselves,” Durbin adds, “in their spiritual lives, in the congregation and the community outside of the walls and to really connect and begin living out what we are called to do as followers of Christ.”
Durbin says that people often put pastors on pedestals, but she works to show her flock that she is just like them.
“Pastors are real people too,” she says. She says believes in the importance of, “being able to see your leader say, you know what, I don’t have all of the answers, or I have as many questions as you do. I, you know, have doubts as well. But through it all, I still place my trust and my hope in God.”
In addition to connecting to her congregation, Durbin is working on preserving the history of the church while some of its founding members are still around. She is organizing workshops to videotape this members and record the church’s history through their stories. She says she hopes to attract a younger audience, so the church can assure its longevity.
Durbin, who has been singing since she was a little girl, is also planning the church’s annual Christmas concert, which will be offered for free for the first time Dec. 18. In the future she will continue growing her ministry, along with her wife, Kelly – also an ordained MCC minster – and two stepsons.
Durbin says she received her calling from Christ when she was 15, but was later attracted to Metropolitan Community churches, originally in St. Louis, because of their acceptance of the LGBT community. She’s been affiliated with MCC in the 15 years since.
“We are a human rights church. We certainly believe in social justice,” says Durbin. Showing she practices what she preaches, Durbin spoke at North Port’s city committee meetings for the human rights ordinance, helping it get passed in October.
“Anyone who fits in the category of other… where they feel like they are not able to go to church or wouldn’t be welcome, they’re welcome at our church,” Durbin says. “We all come together as being a part of god’s creation and children of god and know that we are loved and that we are cared for.”