Pastor Corbin Heads East, Departs 6-30

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“My wife Debbie and I will sadly be leaving Fort Myers Beach and Beach United Methodist Church,” reported Pastor Ivan Corbin. “Tuesday, June 30, is when the truck will pull out, making it almost two years to the day since our arrival.”

He explained that “we are leaving to help ensure that Beach United Methodist can remain financially viable. After conducting a significant review of our income versus expenses, the Church is instituting a number of steps to balance its budget, and one is to reduce the salary level for its Pastor, to allow for much-needed Capital Improvements like a new roof and air conditioning system. Beach United Methodist will bring in Samantha Aupperlee, who is fresh out of the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. The Methodist Church has a tradition called ‘Moving Day,’ where the former Pastor leaves and the new one arrives on the same day, so Samantha will get here on June 30, with her first service on July 5.”

Pastor Ivan Corbin
Pastor Ivan Corbin of the Beach United Methodist Church, departs June 30 for a new pastorage in Homestead

Pastor Ivan met Pastor Samantha, who he describes as “a delightful young woman, who is excited to be coming here and is full of new ideas! It should make people feel better to know that I am a Candler graduate as well, as is Debbie, our daughter Rachel from last year, and our prior Pastor, Jeanne Davis, so you know Samantha has excellent training and I am not biased at all in saying that! The future of Beach United Methodist is bright, both economically and in its pastorage.”

Completing the Circuit

His new assignment will be at the First United Methodist Church of Homestead, Florida, “so right across Alligator Alley or the Tamiami Trail. Debbie and I joke that this now completes our circuit of the Florida Methodist Conference,” laughed Pastor Ivan! “Even though I am a Michigan native, previous pastorages include Boca Raton, Fruitland Park near Leesburg, Land O’ Lakes, DeLand, Hunter Creek near Orlando, Merritt Island, seven years in Key West, Fort Myers Beach, and now Homestead, ‘The Gateway to The Keys!’ I do have some familiarity with Homestead, as we would sometimes meet there when I was at Key West, but that was back when it had around 20,000 people and today it is over 100,000. I am brushing up on my Spanish with Cuban Ministers I made friends with over the years on Facebook, as I will definitely need it at Homestead. That area is still a coronavirus hotspot, so I am not sure if we can start services there again on July 5.”

Pastor Ivan and Debbie Corbin.

Coronavirus precautions and restrictions make it difficult for Pastor Ivan to appropriately say farewell to the Fort Myers Beach community and vice versa. “This is so frustrating,” he sighed. “We made the announcement at the end of April and that usually gives you two months to say ‘goodbye,’ but now we have services and meetings virtually, so first we did it via email and we just recently sent out our newsletter. It is a strange way to do it, but then this is a strange time for everyone, whether you missed out on your graduation, could not say ‘goodbye’ to a loved one who passed away, or are leaving for a new church. An interesting parable to the coronavirus is the Easter Season. On Good Friday, when Christ died, the apostles did not know what would happen or if they would be the next to go, but then they experienced the rebirth of Easter. We know that we will all come out of this as well, but we have no idea right now when our Easter may be! Our Beach United Methodist Church leaders are hopeful that they can organize a ‘Goodbye’ event for Debbie and me, but the coronavirus makes that difficult, as it must involve all the necessary social distancing measures. You never know, so stay tuned for any details!”

In the Community

Pastor Ivan made it a priority that he be a full-fledged Fort Myers Beach community member. “Both from the Church perspective as well as my own personal one, I not only wanted to help to ensure we continued to meet the community needs, but to identify and embolden those we were not meeting. This included social outlets, as we have a wonderful group of people at Beach United Methodist, but I wanted to interact with those who were not members of our congregation, and as a result, I learned that Fort Myers Beach is a wonderful place to be! History is a personal passion of mine, so a natural outlet was to become a Mound House docent. That allowed me to not only meet other island citizens but to interact with many seasonal residents and tourists. Eventually they would learn I was the Beach United Methodist Pastor and sometimes I would then see them in the congregation and that was always exciting!”

Pastor Ivan worked with Kiwanis and Rotary, “as the work they do for this community and especially its children is inspiring! Kiwanis runs its own thrift shop, meaning they do not have to do endless fundraisers, and that is very appealing way to operate. I worked with the Alliance of Non-Profits, and thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Beach Ministerial Association, and I know those good works will continue after I leave. I am particularly proud of our association with the Beach Elementary School and hope Beach United Methodist maintains that. The teachers work so hard, for not a lot of money and often buy their own supplies, and the administration is so dedicated, and they really make a positive difference in the lives of their students. Those are not the children of privilege, with many being raised by single parents who hold multiple jobs to make ends meet, or grandparents, and I love how so many islanders go above & beyond to help the Beach Elementary School.”

When discussing what he knows about Fort Myers Beach today that he did not two years ago, “it is that importance of its sense of community. I knew it was a tourism destination, but did not realize its depth of volunteers and givers, and that is what makes it such a great place! I did not realize that so many people live here year-round and that they raise kids and grandkids like so many other small communities throughout the nation and that is a neat thing! What really cemented that for me was the tragic murder of our  Library Director, Dr. Leroy Hommerding, in early 2019. There was such an outpouring of care and compassion through all the shock. Sure, a handful of people pointed their fingers at the homeless and at our local churches for the assistance we provide them, but mostly we circled the wagons around each other and the Library family over our collective loss. As the Pastor of the church right next to the Library, I had the honor to help the staff, and in doing so, I discovered how much Leroy devoted himself to the community and how much the community valued him in return, making his devastating loss an outlet to become our finest hour and the ultimate example of what this island does best.”

Sunsets, People & Traffic

“I will certainly miss my beach walks and especially our fantastic sunsets,” chuckled Pastor Ivan! “People expect me to post my sunset photos now, so I guess I will have to make trips from Homestead to Key Largo to continue that tradition. Of course, what I will miss the most are the people, not only from Beach United Methodist but throughout the island, as their comradery is so heartwarming and makes this such a special place to live, visit and worship. Had you asked what I would not miss, I previously would have said the traffic from Christmas through Easter, but after what our businesses and residents are enduring now due to the coronavirus, I now miss the traffic, as empty streets here in April and May are surreal!”

In reflecting that his Beach United Methodist time was bookended by the Summer 2018 Water Quality Crisis and the current coronavirus pandemic, “we will get through this, too,” Pastor Ivan philosophized, “and that is the reality. One of the saddest parts of our current situation is that many island businesses were just getting over the financial impacts of 2018’s Blue-Green Algae and Red Tide, and then this happened. If we are smart and patient and pay attention to the best medical advice, we will find a way to keep things open but safely. This is even harder to solve than the Red Tide, so maintain social distancing, wear your facecover, take care of and look out for each other and we will persevere. Despite those twin tragedies, Debbie and I thoroughly enjoyed our time on Fort Myers Beach, and the next time you are heading to the Keys, please stop by Homestead to see us!”