Arthur L. Corbin Sr.

Founder of Full Gospel Church used a 1969 Cadillac limousine to pick up elderly churchgoers Sunday mornings.

August 26, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

The Rev. Arthur L. "Billy" Corbin Sr., founder and pastor of the Full Gospel Church of Phoenix and a retired postal worker, died Wednesday at his Phoenix, Baltimore County, home of kidney failure. He was 79.

Mr. Corbin, who was born and raised on Warren Road in Cockeysville, attended Baltimore County public schools.

"He was 11 when he started preaching and was 18 when he began pastoring his own church," said his wife of 36 years, the former Darce J. Ward, who is a church organist, pianist and soloist. "He knew all the Scriptures in the Bible by heart. He had such a gift."

In 1946, Mr. Corbin became a licensed and ordained Pentecostal minister. A year later, he began building his church in a converted garage on West Phoenix Avenue.

Over the years, he added on to the church, and in the 1960s, the couple built a home on the site.

"The Full Gospel, an attractive sample of what can be done with small resources, is unaffiliated with a denomination. It sits on a $1,000, 150-by-150 foot lot and is furnished with seats ($3 apiece) from the old Hampstead movie theater," reported the Sun Magazine in a 1977 profile of Mr. Corbin.

"After 30 years of effort by Brother Billy and his parishioners, it has attractive carpeting, flowers and a marble-topped altar."

Mr. Corbin explained his church's mission in the 1977 article.

"Our group are people that give," he said. "The main thing we believe is salvation by grace and good works."

Church members also supported missionary work with Nigerian orphans and in South America.

Mr. Corbin's stepson, Robert L. Sipes of Parkville, had been assistant church pastor.

"He was an evangelist at heart and had that spirit. He wanted to share the gospel of Christ with everyone, and he wanted them to know that Jesus loved them and there was a place in heaven for them if they trusted in him," Mr. Sipes said.

In the early 1970s, Mr. Corbin, supported with gifts from his parishioners, purchased a used 1969 Cadillac limousine, which he drove Sunday mornings to pick up elderly church members and take them to 10:30 a.m. services.

"After church, he then drove them home," Mrs. Corbin said.

He was also pastor of Full Gospel Pentecostal Church on 25th Street in Baltimore from 1968 to 1972.

In addition to serving his church, Mr. Corbin worked as a rural postal carrier, delivering mail in the Cockeysville and Padonia areas for 29 years until retiring in 1990.

"He even took his ministry along his mail route. People would wait for him to come along and, even though they weren't members of his church, he'd pray with them or visit their sick family members," Mr. Sipes said. "His ministry was greater than the four walls of his church."

Mrs. Corbin recalled her husband spending long nights at hospitals or at homes comforting the sick.

"Sometimes they were even perfect strangers, but he'd go. I remember he'd come home early the next morning, shave and then go to work without any sleep," she said.

Mr. Sipes added: "He was a very well-loved, compassionate and humble man who was always on the go."

Mr. Corbin preached his last sermon about four months ago as his health continued to fail.

Mr. Corbin and his church's community outreach brought letters of recognition from Govs. William Donald Schaefer and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., family members said.

"His hobby was Christ, and he loved his ministry. That was his heart," Mrs. Corbin said.

Services for Mr. Corbin were held Saturday at his church.

Also surviving are a son, Arthur L. "Lenny" Corbin Jr. of Shrewsbury, Pa.; a daughter, Deborah Lee Farren of Melbourne, Fla.; two stepdaughters, Margie Roberts and Terry Murphy, both of Hampstead; 15 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Another stepson, George "Corky" Sipes, died in 2005.

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