Odenton's Trinity United Methodist welcomes new pastor

Pastor Sandy Knepp took the reins at Odenton’s Trinity Unity Methodist Church in July to the delight of all parishioners.

“She does everything you want a pastor to do,” said long-time parishioner Sarah Ward. “She visits the ill, reaches out, offers a steady hand for guidance, attends all events as a pastor, not just as some who’s there and has spiritually based sermons.”

Barbara Lanzer, a Trinity member and a teacher of the ‘Little Lambs’ preschool, agrees.

“She preaches such wonderful sermons,” Lanzer said. “She has congregants going away with an uplifted feeling.”

Knepp, who lives in Crofton and prefers to be called, “Pastor Sandy,” is leading a church for the first time.

“I never meant to be pastoral,” Knepp said. “But in seminary, I grew further in my faith and the calling became stronger in my heart.

“I felt a calling to ministry, but it was 10 years before I answered.”

Knepp began attending Andersonville Theological Seminary in Camilla, Ga. in in 2009. The Air Force veteran quickly earned an Associates Degree in Biblical Studies, followed by a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Divinity in December of 2016.

Her studies were interrupted by a tragedy in 2015.

Just before their 10th wedding anniversary, Knepp’s husband Marty Knepp, died suddenly of acute pancreatitis at age 52.

“He went into the hospital on Monday and died Thursday,” Knepp said. “When he passed, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to finish [my degree] in ministry. But God carried me and our three children [Ellen, Daniel and Aubrey] through.

“Going through such a trial and ‘feeling’ God’s love and strength; it solidified the call to go into ministry and share the good news of God’s love and strength with people.”

Knepp was serving as the youth director of Bowie United Methodist Church when she got the call to be a pastor at Trinity UMC.

While already in the candidacy process to become a pastor, there is a period of prayer and discernment, in the United Methodist Church, when one decides what type of ministry they would like to do.

“I prayed about it and ’yes’ this was the step to take,” Knepp said. “When I accepted the appointment I saw a red cardinal in my back yard and saw it as and affirmation as [becoming a pastor] was the right thing to do.”

Knapp had a challenge. 2018 is the first year Trinity UMC has operated as a single parish. In years past, it’s ‘mother’ church, Community United Methodist Church in Crofton aided Trinity.

Additionally, the historic, 12-pew church was shopped several years ago as a wedding chapel.

“The congregation as a whole have been supportive and helping me find my way as a new pastor,” Knepp said. “The congregation truly has a heart for God and loving and supporting each other.

“The understand I have limited hours I can be at the church.”

Knepp’s position as pastor of Trinity UMC is only considered ‘quarter’ time. With an expectation of her devoting 10 to 12 hours a week to the church.

“It’s impossible to be in ministry 12 hours a week,” Knepp said.

For the past seven years, Knepp has worked at Rich Reilly’s Insurance Agency and continues to work there when not at church functions or preparing sermons.

Knepp hopes Trinity grows in strength and numbers and she may be able to serve either half or full-time as a pastor.

The ultimate determinant of Knepps’ hours is on the Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“My goal is to really reach people with the love of Christ,” Knepp said. “As a pastor I want to guide people to deepen their spiritual love of Christ to where they are spilling over to others.”

It is impossible to ignore Knepp is bald and has no hair. Her hair fell out in a matter of three weeks at age 31. Doctor’s kept telling her it was stress.

“I finally found a doctor at Johns Hopkins that diagnosed me with Alopecia, an autoimmune disease,” Knepp said. “Basically my body thinks the fair follicles are the enemy and depresses hair growth. Thankfully, it is not life-threatening.”

“It was very difficult the first year. I wore hats and kept thinking my hair would grow back.”

Then, Knepp tried and wore wigs but found them uncomfortable.

However, with the birth of her third child, Aubrey, in 2007, everything changed.

“I decided to be myself and stop wearing wigs,” Knepp said. “Being bald, I was super self-conscious at first. But people just accepted men as that’s me being me.”

“I hope [by my baldness] that not only girls, but boys learn to accept themselves. God doesn’t make junk. Accept yourself the way you are.”

Trinity UMC is at 952 Patuxent Road. Serves are held every Sunday at 10:30am. For more information, visit: www.trinityumc-odenton.org.

Melissa Driscoll Krol can be reached at aroundcrofton@gmail.com and on Facebook at Around Crofton.

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