The rise in female ordination in the Methodist Church is no mystery to the Rev. Sandra Taylor, who attributes it in part to a woman's natural instincts to organize her life around nurturing and caring.
Her congregation at Severna Park United Methodist Church knows all about the pastor's knack for nurturing and caring. As she prepares to leave for a church in suburban Washington, Taylor leaves behind an enduring legacy of pastoral outreach and spiritual support.
After four years as pastor at Severna Park UMC, Taylor will leave this week to become the minister at Oxon Hill United Methodist Church in Oxon Hill.
"Sandy has a keen ability to organize new programs and services in the church and the community, and moves quickly toward goals she has set," says the Rev. Dr. Warren Ebinger, Taylor's co-pastor at Severna Park.
"Her new role as pastor at Oxon Hill, one of the larger churches in the Washington area [over 1,000 members], will be a great challenge, and her distinctive, 'let's go for it' approach will produce an expanding ministry, I predict."
Taylor began her career after earning a bachelor of science in education at the University of Maryland. Although Taylor loved teaching, she felt a deeper call to the ministry. Believing a master's in religious education was the answer, she enrolled at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington.
"That didn't work," she says, so she decided to pursue a second master's degree, in divinity. In 1981, she became Reverend Taylor.
Being a student was not easy for a wife and mother of two small children.
"It never failed. When I had an exam or a paper due, they had a fever," she recalls.
Running both a home and a church, Taylor says, requires enormous energy.
"I gave thanks for that [high energy level] years ago," Taylor says with her typical good humor.
She does, however, admit to taking a one-day break each week. While her daughter, Jennifer, teaches school, she has the pleasure of watching her granddaughter, Samantha Ruth.
Taylor and her husband, Dave, also have a son, David, who recently was married by his mother.
Taylor has nothing but praise for Ebinger, with whom she arrived at Severna Park UMC four years ago.
"Momentum has been like fire, with Warren's mission being primarily outside volunteer missions for the church and mine inside," she says of their partnership.
During her time at the church, Taylor says she has been most proud of the Severna Park Assistance Network.
A year in the planning, SPAN was begun by Katie Carroll and Barbara Madary, under Taylor's direction, working through the area ministerium.
Says current SPAN director Barbara Birkenheuer, "What I admire most about Sandy is that she is so ecumenically minded. Her programs reached out past the walls of the United Methodist Church into the community."
Taylor says takes special pleasure in putting programs in the hands of lay people.
"All I had to do was follow the spirit, and there were people waiting to do it," she says of the ideas she has inaugurated with the assistance of her congregation.
One of her favorites is the Disciple Mission, a yearlong Bible study group now run by trained church members like Joan Randolph.
Another program, the Stephen Ministry, offers a 50-hour training program that equips lay people with the skills to assist pastors in caring outreach.
Similar to hospice work, the mission helps adults and children, divorcees, shut-ins and those who have lost loved ones. The program is coordinated by Dawn Gates.
The Job Club, which meets every other Friday for breakfast, was first held at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church. Because of the economy, Taylor revived the idea six months ago. Now, the unemployed are finding work through a well-developed networking system. The group offers emotional support and the tools for job searching.
For more information on the programs offered by Severna Park United Methodist Church, call 987-4700.