Calling leads her home

Pastor: A lawyer-turned-minister from Owen Brown village now leads a Methodist congregation in Columbia.

August 27, 2004|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Marilyn Newhouse had been a lawyer for 23 years when she decided to make a little change. Not in the type of law she practiced, but in her life's work.

The change wound up being a simple one. Newhouse went from the courthouse to God's house and became a minister. And now, after seven years, the Howard County resident has taken a job closer to home, as the pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Columbia.

Newhouse was not unhappy with her career as an attorney, but she had always been a religious person. She said her legal skills have served her well as a minister, and the changeover was not very traumatic.

Simply put, it worked out beautifully.

"To me, it fits together well," Newhouse said. "The legal training actually is helpful quite a bit in church work ... listening to people, some of the negotiation skills, church management issues. I find it very helpful to have that background. It's actually been more helpful than I would have anticipated."

Not surprising

Newhouse's career-change announcement didn't exactly shock her family. Her husband, Willie Abrams, is also an attorney. They met in graduate school at Catholic University in Washington, and he could see what was happening over the years.

"When I first met her, it was somewhat clear to me that she was deeply religious," Abrams said. "As the years went on, I could see that more and more. I sort of saw it gradually coming. It wasn't like it was a sudden revelation."

Abrams also said that being a lawyer might have satisfied his wife for a while, but eventually Newhouse needed to make a complete change.

"We never really talked about it, but I think that the law served as a substitute for her calling," Abrams said. "[I think] there came a point where the law was not as effective."

Now Newhouse is trying to find a way to be as effective as possible at her new parish, where she started July 1.

The congregation worships at Owen Brown Interfaith Center in Columbia and is planning to celebrate its 30th anniversary Nov. 6. It is a smaller congregation than Newhouse's previous church, the Calvary United Methodist Church in Annapolis, but she feels it is a perfect fit for her.

Newhouse said that Calvary had about 1,325 people, with two pastors. Christ United, however, has fewer than 200, which gives her a better chance to get to know people, something she feels is vital for any minister.

"It's a wonderful, family-oriented congregation," Newhouse said. "They're looking for leadership, and basically what I do when I enter a congregation is spend the first few months listening to folk and trying to hear the most heartfelt needs, which aren't always articulated."

Newhouse said she is working hard at getting to know everyone. She is familiar with the area, having lived about 20 years in Owen Brown village, where she and her husband raised their daughters, Tanya and Melissa.

Active in community

Newhouse has been heavily involved in the village for many years. She served as PTA president at Dasher Green Elementary - newly renamed as Cradlerock School - and later was on the village board.

"I kind of worked my way around," Newhouse said. "I didn't really expect to be so close to home."

But she will certainly take it, and Newhouse's family also is happy for her.

Tanya Abrams, 23, a Harvard University graduate student in Russian/Eastern European/Central Asian studies, loves her mother's career change.

"I think it was a great change," said Abrams, an Oakland Mills High School graduate. "It definitely provides a wonderful community in which to work and touch people's lives. I'm not surprised [because] her faith has always been important to her. "

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