Pastor opens home to children

September 07, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

BOONSBORO - One of the Rev. Kelly Crenshaw's goals as the new pastor of Boonsboro's Trinity Reformed United Church of Christ is boosting attendance. Of course when Crenshaw counts her own family, she has already taken a big step in that direction.

In addition to their own two biological children, Crenshaw and her husband, Andrew, have 15 children they have either adopted or are in the process of adopting.

From her office in the church at 33 Potomac St., Crenshaw said she grew up as an adopted child in Middletown, Md., and has lived in the general area most of her life.


When she turned 30 and still was childless, Crenshaw said she was devastated.

"We prayed," Crenshaw said. "And I learned you need to be careful what you pray for."

When she finally got pregnant, she was sick a lot of the time. She had to quit her job and then she had a hard delivery.

"At that point, we rethought the idea of adoption," she said.

While they were thinking about older children, the Crenshaws' first opportunity was with a 17-year-old girl - a little older than they had planned. Then came a 10-year-old and a 15-year-old and Crenshaw found out she was pregnant again.

"I had a better time with our second - we had a girl," Crenshaw said.

She was a stay-at-home mom then and in seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.) Theological Seminary while ministering at a church in Cascade.

Still the Crenshaws continued opening their home and their hearts to children of all ages who needed love and special care, first as foster children and then through adoption.

"Some had been abused, first in their biological home and then again in foster care," Crenshaw said.

One 3-year-old boy came to them unable to smile.

"After awhile, he found his smile," she said.

Still the children came - some born with addictions, another unable to speak, but all needing love and care.

"So many people want to adopt babies," Crenshaw said. "The older kids do have a lot of baggage, but this isn't always about what is perfect now."

Crenshaw said older children need a special commitment if they are to turn their lives around.

"This is about giving them a future as well as a now," she said.

Currently the Crenshaws are working to bring seven children from Florida - an unrelated group ranging in age from 12 to 17, who want to stay together if possible.

"They have not been schooled, had not seen a doctor or a dentist," she said. "All had been abused in the name of God."

The oldest is already with the Crenshaws and efforts are under way to bring the rest into the family.

"I felt I didn't have a choice. I went to Florida and fell in love with them," Crenshaw said.

The Crenshaws live in nearby Shepherdstown, W.Va., in a nine-bedroom home that features a 14-foot dining room table her father built for the large family. Andrew works for Lockheed Martin Corp. in the project development office.

"This is not a glorified group home ... this is home," Crenshaw said.

She and her husband are assisted by a live-in male nanny who helps with the children.

She said all of the children have opted to call her and her husband "Mom" and "Dad."

Crenshaw started at Trinity in mid-July. The Rev. Douglas Griffin, the former pastor of the church, left in January.

After a stint at St. Stephen's United Church of Christ in Cascade, Crenshaw spent three years as chaplain at Mountain Creek Campground in Pennsylvania. A commuter, her new post is much closer to home.

"Trinity is a very welcoming church," Crenshaw said. "The congregation has made a choice to stay with the more traditional, prayerful worship service."

Crenshaw said she admires the members for the decision to keep things meditative rather than change to a more contemporary format.

"The church is also very mission-oriented and is planning more children and youth events," she said.

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