GLEN BURNIE, MD. (WJZ) — At St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Glen Burnie, two worlds collide.
“A lot of people ask which thing I was first,” said Rev. Pamela Conrad.
Rev. Pamela Conrad is church rector by day, astrobiologist by night.
“I’ve been as interested in faith and God as I have been in science and they sort of weave together as braided strands like a DNA molecule,” Rev. Conrad said.
They’re interests that have led to a life of exploration. As a scientist, she’s worked for NASA since 1999 and is currently a scientific investigator for the 2020 Mars Perseverance Rover Mission. Helping develop commands and experiments to send to Mars.
“When we see a beautiful image come down from Mars it’s almost as if you’re standing there just looking out the window,” she said. “You look at it and you go, ‘Wow that’s coming from Mars and it never gets old.”
Her work with NASA is now part-time, as her job as rector occupies the majority of her days.
“It’s a big job and it has to be my primary responsibility because people’s hearts and sometimes their lives are on the line and I have to show up to them,” she said.
Admittedly, Rev. Conrad’s relationship with organized religion wasn’t always smooth. Frustrated with the lack of opportunity for women, she lost touch with the church for 34 years, but it was an exploration to Antarctica, wind howling, the royal society mountain range in the distance, that helped bring her back.
“And all of the sudden, all of the things that made me angry about organized religion just dissolved, and I realized a deep peace with feeling connected with nature and feeling connected with my scientific self, and I thought these two things should be married,” she said.
And while some may say science and religion don’t mix, Rev. Conrad has to disagree.
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“To be a fully human mind, and a fully human heart, who wouldn’t want to use all the ways knowing that there are,” she said.