Pastor Tom Tweed has found himself facing a question he’s never had to contemplate: where to go on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning?
The minister has spent the past 20 Christmas services at Camas Zion Lutheran Church, the same church he’s led since the fall of 1999.
This year, however, is a different story.
As a newly retired pastor — Nov. 24 marked his last sermon at Zion Lutheran — Tweed is discouraged from attending the Camas church he’s called home for two decades.
The rule is meant to help Zion’s congregants meld with their interim and new pastors following Tweed’s departure. But it still leaves Tweed in the position of “church shopping,” which is another dive into the unknown for the friendly pastor known for his longevity at the downtown Camas church.
“In my 68 years, I’ve never had to church shop,” Tweed told the Post-Record a few days before delivering his last sermon at Zion Lutheran. “This will be a totally new experience … and may be somewhat of a challenge.”
In his quest for a new church, Tweed will be on the lookout for a few qualities he holds dear.
“Well, good preaching,” he said, laughing when asked what he will look for in his new church home. “And a faithfulness to the word (of God) without someone telling me what to think.”
Other must haves?
“Good music and a congregation that cares about social justice,” Tweed said.
Under Tweed’s direction, the congregation at Zion Lutheran was known for taking part in community events, caring for those in need and looking for solutions within the church to global problems like climate change and homelessness.
The church, located on the corner of Northeast Third Avenue and Northeast Garfield Street in the heart of downtown Camas, offered to host the Inter-faith Treasure House’s Lost and Found Cafe, which provides meals to low- and no-income community members; recently started a eco-justice campaign; helped furnish rooms for the Open House Ministries homeless shelter in Vancouver; and frequently opened its doors to community events such as the annual Camas Days Senior Royalty Luncheon, which is always held in the church’s social hall.
Tweed and his wife, Hannelore Tweed — a retired Camas High School teacher and current Holocaust studies educator — raised their twin boys in Camas, and Tweed said he appreciated the somewhat flexible schedule allowed by his position as a pastor.
“I was able to coach basketball and baseball,” Tweed said. “I didn’t have to punch a clock.”
Of course, weekends and evenings were tougher for Tweed to escape the demands of life as a pastor, but he said he never minded that part of his career, which was always more of a calling and less of a job.
“I will miss being a part of people’s lives,” Tweed said. “Of being someone to walk alongside them, to be there for them when they were in need.”
The pastor also will miss his frequent walks around downtown Camas and to the nearby Camas Cemetery, where he always visits the graves of people he knew personally — and at whose funerals Tweed often officiated.
“I think I must have officiated about 50 graveside services (at the Camas Cemetery),” Tweed said. “I think of those people when I walk.”
Retirement will give Tweed the freedom to join his wife on impromptu road trips and travel adventures.
“We’ve been to Europe a number of times … but the one thing I’ve never been able to do is go to spring (Major League Baseball) training in Arizona, so that will be my first fun trip,” Tweed said.
The retired pastor plans to remain active in the Camas-Washougal community, and said he doesn’t have any concrete volunteering plans right now, but has been contemplating a few ideas.
“I love the outdoors, so maybe volunteering at the Steigerwald refuge, or something like that,” he said. “I probably won’t jump into anything right away.”
Leaving a life of ministerial work won’t be easy for Tweed. He has been ordained for more than 40 years and served congregations in Chicago, Montana, and Gig Harbor, Washington, before landing in Camas in 1999. He is the local Zion Lutheran Church’s longest serving pastor.
“It’s hard to see myself doing something other than this,” Tweed said.
And, although he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, grown sons and two grandchildren, Tweed said he also intends to stay on as a “supply pastor” for churches in the Portland-Vancouver metro area that need someone to fill in when their regular pastors are on vacation, ill or in need of a break.
“I know how important it is to have someone who can do that for you,” Tweed said of having a respite as a pastor. “So I will be able to give other pastors a break now.”
The Zion Lutheran congregation said good-bye to Tweed on Nov. 24 and had a retirement reception after the Tweed’s final sermon as the church’s official pastor. Susan Dollinger is now serving as the church’s intern pastor. To learn more about the downtown Camas Zion Lutheran Church, visit zionluthcamas.org.