Popular Pastor Sam to serve in White Salmon

<I>KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo</I><BR>Pastor Samantha Weir

OCEAN PARK - Reverend Samantha Weir's final message to her Ocean Park United Methodist congregation will be titled "Keep on Dreaming."

Pastor Sam, as she is affectionately known, lists as one of her many gifts that of being a visionary.

"I like to think of what could be and not look at what is," she said with conviction.

Pastor Sam was sent by the overseeing Methodist bishop to Ocean Park in January 1990, and during her ministry has tripled the average number of attendees to the church. With one of the 90-year old church's problems being lack of parking, the congregation under Weir's direction is planning to build a new facility on U Street.

"I believe the Holy Spirit designed a plan for our church to grow, and that has been my prayer focus here at Ocean Park," Pastor Sam explained. "I also believe now is the time for me to go."

The Methodists send pastors to where their gifts and graces can best fit the needs of the people they are serving, according to Weir.

"At White Salmon (where she and her husband John are re-locating) there is a large church building that needs to be filled. My son and daughter-in-law and my two grand children ages 3 and 5 are there, too. I have one foot here, and one foot already there," she relates.

Weir was born and raised in Portland, graduating from venerable Franklin High School and going right to work in the business field, where she became "the nicest credit manager people ever had" she said through her ever-present smile. After many years of work in the business field, she felt the call of the church.

Weir became a parish assistant in Vancouver, and the Methodist district superintendent asked her if she would be interested in becoming a pastor. Weir readily enrolled in a program for training people over 35 for a second career in the ministry.

She was hired as the quarter-time pastor at Ocean Park soon after completing her training.

"The church was at a point of 'do we die or do we grow. Since I didn't want to have a funeral, I decided to do what I could to make the church grow," Pastor Sam said. "I was often the hands and feet for the congregation at first, and it wasn't easy to get by financially, but grow we did."

After four years, Weir was given half-time status and after four more years as the Ocean Park Methodist congregation continued steady growth, she reached three-quarter status and pay.

"When I saw a McDonald's come to the Peninsula, I knew the area was destined to continue to grow because they do their research. I began planning accordingly - expecting our congregation and our facilities to continue to expand," Pastor Weir, who has full-time status now, explained.

It has been difficult at times to delegate some of the work Pastor Sam originally performed, but it has been very gratifying for her to see others taking on greater duties.

Pastor Sam shared times when she had to preach Easter Sunday in her slippers because she hurt her foot, of Christmas Eve services when an ice storms pelted the Peninsula, or when a patron fainted in-mid service, and of a scary time when a lady rushed in Sunday morning to say her husband was trying to kill her.

"We sheltered the lady, called the police, and informed everyone they could stay or go as there may be some danger," Weir explained. "We evacuated the children and about three-quarters of the adults stayed, and the blessing of the situation is that the lady was safe and has become a faithful member ever since."

Weir says that being a female pastor she has noticed some resistance initially from certain people.

"I feel each pastor has a different gift. As a woman my gifts of feeling, understanding, and nurturing come naturally. My sensitivity is part of how I carry out my duties as a shepherd for my congregation."

She said many divorced or widowed women are comfortable with her, and adds with a smile, "Pretty soon the men come on board with what I'm doing as a pastor, too," Weir said, "The Methodists try to match the person for the needs of a particular congregation without caring too much what gender the pastor is."

Weir and husband John, an avid member of the Beach Barons, plan to keep their home here and return upon retirement.

"John has an old - make that 'customized' - purple pickup, my favorite color, and we'll be back and forth often for car shows and other things," she said. "Hopefully by the time we retire there will be a fully automatic car wash here. That's another of my visions," she laughed.

As for her final sermon and the pot luck to follow, Weir explained, "Blondes don't cry well-our eyes turn red instantly and stay that way, so I am hoping to celebrate the years here with the people I have come to know from the inside out. I want them to keep on dreaming like I will be," she concluded.

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