For the many who may not have heard, Rev. Timothy Olson, pastor of First Lutheran Church of Charlotte, died unexpectedly the morning of Wednesday, May 29. His death was a result of a car accident, and the shock of the news spread quickly among family, close friends, congregants and churchgoers, and a community that recognized him as an upstanding family man and follower of Christ.
Timothy, or Tim, as many called him, brought his family to Charlotte several years ago so he could fill the pastorate at First Lutheran Church. His wife, Chris, two daughters, Rebekah and Rachel, and son, James, have been a beloved family in the First Lutheran community, and the Charlotte community at large. Tim was not only an active community individual, so too were his three children as they sang in choirs and ensembles and band, played Charlotte athletics, and attended Charlotte Public Schools. The Olson family has been resilient over the years, especially with Chris’ ongoing struggle with cancer. The faith of the family has certainly been a testament to the faith of First Lutheran, and the faith of the greater community of Charlotte churches.
Despite any family challenges, Tim remained a confident man of God. He continued to preach the gospel and uphold the traditions of the Lutheran faith. Tim was not the kind of pastor to shield his congregation from community involvement. Under his leadership, First Lutheran became distinct in Charlotte for making practical the call of Christ to feed and clothe the poor, look after the widows and orphans, and love thy neighbor as thyself. Tim was known for being a sociable pastor. He participated in local ecumenical circles, he was always approachable with a kind smile and pleasant conversation, and he never fit a stereotype of a stuffy, judgmental pastor. The kindness and tender heartedness of Tim was apparent in the pulpit, as well as in person.
I had the great privilege of working with Tim at First Lutheran for a couple of years, but First Lutheran was not the only church at which I worked. While I worked part-time at First Lutheran I also worked part-time at another church across town, and since that time I’ve worked at two other churches. I can confidently say, while doing my best to not compare the different places and their leaders, that First Lutheran Church under the leadership of Tim Olson had a special place in Charlotte. I was fortunate to know and work with Tim, not only because of his endearing personal qualities, but also because he set a high standard for how pastors should live and serve in their communities, work with other churches, and interact with both congregants and strangers beyond the church walls.
Tim, like any pastor, had his convictions and closely held beliefs. But he also had an open mindedness in him; a considerate thoughtfulness that kept him grounded in the reality of a situation while still maintaining the belief that God works in mysterious ways above human understanding. Tim’s theology was one of firm faith in the death and resurrection and redemption of Jesus, and the practical application of that theology in common life. He was a preacher and teacher in the pulpit, a pastor in the rest of his church work, a friend in ordinary life, a father to his children, a husband to his wife, and a believer in Christ in all things. He was an uncommonly relaxed pastor who didn’t see the need to be the heroic pastor in every situation. His belief in God and his role as a church leader were simpler, yet profoundly deeper than that.
Husband, father, friend, pastor, mentor, believer. Tim Olson was an example of how to confidently live in such roles while remaining calm, resolute, and faithful. Thank you Tim for bringing your gifts and leadership to Charlotte.