By Garrett Ammesmaki
The door to First English Lutheran Church is unlocked on a cloudy Thursday afternoon.
In the office that overlooks Second Avenue, Pastor Hugh Brewer sits at his desk, thin and reserved in a collared shirt.
After an unusually long stint as pastor of FELC, and pillar of the Lennox community, Brewer has decided on retirement. Though he hasn’t lost his passion or enthusiasm for the ministry, he thought it was the right time to hand the reins to a younger generation.
“The older you get, the slower you get, and I don’t want to hang on too long,” Brewer said.
He made the decision in February, after returning from a trip to visit one of his sons in California.
The announcement didn’t come as a surprise to members of the congregation, but it is definitely “an event” felt by those who have worked beside Brewer and sought him for guidance.
Lifelong member of FELC John Steever speaks of the pastor with high regard.
“It’s hard to measure what Hugh and his wife have put into this job,” Steever said. “It’s not just Sunday morning, it’s all day long, it’s every day of the week — I can’t imagine how difficult a job it is, and he has handled it gracefully.”
“(His retirement) wasn’t a shock, but I definitely had to wrap my head around it,” he added.
Steever has always considered his pastor as being very personable, wise and graceful. And Steever has sought his guidance plenty of times throughout his own life.
“He’s a calming influence that makes you know you’re not alone facing anything,” Steever said. “We’ve had the luxury of having someone as good as Pastor Brewer for this long, and that’s not normal.”
The average timespan for a pastor to lead a congregation is around four to five years, according to most research. Considering that, Brewer’s tenure with FELC is somewhat an anomaly. As to why he has stayed with FELC for so long, Brewer is modest.
“It happened one day at a time,” he said. “God didn’t move me.”
Though he is largely reserved, Brewer lights up as he talks about the ministry. But it hasn’t always been a part of his life. In fact, when he was younger, the last thing he wanted to do was be a pastor. His original plan was to study medicine.
“As a young person you’re wondering what you’re going to do, where you’re going,” Brewer said. “All the doors I tried were getting slammed shut — the only one that kept opening was the last one on my list.”
After graduating from Texas A&M Brewer went into the seminary. All three of his positions have been in South Dakota, his first being in Badger. Seeing as he graduated with a degree in history, one might think that’s what fascinated him the most when it came to his career as a pastor. But, throughout his time, Brewer has strived for one thing.
“I call it the big sigh,” he said. “You find that we as humans carry a burden, and most of the burden is put upon ourselves by ourselves — regrets, remorse — I’ve met people who are still living under an incident from 40 years ago.”
The “big sigh,” he said, is when he listens to people unburden themselves of their sins and transgressions, and he’s able to remind them that Christ will carry it for them.
“When they realize that, you can see it,” he said. “It’s visual.”
“As I’ve stumbled into this,” Brewer continued, “I’ve realized what the ministry is.”
Opposite a bookshelf brimming with literature, a large plastic ear hangs on the wall of his office.
“It’s my picture of the perfect Christian,” he said. “It all starts there, with hearing.”
The public is invited to an open house for Pastor Brewer at First English Lutheran Church from 1 pm to 3 pm. on Sunday June 26, 2022. There will be a short program at 2 p.m.