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Rev. Percy Damrow retires after 43 years, including 31 at St. John's Lutheran

For 43 years, the Rev. Percy Damrow has been serving God and his church community.

On Sunday, July 8, Damrow preached his last sermon at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church. He has been the church's pastor for 31 years. He has had great joy in being part of this church and its family.

"This is a good church," he said last Friday. "It has been a joy to see how they have maintained this church building, and the future is good. They are dedicated in their faith to Christ and working together to do that."

Originally from Watertown, Wis., Damrow was serving two smaller churches in Wisconsin when he received the call to come to St. John's in Hastings.

While serving the two smaller congregations, Damrow and his wife Karen began raising their two daughters. When the Damrows came to Hastings, they looked for housing, saw the church for the first time and met some parishioners. They have never left.

"(The members) treated us as part of the family," said Damrow, another smile covering his face. The feeling is still there.

The church, which dates back more than 140 years in Hastings, is and remains strong, said Damrow. The current church was built in the 1950s - the church bell from the first church located on the city's east side still rings for services.

An addition to the church was constructed in the 1970s, and in 1987, the church bought lots across the street and a former carriage house. The house is used for church offices and Sunday School space.

Through the years, Damrow estimated he has baptized 375 children and officiated at 115 weddings, including his two daughters. The Damrows now have three grandchildren.

"The best part is being part of the milestones in the lives of the families here," he said. "While funerals are sad occasions, it is a joy to me to give comfort to people as their faith in Jesus will sustain them."

There are other joys being the church pastor, he said.

"One of the greatest is teaching children to know Jesus," said Damrow. He said he also enjoys continuing to guide members about a life with Jesus, he said.

For 23 years, Damrow was able to have seminary students as vicars, assisting with the church work.

The Damrows will continue to live in Hastings - their daughters and their families live nearby and they like it here.

Damrow will probably continue to reach out to help others. It is a big part of who he has been the past 43 years.