After almost 40 years of ministry, Rev. Chuck Tews has retired.
“I’m still going to do some ministry things. My health is good. I want to go see my kids, and I want to do things. I will still help out at parishes, if it fits my schedule,” he said.
Tews said his last sermon at Waupaca’s Trinity Lutheran Church on May 4.
His final action as a pastor was on May 17, when he helped elect a new bishop for the East Central Synod of Wisconsin.
Tews began his work as a pastor in Griswold, Iowa, in August 1975.
In the spring of that year, he graduated from Concordia Seminary in Exile. Theological in-fighting led nearly all faculty and students at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis to break away from the Missouri Synod.
“I had no call at that time,” Tews said.
He and his wife Sharon, who were married on June 24, 1972, returned to Wisconsin. They were expecting their first child.
The couple met after her father, Rev. Willard Krueger, became the pastor of Tews’ home church, Zion Lutheran Church, in the town of Caledonia.
Tews grew up on a dairy farm between Fremont and Readfield, one of seven children.
He graduated from New London High School and received encouragement from family members to think about becoming a pastor.
“I have a lot of family members who are pastors or parochial teachers,” he said.
His other brother, Jerry, a retired ELCA pastor, encouraged him to go to Concordia University, in Milwaukee.
“By the time I was done with those two years, I was on a track. I received an associate of arts there. After that, I went to Concordia Senior College in Fort Wayne, Ind.,” Tews said. “I received a bachelor’s degree in U.S. history. I always was interested in history.”
Next, he headed to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. In 1996, he received a doctorate degree from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.
After he and Sharon returned to Wisconsin in 1975, Tews started working for Oscar Boldt’s construction company.
On July 1, the couple’s first child, Garrett, arrrived.
“Almost right after that, a church was interested in having a pastor,” Tews said.
That church was in Griswold, Iowa.
“When I started, there were about 20 people worshipping on Sundays. By the time we left, not quite two years later, we were averaging 100-plus,” he said.
Tews received a call from a church in Great Bend, Kan., where he had interned as a seminary student.
“They wanted to call me back as pastor,” Tews said. “That is how I got into large churches and staffs. It was about a 1,500-member congregation at the time.”
From Feb. 1, 1977 until dec. 15, 1986, Tews served as their pastor.
He and Sharon’s daughter Kristen was born on Dec. 31, 1976, making her 1 month old when they made the move from Iowa to Kansas.
The couple’s third child, son Justin was born in Kansas on May 13, 1980.
Garret and his wife Lynn live in Minneapolis and have two children, 7-year-old Lily and 2-year-old Wyatt.
Kristen’s husband, Rev. Brian Konkol, is the chaplain of the college at Gustavas Adolphus College. The couple has two children, 3-year-old Khaya and 1 1/2-year-old Tobi.
Justin lives in Branson, Mo., where he is a professional entertainer.
Over Christmas of 1986, the family made the move back to Wisconsin, and Tews became a pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church on Jan. 1, 1987.
“Coming back, it was very nice, because family has always been important to us. We never thought we’d get this close,” he said. “Kansas was about a 17-hour drive. I made it back for deer hunting every year.”
During his years at Trinity, the church completed several building projects, including one in 1987, another in 1998 and most recently, the sanctuary, education and office space in 2012.
“The blessing of this is it carries the congregation’s needs into the next 60 years,” Tews said. “It really carries us into the next generation. We’re really a community church.”
He said Trinity is a downtown church that serves as Waupaca’s senior nutrition site. The church also has a preschool, Scouts and is open to the community.
Community involvement is also important to Tews. He was a charter member of the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club, served on the United Way board, coached Little League and currently serves on the Waupaca Community Health Action Team and the Waupaca County Suicide Prevention Coalition.
Tews recalled something he learned when he was being trained for the ministry.
It was “mornings are for business. Afternoons off your seat and on the street,” he said.
Tews followed that advice. He was typically in the church until noon.
“From noon to 3:30 p.m., a lot of times, you would not find me at my desk,” Tews said. “I made my calls. I would go to the hospital. I’d walk to the banks, the library, just meeting people.”
Tews also said he was blessed with his pastor team of Rev. Andy Behrendt and Rev. Jennifer DeNetz.
“I can’t say enough about the staff. It’s been a pleasure to work with the whole team. They’re committed,” he said.
Tews hopes that from him, others learned to “be optimistic, know that you are loved and to work for the best, expect the best.”