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Pastor united two churches

He gave up his job at Waste Systems to pursue the clergy and came back to Austin to preach. But last week, Pastor Dennis Tamke’s congregation bid him farewell as he began his new ministry in Faribault. Tamke has served as a pastor and uniter for both Austin’s First Methodist Church and Fellowship United Methodist Church for the last five years.

“It was wonderful to be able to serve with Dennis and to know his support. His love of ministry and his love of sharing Christ is the center of everything he did. He cares a lot about the people of Austin and I found it a joy to be able to serve with him,” said First Methodist’s primary pastor Patricia Toschak.

Recently, Tamke accepted a request to serve as a full-time pastor at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church in Faribault. He still lives in Austin and commutes to the church, allowing him to remain in contact with his former congregations.

During his time serving in Austin, Tamke took charge of visitation responsibilities which included visits and prayer with congregation member who were in the hospital, in retirement homes or in the process of grieving. Members of both his congregations praised his ability to bring peace and strength to those he visited, emphasizing his wit and compassion.

“When you’re with a person or a family at a significant moment, such as birth or death, there is no words that describe that sense, no words that significantly describe God’s presence,” Tamke said.

He also took on the role of uniting the two churches he served.

“He encouraged us to share confirmation class and vacation bible school, and he encouraged the pulpit exchange between the two churches. The connection between the two really started when he came,” said Virginia McClary, chair of the SPRC committee for Fellowship United.

Tamke, eldest of seven siblings, grew up throughout Minnesota before settling in Lyle where he completed his high school education. While there, he met his future wife Rose, who inspired him to begin attending First United Methodist Church in Austin. This sparked his calling to the church.

However, his marriage to Rose and the soon thereafter arrive of their first child, Chad, made Tamke take up a more financially secure vocation. He worked various manager positions before taking a job with Waste Systems in 1986. He was in charge of day-to-day; organizing trash pick-up routes, improving customer relations and even assisting in the pick-up if needed. The communication skills he gained in his work were later helpful in his role as a pastor, said Tamke.

In Febuary of 1994, Tamke participated in Walk to Emmaus, a chrisio style religious retreat. There, he rediscovered his passion to become a pastor.

“The retreat was an opportunity for a lot of self reflection that gave me some time to think,” said Tamke. “We came back and I struggled for a few more weeks with whether I should speak with people about it. Rose knew it had been running around in my head for a while and she affirmed my call. Later, the pastors affirmed my call and began to guide me through the process.”

After leaving Waste Systems, Tamke completed the schooling necessary to attend seminary. He graduated from Riverland Community College, then Southwest Minnesota State University and finally Luther Seminary.

His first served as a pastor in Lancing and Blooming Prairie during his school. He eventually was able to be appointed to Austin, where he started as a pastor for Fellowship United in January of 2004 and as a part-time pastor for First United later in July. He assisted the primary pastor, Pastor Patricia Toschak, at First Methodist.

“It was my dream appoint to be in Austin,” Tamke said.

Pastor Toschak will continue to serve as pastor at First United. Fellowship United has not yet been appointed a new pastor.