Thirty-two years ago, Pastor Mark Dumke, associate pastor at St. Luke’s Lutheran in Cottage Grove, Minn., received a call from Faith Lutheran Church (FLC). He and his wife, Nancy, packed up baby Karin and two-year-old Kirsten and headed to Winona.
The congregation, according to Dumke, was small but had vitality and was ready to move forward in ministry. The college town offered opportunities for Nancy, who found her niche at Winona State University as assistant director of the Warrior’s Success Center. Both Nancy and Mark were preachers’ kids who had learned along the way that the secret to successful ministry was to love people.
The first years at FLC were spent getting to know their congregation. They invited each parishioner into their home and began building relationships and trust. A small but mighty contingency from Central Lutheran Church joined Faith, which became the catalyst that moved the church into capital campaigns for construction of a new Sunday school wing in 1991 and a new sanctuary in 1994. Those were good years.
Pastor Mark focused on small group ministry, Bible studies, winter retreats, leadership training, social groups and BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area) trips. The congregation grew. Pastor Mark made it a priority to volunteer at Redeemer Preschool and Madison Elementary where his daughters attended school. Through those years he sat on the United Way Board, Volunteer Services Board, Board of Trustees at Gustavus Adolphus College, Lutheran Campus Center Board, Lutheran Campus Center (LCC) Board of Minnesota, Winona Arms Board, was on the Site Team at Madison Elementary, and became interim pastor at LCC in Winona. After a sabbatical in 1999, Pastor Mark returned refreshed and ready to lead the congregation through the changes that helped them to more fully live their mission statement: “We are called to make disciples.” The congregation set a plan in motion to change the worship schedule, create a contemporary service that would allow families to worship together, and hired a youth minister. They also initiated a relationship with the Sunbeam Boys Home in Jamaica. These changes bore fruit. The congregation grew even more, as did the number of young families worshiping at FLC — so much so that the church needed more spaces. In June 2019 a new youth wing, kitchen, fellowship hall and narthex were dedicated.
Now, as Pastor Mark and Nancy look back over their ministry, they are grateful for a congregation that has been open to change and willing to support their leadership, as well as for a host of neighbors and friends that they have made over a lifetime in Winona. Their plans for retirement include winters in Arizona, summers at their lake home near Spooner, Wis., and lots of family time with Kirsten and John Worzala Dumke, grandchildren Roman, Berkeley and Soren, and Karin and Dan Burdal, who are expecting their first child. A goodbye celebration will be held for Pastor Mark and Nancy on Sunday, July 28, following the 9:30 service at FLC, 1717 West Service Drive in Winona.