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‘It’s been a real blessing being in Albert Lea’

Albert Lea pastor retiring after 28 years at church

After 28 years as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Albert Lea, Dwight Netzer is closing the door on his service in the community.

Netzer will retire Wednesday from the church, and he and his wife, Darcy, will prepare to move to the Grand Forks, North Dakota, area, which is closer to where they are from in Jamestown, North Dakota.

“This church has been wonderful,” he said. “It’s just a great group of people who have supported Darcy and I and our kids. Being able to be in a church, it’s a great thing.”

On Sunday, Netzer gave his last sermon, and he said 247 people came into the church and another 80 households watched the service online. The choir also performed special music.

Netzer said he and his wife, Darcy, began his journey as a pastor in Zwingle, Iowa, and they spent three years there before he became pastor at a church in Monmouth, Illinois, for 5 1/2 years.

With their families in North Dakota, he said they often traveled through the Albert Lea area on their way to North Dakota from Illinois. They found out about an opening for a pastor at Albert Lea’s First Presbyterian Church and applied there and were called. He started Feb. 10, 1993.

He said he has been proud to have been a part of many things at the church over the years, including the Alpha program, along with a 12-week marriage program and a compassion program in which the church members sponsor children in need in Honduras, to name a few. He also brought in a framework for the church’s youth program and noted that before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were about 170 children participating.

The Ecumenical Food Pantry, in the lower level of one part of the church, expanded from being sponsored by the church alone to now involving other churches, and for the past 10 years, the church has helped support a Sudanese ministry program that meets at the church.

He said his favorite part about being a pastor has been being able to be with people and teaching and preaching.

“I can’t think of anything I’d rather do,” he said. “I have had the best employer — God.”

Aside from their activities with the church, Netzer said he and his family have many other memories of their time in Albert Lea.

Their sons, Jordan and Logan, were raised and attended school in Albert Lea and are now married. He said his son Jordan and his wife, Donna, have two children, Benjamin and Rachel.

Netzer’s wife, Darcy, has also made many friends and has enjoyed working at Crescendo and Sterling Drug.

Netzer said though he is happy to retire and move forward with the next phase of his life, he will miss the people and the relationships he has built in Albert Lea.

“I just thank the community,” he said. “It’s been very supportive of me and my wife and the church. It’s been a real blessing being in Albert Lea.”

Netzer said the church has put together a call committee and has sent out information about the opening, as well as information about the church and the area.

An interim pastor will start at the end of April, who is expected to be at the church for at least six months as the search for a new permanent pastor is ongoing.