MINNEAPOLIS, MN (June 22, 2018) — Karen Brewer, pastor of Atonement Covenant Church, has drawn on her experience as a survivor of domestic violence to minister to other victims and the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, considered one of the city’s roughest.
For her work of more than 30 years there, she was presented with the Irving C. Lambert Award today at the 133rd Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church. The award honors the recipient’s commitment to urban ministry.
Brewer’s first husband nearly killed her multiple times over 10 years of marriage before she escaped with her children to a women’s shelter in 1983.
“There was a time in my life when I didn’t have hope, but God’s grace came through like a flood in my life and continued to break down barriers even when I was a barrier to myself,” she said in an interview. “In Englewood, I just want to share what God did for me with others. Take it and put it on a larger scale.”
In 1984, just a year after she left her own violent situation, Brewer established the care and support network PABU (People Abused and Battered United) and then served on the board of the Wellspring Transitional Living Center, a ministry of the Central Conference; and as executive director of Wellspring Center of Hope. She continues to serve as a regional coordinator with the denomination’s Advocacy for Victims of Abuse (AVA) ministry.
She was called to pastor Atonement Covenant in 2005. The certificate presented her today reads in part, “Under her leadership, Atonement has established innovative and effective ministries in the arts, community gardening, neighborhood beautification, and peacekeeping. Through additional programs, serving felt needs and initiatives in workforce development and school and career readiness, Karen has helped to improve the quality of life for many Englewood youth and their families. Her pastoral heart as she comes alongside families experiencing trauma and death due to violence in the community is widely known.”
She also has been a community catalyst, bringing together civic, nonprofit, and church leaders to better serve the community. “I love this neighborhood,” she said, adding, “The church and the community made a place for me when I was going through a rough time.”
When asked why she stays in such a difficult setting, Brewer responds, “I know what it is to be cautious, but I know what it is to be cautious in other communities—as an abused woman in my home and as a teenager in a good community. In Englewood, I get to meet the people, I get to meet their children. I get to have a relationship with them and they get to have a relationship with the God I know. Some people might not act on it right then, but at some point, they’ll be ready to hear it.
Brewer adds there is much good in the community that goes unrecognized, sometimes even by its residents. “There are a lot of people who are assets, but they don’t know that they’re assets.”