This Week


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The End of the World (As We Know It) 

A lot can change in a week. It’s as true now as it was for the followers of Jesus. Our text for Sunday reminds us that we are not the first people to endure challenging times. The world the disciples new was coming to an end. Jesus fortells of the destruction of the temple in Jersualem and thus alludes to the dying away of an old way of life. While it might feel like the end, Jesus refers to the pain of the upheaval as “birth pangs.” Through all the uncertainty and destruction, something new is being born. Who and/or what might be born in our age of upheaval?

Scripture for Sunday: Mark 13:1-8, 24-37

Read the book of Mark with us!
Between now and Easter, we will be on the journey with the Gospel of Mark. You are invited to read a chapter or two each week and by Easter you will have read the entire book. (Sometimes these readings line up with the Sunday scripture and sometimes they don’t.
This week read Mark chapter 14
Next week read Mark chapter 15

Pastor Leslie’s sermons are posted online so you can read and share!
Click Here:
This Week
Daily at Noon
Join Pastor Leslie on Facebook Live for “Daily Bread”
Friday, March 27
10:30 am – Book Group/Cancelled until further notice
Soup Kitchen is no longer providing daily meals. See details below
Sunday, March 29
8:30 am – Book Study – “The Universal Christ” – Conference Call
10:00 am – Online Worship – Facebook Live
Special Offering: One Great Hour of Sharing
Wednesday, April 1
10:00 am – Prayer Circle online via Zoom
5:00 pm – Lenten Bible Study online via Zoom
Friday, April 3
10:30 am – Book Group/Cancelled until further notice

Keep reading for information about the various online gathering options such as Bible Study and Prayer Circle.

Coronavirus/Covid-19 and Our Church
An Update from Pastor Leslie
Dear church family,
This week, Gov. Walz issued a “Stay at Home” order for the state of Minnesota. Since the church has already shifted the vast majority of church activities have either moved online or have been postponed or cancelled, this stay at home order will not mean many additional changes for us. The one big change we are making, is closing the church office. Terri and I will be in the office briefly on Friday (March 27) but the office will not be “open;” the doors to the church will be locked. We are able to check voicemail and email remotely and will be doing so during our regular business hours of Wednesday – Friday between 8am – 12:00pm. You will get the voicemail when you call the office, but please leave a message and one of us will get back to as soon as we can.
As usual, if you have a pastoral emergency, please call me on my cell phone. (The number is in the directory and on the outgoing voicemail message for the church office.)

We urge everyone to stay home as much as possible. Consider ordering groceries and other necessities online or over the phone and either picking them up or have them delivered. We have a few folks in the church who have volunteered to make grocery runs for those who are in high risk groups or are not feeling well. Please contact me if you need assistance.

How Long?
One of the big questions on everyone’s mind is how long will in-person worship and other in-person gatherings be cancelled? I wish I had a crystal ball to be able to answer that with certainty. The truth is that is seems we are still in the early stages of this crisis and we will likely need to continue to utilize social distancing for quite some time. It is likely that we may not be able to worship or gather in person through the month of April if not longer. This means we will not be together in-person for Easter Sunday. This is a sad thought for many of us, but the health and safety of our church members and the wider community is the priority. We will celebrate the resurrection, just not the way we have done it in the past.
I am in contact with many clergy in the Brainerd area, with the Minnesota Conference of the UCC, and colleagues around the country as we all continue to monitor the situation and determine how to protect our congregations and the communities in which we reside. As the situation continues to unfold, your Church Council and I will reassess what makes sense for our congregation and will keep you informed of any changes.

The current plan for worship is to continue using Facebook Live to broadcast worship. Instructions for accessing the Live Video are below.
Worship Bulletins will be available for download each week by clicking hereThe bulletins will be ready for download by Saturday morning. They are available in both Word and PDF formats and are labeled by date. You can download the document and print it at home or follow along on your screen.
We can also send the manuscript of the sermon and a copy of the bulletin in the mail each week as we have been doing for some of our home-bound members. Just  contact Terri in the office. I will also continue to upload sermon manuscripts to the church website here.

Helping the community
Your Church Council voted on Wednesday to allow the Pastor’s Discretionary Fund to be used to assist church members and others in the Brainerd area who are experiencing financial distress during this time. If you would like to make a donation to this fund, you can mail a check to the church and write “Discretionary Fund” in the memo line. Decisions about disbersement of funds will be handled by the Executive Committee.
If you are in need of assistance, please email, call, or text me. Let me know what your situation is and how the church might be of help. 

For information about the outbreak from the Minnesota Department of Health, click hereFor Crow Wing County Updates, their Facebook page seems to be where they are posting updates:
We will post church-related updates to the church Facebook page and send emails to this mailing list as needed.

Special Announcement!
The Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen & Operation Sandwich
We are not serving dinner on Friday 3/27. The Soup Kitchen has suspended the serving of daily meals and has teamed up with Operation Sandwich to start putting together bags of food to be given to the guests once per week at the Soup Kitchen. See details below in this email.

How to watch Sunday worship on Facebook Live
A modified worship service will be broadcasted on the church Facebook page every Sunday at 10:00 am. Not sure how to access the worship service without a Facebook account? Keep reading… If you have a facebook account, start with step 1 and then skip to step 4

1. Go to
>>> If you are not logged into an account, you MUST access Facebook with this complete url, either by typing it in or clicking on the link. If you just go to you will not get past the login page. When you go to the link above, the page should look like this…

2. If you have an account, go ahead and login. But you do not have to log in or create an account. Just ignore that message at the bottom of the screen that says “See more of First Congregational United Church of Christ, Brainerd on Facebook”

3. Begin to scroll down the page. As you scroll, you will likely get a pop-up message like the one below that invites you to log-in or create an account. Click on the words “not now” to make the clear the message.

4. Keep scrolling until you get to the first Post. It should be the Live Video. If it is before 10:00am and you do not see the video, the feed may not yet be active. Refresh your internet browser again at 10:00am and look for the video. It should look something like the image below. (Note the little red box that says “Live”)

5. Click on that video and you will be participating in worship!

Live stream videos are saved and can be viewed at any time.

Peace be with you,
Pastor Leslie 

Information re: Visitors (Including Your Pastor) at St. Joseph’s 
Essentia Health SJMC is taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus in their hospital, with staff and our community, therefore, they are limiting visitations.  “A visitor will be allowed in special situations, such as to accompany a pediatric patient or labor and delivery patient and in compassionate care cases.”  In an end of life situation, they understand that you need to be here to support your patient and their family.

If you or a loved one is admitted to the hospital, please call me or ask the admitting nurse to call me to let me know you are there and I will be happy to visit with you over the phone. The chaplains at SJMC are excellent and will gladly visit with you in person.

Update from the Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen
We have decided that in order to further protect our volunteers and guests we need to change what we are currently doing. Guests still need food, but we need to limit the amount of contact that is taking place between volunteers and guests, especially with the “Shelter in Place” that is starting on Friday. Starting  Thursday, March 26, we will be giving our guests a bag of food.

We are partnering with other organizations in order for this to happen. Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen and Operation Sandwich have been working together this week and will continue to do so in order to make this happen. The Outreach Program has given us a bunch of meal packs also. The YMCA helped us get the resources from Operation Sandwich to the Soup Kitchen. Teamwork is a beautiful thing!

Want to help out? We would love for you to partner with us in helping get food out to the people in our community. We are welcoming any non-perishable (non-expired) food items. These items can be dropped off at the soup kitchen (218-829-4203), Operation Sandwich (Bethlehem Lutheran) or Bridges of Hope. If you would like to make a monetary donation, to help cover the cost for these bags of food, you can go to these places to make a donation: or  (Please indicate that you would like your donation to go to Operation Sandwich)

Pickup days for the guests will be every Thursday from 5:30-6:00 pm. We will not be open for meals at all the rest of the week. Guests that do not make it to the soup kitchen during the Thursday time slot can contact Operation Sandwich or Bridges of Hope to set up alternative ways to get the food.

More details will be given out to volunteers and guests in the coming days.

I will be very excited to get back to our regular routine of feeding our guests in our facility. We all miss gathering together. Until that time, we can continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus and getting food to our guests in other ways.

Thank you,
Shannon Mills

What about Giving to the Church during the Coronavirus?
A significant portion of the church’s financial support is received during worship on Sunday mornings. When we don’t gather in person, our income takes a hit. We realize that for many of you, this is a time of financial uncertainty. If you are able to continue supporting the church with your financial gifts, we encourage you to do so. We may not be gathering in person right now, but we are continuing to Be the Church in new ways!
We also understand if you need to reduce your giving right now. If you are signed up for electronic giving and need to reduce the amount you contribute, please contact Terri in the office. If you are able to increase your giving to help cover the decrease we are likely to see, please also contact Terri in the office to make that adjustment.

You can now donate to the church online! We are now accepting your offerings and donations using PayPal. You do not need to have a PayPal account to make an online donation with a credit card. To contribute using PayPal, click here:

Online Gathering Opportunities
We may not be gathering in person, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get together! Check out these opportunities to connect with your church throughout the week. Changes or additions may be made to these as the weeks progress, so stay tuned!

“Daily Bread” with Pastor Leslie on Facebook Live
Tune in at Noon each day for a short time of prayer, pause, and reflection via Live stream on Pastor Leslie’s facebook page. Click here at noon each day to participate live or to view recorded videos at any time:

Prayer Circle via Zoom
Join our prayer circle for a time of fellowship, conversation, and prayer from 10:00 am – 11:30 am every Wednesday. Click here to participate:
You can also participate by phone! Simply call 1-312-626-6799 and enter meeting code: 143-352-001 and you will be connected!

Lenten Book Study via Conference Call
Study and discussion of The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr continues each Sunday through April 5th. Join us through a free conference call at 8:30 AM. Use 605- 475-4000 as the call in number and 421487# as the access code.

Bible Study via Zoom
Study the book of Mark, virtually online with Pastor Leslie this Lenten season from 5:30pm – 6:30pm each Wednesday evening from March 18th through April 1st. 

Click here to participate:
You can also participate by phone! Simply call 1-301-715-8592, enter meeting code 877-821-134
and you will be connected!

Never used Zoom before? It’s easy! 
– If you do not already have Zoom downloaded on your computer, you will be prompted to download and run Zoom.
– A file called “” will download.
– Click on the file, and you can install the launcher. The launcher will enable you to join future meetings with one click.
– A Zoom window will appear where you can join your audio by selection “join audio conference by computer”
– To connect your video, click on the video camera icon that should be on the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.
Here is a link to a video that explains the steps above but you can see what it looks like: Video

Something to Note: It is helpful to mute your microphone when you are not the one talking. The video feed will shift to whoever is making noise. So if you cough or shuffle papers, the video will change to you even if you are not talking.

Try it out! I recommend joining a “test meeting” in advance. Click here to practice.

Sunday March 22nd  & March 29th Special Offering 
OGHS-One Great Hour of Giving
One Great Hour of Sharing is at work all around the year, all around the world – sharing resources and changing lives. The UCC works with domestic and international partners, to provide support to health, education, refugee, agricultural, and emergency relief initiatives.
We hope you will contribute to this important offering of the United Church by mailing a check to the church with “OGHS” in the memo line, or by donating directly on the UCC OGHS Website by clicking here.
Salvation Army Food Shelf Update
As people in our community are being laid off and losing income, our support of the Salvation Army Food Shelf is as important as ever. While it is no longer recommended that you drop off donations at the church, you can still make donations of food. Both Cub locations have a drop box for the food shelf. If you would like to drop off food at the Food Shelf directly, please call ahead to make arrangements.

If you need to use the Brainerd Food Shelf at Salvation Army, the Food Shelf will be available but you must call ahead: 829-1120. Food boxes will be prepared and made available for pickup. Other services will require appointments. Please call 829-1120 Monday through Friday 8-12 and 1-4.

Habitat for Humanity Faith Build Update
From Cathy Wells at Habitat for Humanity:
We are excited to share with an update the work underway on Dale and Katie Johnson’s home at 14802 Lynwood Drive in Baxter! Through their Faith Build partnership with Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity and Thrivent, the Johnson’s dream of home ownership is becoming a reality. Site preparation has begun! The concrete will be poured once road restrictions are lifted. That means we could be scheduling volunteers to help with the build by mid-May.

At this point, the following churches have agreed to partner with us:
First Congregational United Church of Christ, Brainerd
Church of the Nazarene, Brainerd
St. Andrew’s / St. Mathias Catholic Churches, Brainerd
Trinity Lutheran Church, Brainerd
Lakewood Evangelical Free Church, Baxter
First Lutheran Church, Brainerd
First Baptist Church, Baxter
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Brainerd

Thank you! Your partnership is so important to the success of the Faith Build. Please continue praying, fundraising, and recruiting volunteers for the build. If you know that a specific date works best for your volunteers, please let us know. If your volunteers have a certain area they wish to work on (flooring, windows, siding, etc.), let us know, and we will try to schedule them when the need arises.

Of course, with the recent developments regarding COVID-19, all of this is subject to change. We will continue to monitor CDC & government recommendations/orders. We will do our best to keep you updated as the project moves forward.

God Bless,
Cathy Wells, Support Staff
Lakes Area Habitat For Humanity

Thank you to Ellie Burkett for organizing our church to participate in this Faith Build!

Creation Care Team Planning Meeting via Zoom Online

Casie Lyons will host an Online Meeting via Zoom
March 29th at 11:30 a.m. 

Please join Cassie for a conversation about how our church can be more intentional about our care for the planet and our advocacy and activism around issues that impact the earth. Details for joining the meeting:

To join Zoom Meeting by computer, go to
and enter Meeting ID: 430 119 483

To join by phone, call 1-312-626-6799 and when prompted, enter meeting ID 430 119 483

Keypad and Handicap Automatic Door Installed!
Two exciting upgrades have been completed on the parking lot door of the church. We have changed to a keypad for locking and and unlocking the door. No more keys! Groups who need to access the locked building, and individuals in certain roles will receive a code. Examples are Council Executive Committee, Trustees, cleaning volunteers, organists, etc. Please contact the office if you need a code.
For security reasons we will be re-keying all the locks in the near future, at which point existing keys will no longer work.

We also installed an automatic door opener for accessible access. A push button is on the left side of the door when you enter and on the right side of the door when you leave. Once pressed, the door stays open for about 10 seconds giving people plenty of time to walk through.

Both of these upgrades mean some changes to the way we open and close the building. Please look for the new instructions next to the door and ask Terri, Deb Griffith, or Pastor Leslie for more information. 

Lenten Guided Journals Available
Looking for a way to deepen your faith journey while maintaining safe social distance?
Consider downloading this year’s Lenten Devotional: “Grace for the Journey: A Guided Journal for Lent 2020″ by the Rev. Kelsey Beebe. Throughout the 40 days of Lent, you will be invited to engage in a variety of spiritual practices and journaling prompts paired with scripture. The journal is an invitation to go deeper in your relationship with the Divine and to set aside some time each day during this season for yourself and God.
Lent is indeed about halfway over. But this journal could really be used at any time.
The Devotionals are available for $5.00 online at

Instead of giving something up for Lent, consider adding this daily practice to feed your soul.

All-Church Book Study:
Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

This book study is on hold until we have a better idea of what the needs of the congregation will be in the coming months. Stay tuned!

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Contact Us

415 Juniper Street
Brainerd, MN 56401