This Week


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Pentecost and the Breath of God

On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were gathered in a room together waiting for the Spirit of God as Jesus had told them. The spirit came with the sound of a violent wind and tongues of fire. The disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God, began to tell the story of Jesus and his resurrection but speaking in all the languages of the crowd that had gathered.
The word breath has taken on a whole new meaning this week. In the midst of a pandemic caused by a virus that attacks the lungs, in the midst of another black man killed by police while crying out “I can’t breathe.” The image of fire not only reminds us of the Holy Spirit, but also a city on fire, rage and grief no longer able to be contained.
The Holy Spirit of God calls us out from our locked rooms, out of our places of comfort, to proclaim God’s truth and love to all.

Scripture for this Sunday: Acts 2:1-21
Photo by Joel Cook

Pastor Leslie’s sermons are posted online so you can read and share!
Click Here:
This Week
Wednesday – Friday On Facebook Live
12:00 pm –  Pastor Leslie offers “Daily Bread” Facebook Live at
4:00 pm –  Story Time with Pastor Leslie on Facebook Live at

Sunday, May 31
8:30 am – Book Study, Boundaries for Your Soul via Zoom
10:00 am – Online Worship
11:30 Fellowship Hour – via Zoom

Wednesday, June 3
9:30 am – Devotional Time on Zoom before Prayer Circle
10:00 am – Prayer Circle online via Zoom

Keep reading for information about online gatherings and Zoom Links
 If your group plans a meeting or event, please let the church office know

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!

NEW Poetry Slam! via Zoom – June 26 at 5:30pm
Join us for a Happy Hour Poetry Slam on Friday June 26 at 5:30 pm.
Share a poem or a short piece of prose, or simply listen and hang out online with some of your church family! Bring your own beverage!
Meeting ID: 825 0875 7284  Password: 56401
Or join by phone:  +1 312 626 6799 and enter Meeting ID: 825 0875 7284, followed by password: 56401

NEW Jan Kurtz discusses her book “Northern Shores, Southern Borders 
on  Zoom – Sunday June 28 at 11:00am
Meeting ID: 825 0875 7284  Password: 56401
By phone: 1-312-626-6799. Enter Meeting ID: 825 0875 7284, followed by password: 56401

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

“Story Time” with Pastor Leslie on Facebook Live
Tune in at 4:00 pm Wednesdays-Fridays for a short story time on Pastor Leslie’s Facebook page. Click here to participate live or view recorded videos any time:

Fellowship Hour via Zoom!
Join in Fellowship by Zoom. Starting immediately after worship, hop on to Zoom and say hello!
To join by computer or smartphone, go to  Password: 56401
The full URL is
To Join by phone with audio only, dial 1-312-626-6799 and enter Meeting ID: 938 4659 1823, followed by the password: 56401

Wednesday Morning Devotional
Prior to Prayer Circle, join Pastor Leslie at 9:30 am every Wednesday for a brief devotional time. Stay on for Prayer Circle at 10:00 or just tune in for the devotional time. Click here to participate:
If you are prompted for a password, it is 56401.
You can also participate by phone! Simply call 1-312-626-6799 and enter meeting code: 143-352-001 and you will be connected!

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:
If you are prompted for a password, it is 56401.
You can also participate by phone! Simply call 1-312-626-6799 and enter meeting code: 143-352-001 and you will be connected!

Sunday Morning Book Study via Zoom – Update below!
Sundays at 8:30 am
Join Zoom Meeting at
Meeting ID: 902-669-236
If you are prompted for a password, it is 56401.
Or join by phone:  +1 312 626 6799
Meeting ID: 902-669-236

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.

Coronavirus/Covid-19 and Our Church
An Update as of 5/28/20 from Pastor Leslie 
Dear church family,
On May 23, Gov. Walz relaxed the restrictions on gatherings for faith communities. Primarily due to the pressure received from a variety of churches who declared they would reopen in defiance of the existing guidelines. I view these relaxations by the Governor as an act of harm reduction. He has continued to say that the safest action is to continue to stay home, but if some churches insist on opening, he wants to give them some guidance on how to make their gatherings as safe as possible. Just like the expiration of the stay at home order, this change is not a reflection of the virus becoming less infectious or less of a problem. New infections are increasing here in Crow Wing County and just yesterday a friend of some of our church members, Annie Bandel, died from Covid here in Brainerd.

Some churches will be gathering on Sunday. Some are doing drive-in services, some are likely to gather in their buildings. The church council and I agreed that our congregation will be best served by continuing to only worship online for the foreseeable future. We are committed to following the science, the data, and the recommendations of the Minnesota Department of Health and the United Church of Christ.  Council formed a Covid Response Team who will continue to evaluate the local sitation and work to come up with creative solutions for us to do ministry and build community in this new reality. Keep your eyes open for some new opportunities!

The church office will remain closed. Terri and I will be in the office occasionally for specific tasks, but the office will not be “open;” and the doors to the church will be locked. If you do come to the church building for necessary business and Terri or any other person is present, please wear a mask and practice good hand hygiene.
Although the new order from the Governor does allow for gatherings of 10 or fewer people, since staying home is still strongly recommended, our small groups and committees should continue to meet virtually.

Some social restrictions were relaxed on Monday, May 18. This current phase that we are in allows for social gatherings of 10 people or fewer. Again, please use extreme caution when deciding whether or not to gather in small groups. People with underlying medical conditions (heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, obesity, diabetes, are immunocompromised, etc.) as well as adults over the age of 65, should continue to stay at home and refrain from interactions with people outside their household. More detail on protecting vulnerable communities can be found here

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.

The bottom line continues to be that this situation is extremely fluid and we are learning new things about this virus almost daily. What I DO know, is that we will continue to be the church together, whether in person or virtually. I know that we are in this together and that God is with us through all of it. I know that our inability to be physically together will not last forever. I know that we will find some creative ways to “be together” during this time. And I know that we can do this!

I also know that some of you are really struggling. I know that most of you are experiencing varying degrees of anxiety, stress, grief, loneliness, anger, disappointment, and fear. Please know that it is ok to not be feeling ok right now. We are experiencing a collective trauma and all of those feelings are absolutely normal. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need someone to talk to. Be gentle with yourselves during this time and know that you are not alone. Stay connected to your church family and don’t hesitate to ask for help. If you need to talk to a mental health professional, the Crisis Line is a good place to start. They are available 24/7 and can be reached by phone at 218-828-HELP (4357) or 800-462-5525.

How to watch Sunday worship
The worship service is broadcasted on the church Facebook page and the church’s YouTube channel every Sunday at 10:00 am.
To watch worship on Facebook, go to
To watch on YouTube, go to
Live stream videos are saved and can be viewed at any time.
Worship Bulletins will be available for download each week by clicking hereThe bulletins will be ready for download first thing Sunday 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. We will also continue to upload sermon manuscripts to the church website here.

Helping the community
Your Church Council voted at the March Council Meeting 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. 

I also encourage you to continue to support the church financially if you are able. Many of our overhead costs continue even if we don’t gather in the building. Your gift to the church allows me to continue to minister to each of you and to the wider community. I am grateful that I can continue to give my gift to the general fund of the church each month through e-giving and I hope you will consider making your own gift however you are able.

For information from the Minnesota Department of Health, click here.
For 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.

Peace be with you,
Pastor Leslie 

Crisis Services – All are available 24-hours, FREE and confidential
Bridges of Hope: 218-825-4357 or 1-800-462-7682
Crisis Line & Referral Service: 218-828-4357, 218-828-HELP or 1-800-462-5525
CRISIS: from cell phone call CRISIS (274747)
Crisis Nursery-Crow Wing County: 218-692-2859
Crisis Text Line: Text “MN” or HopeLine” to 741741
Minnesota 1st Call for Help: 211
Minnesota Farm & Rural Helpline: 833-600-2670
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Poison Control Center: 1-800-222-1222
Suicide & Mental Illness: 1-800-462-5525
Teen Crisis Line: 310-855-4673
The Trevor Project (LGBTQ Crisis & Suicide Hotline – Youth under 25): 866-488-7386
Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 – press 1
WARMLINE: Speak with peers who are there to listen and support adults experiencing emotional distress. 1-844-739-6369 from 5:00pm -7:00am.

UCC Youth – Join Us Online for “Loving Your Neighbor in Quarantine”

Even though our ability to gather in person for National Youth Even has been delayed, we are able to continue the work of Jesus during these times. In looking to the beautiful example of resilience and wisdom exhibited through the migrant experience, we will gather together on Sunday, May 31 at 3 pm CST.

We will be led by Natalia Serna, Foundations of Faith and Jesus, and Rev. Rhina Ramos. Join us in this commitment to the love of neighbor both in quarantine and at all times as we engage in the conversation in real-time. This video premiere and conversation will take place on Facebook, but you do not need a Facebook account to watch the video. Simply click this link to watch live or after it airs.

Additional Upcoming NYE events:
June 28
: we will feature a video of Creativity AND Justice in Quarantine.

>>> Please hold July 24-25 for a culminating interactive experience around UNITE THROUGH THE EXTRAORDINARY!

More details and registration are soon to come and will be found on the NYE website:

If you have any questions please reach out to either Rev. Trayce Potter at or Rev. Tracy Howe Wispelwey at

Habitat for Humanity Faith Build UPDATE
Ellie Burkett –  1st Congregational church
liaison for this build
Thirteen people either came by the church parking lot on Sunday and Monday (May 24 – 25) or asked to have a prayer/intention written on a board that will be used in framing the Johnson home. So sorry we didn’t have more time. The boards just arrived late last week and the framing will be worked on starting this Wednesday (May 27th), a short window of opportunity. Our church’s name is also written on the board.  Even if you didn’t get a chance to write on the 2 X 4 – we have great intentions and love coming from our church community. If you wrote a prayer/intention or had it done for you, please be sure to submit this form at URL:  This helps Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity show community support to funders and stakeholders.

Currently there are seven professional staff constructing the Johnson home. Volunteer help is needed and welcome. Up to three in-person volunteers are allowed to work on the build each day (Monday – Friday).
I am organizing our church volunteers - please sign up here
You will be asked day and time preferences but not obligated; just information collecting. Please complete this form by Saturday morning (May 30th). Once I get a list of UCC volunteers I will send information about what to wear and bring, and start arranging specific times to volunteer. Sorry, we will not be able to provide lunches or snacks for this build. It would be fun if three of us could volunteer on the same day, but it isn’t necessary.
Help is needed for next week (June 2nd through 5th), so please fill out the form now if you are interested in volunteering for building construction.

I have been invited to take photos or livestream (I was told by appointment only – people are to refrain from dropping by the build for health safety reasons). I will post to our church’s Facebook page, so even if you can’t volunteer hopefully all of our church community will feel connected.

Virtual Volunteers!
In light of the current situation Thrivent is allowing us to report these “virtual volunteers” for the Faith Build.  In order to obtain funds from Thrivent, we need to report the following for each volunteer age 18 and over:  Name, Physical Address (no P.O. Boxes), and Email Address. Click on this link to fill out the form.

We need to be creative during these unusual times. If you have an idea of something we could do please email me. In gratitude, Ellie Burkett
If you are able, please contribute any amount to the Johnson family home.
Send checks to our church office: 415 Juniper, Brainerd, MN 56401
OR use our PayPal account:
*Write “Habitat Build” in the comments on your check or in PayPal please! Thank you!

We have come up with a unique way to involve volunteers since we cannot be together at the build site.  Here is what we have in mind… With framing day approaching, let’s all pick up our hammers and pound nails as we stay home and stay safe.  The important thing is that we demonstrate our support for the Johnson family, so take a picture of yourself raising your hammer.  Perhaps do a project at home or hold up a hammer as you say a prayer for Dale, Katie and Anthony. Build something to donate to our ReStore – like a bluebird house, a bench, or a wood duck house.  And post a picture with their hammer in hand (with your project).  Another idea, hold up a sign saying, “I’m building with Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity”.  Let’s make this fun as we build together even while we are apart. Send photos to – with your name and First Congregational UCC volunteer included in the email.

Sunday Morning Book Study Group – Starting a New Book
We completed reviewing The Universal Christ via a Zoom format once coronavirus shut down our in person gathering.  It was so popular a format, that we dragged it all the way through May!  We have decided to continue the group – via Zoom for the time being – and have selected four new books to review in sequence.  Most importantly, we want to open this opportunity for continued study up to the entire congregation.  The four books we will be reviewing are 1) Boundaries for Your Soul by Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller, 2) Boundaries of the Soul by June Springer (13th edition),  3) How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newberg, and 4) Einstein’s God by Christa Tippett.
We will begin the first book on May 31st, at 8:30 am.  No need to worry if you can’t get a copy by then; there will be plenty of time to catch up.  If interested, contact Mike or Sue North, Bob Hoeft, or Lowell Johnson for a link on how to join by Zoom or to phone into the meeting.
Weaving Community – Even though it looks like it will be quite awhile before we gather at church again, the community loom project of the Lakes Area Guys Network (LAGN) is still percolating and ready do build and distribute looms this summer.

We are still looking for donations of items to be woven into the first set of looms. If you have weavable items – strips of cloth, yarn, ribbon, men’s neckties, or any other interesting items, please save them for us. Since dropping them off at church doesn’t seem workable in the near future, we will even come to your home to pick them up!

Contact Lowell at or c 218-820-5290 if you have weavable donations for us to pick up.

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:

Help Fight Covid-19 in 1 Minute a Day 
The COVID symptom tracker was created by doctors and scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, King’s College London and Stanford University School of Medicine, working codeveloped with ZOE – a health science company. The app will be used to study the symptoms of COVID-19 and track the spread of this virus. This app-based study is a way to find out where the COVID hot spots are, new symptoms to look out for, and might be used as a planning tool to target quarantines, send ventilators and provide real-time data to plan for future outbreaks.
If enough Americans share daily how they feel, even if they’re well, this app can provide the healthcare system with critically valuable information.

Click Here for more information and to download the app.
Pastor Leslie and Jean Schaeffer have already signed up!

Quarters for Hope Update from Bridges of Hope

We planned to launch our first Quarters for Hope laundry event, but then schools were closed and social distancing started, so unfortunately Laundry Days at the laundromats will have to wait for now. Several churches and businesses have jumped on board with our program and made donations, and we were able to come alongside our friends at Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen and Operation Sandwich to offer laundry soap last night at the food distributions! Through these generous donations, we were able to help hundreds of people get laundry detergent, and we plan to do this each week.
Prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic, First Congregational UCC collected more than $70 for this program.

We need help to sustain this program and we want to help more families in the community.
So, how can you get involved?

1. If you are in need, we will be at Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen on Thursdays from 5:30-6. Come by, pick up a bag of food, and we will offer you some laundry soap, too! If that is not a time that works for you or you have other barriers to getting there, call Bridges of Hope at 218-825-7682. Our Community Resource Coordinators are checking messages Monday – Friday and would love to have a conversation with you.
2. If you can donate, we’d appreciate the support. Due to current social distancing restrictions, the easiest way is to donate money through the link on our website and note that it is for Quarters for Hope. If you have a business that would like to donate in-kind items (laundry soap) email to let us know. Once restrictions are eased, we can take in-person donations.

Laundry is an essential part of living but it becomes really complicated to when added to the current situation we are all in.

We must help each other through this with dignity and hope.

May 2020
Bridges of Hope Update: Offices & Stores Open
With the lifting of the Stay-At-Home order and decision to allow retail stores to re-open, Bridges of Hope office and Common Goods Baxter and Common Goods Crosslake will fully re-open on Monday, May 18.

We very much care about the health and safety of our staff, clients, and volunteers. Please see our COVID-19 Response page to review of Response Plans for both the Bridges of Hope office and Common Goods stores or click the buttons below. Please note, a mask will be required for office visits and store shoppers.

  • Bridges of Hope has returned to normal office hours, Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • Common Goods will be open Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Bridges of Hope COVID-19 Plan
Common Goods COVID-19 Plan
Common Goods Donation Guidelines
Donations are accepted Monday through Friday, from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. However, due to COVID-19, we are asking that you call ahead to determine our ability and availability to accept donations.
You may call our stores to set up an appointment time for later in the week. We will need to know how many boxes and bags you plan to donate. Due to our new safety protocols, you will be required to wear a mask when donating your items. We will not accept any loose items or clothing on hangers. All clothing/ linens must be in bags. All shoes must be in bags. All hard goods must be in boxes or totes with lids or covers so that we can stack items. Thank you for helping us keep things safe and organized and for your continued patience as we work through our new donation intake systems.

We are happy to provide you with a donation receipt for tax purposes right when you drop off your items.
If you have a unique or unusual item, feel free to call and inquire about our ability to accept it.
Visit Our Facebook Page For More Info
Common Goods is Now Online
You can now shop at Common Goods from the comfort of your couch! We’ve created an online store for each location. You can have items shipped to you or opt for our contactless, curbside pick-up!

Your purchase supports Bridges of Hope and our mission in the Brainerd Lakes community.

Shop Common Goods Baxter
Shop Common Goods Crosslake
Our Community Needs Help
This community has done so many positive acts of kindness for those in need. Whether it’s donation non-perishable foods to Operation Sandwich or essential items for families in crisis, you’ve been there. Our need now is resources to continue serving our mission. Please head to our website to see how you can help.
Visit Our Donation Page
Save The Date: Party for Hope
Because we’ve been unable to hold in-person fundraising events, we’ve decided to move the party online! Please join us on Friday, June 5 from 7:00-8:00 p.m. for an hour of fun with us! We’ll have information on Bridges of Hope programs, Common Goods, and surprise musical guests. It’ll be a fun time focused on hope for the future and an opportunity to donate to our organization. The event is FREE!
Visit Our Facebook Page
Bridges of Hope | 218-825-7682|
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415 Juniper Street
Brainerd, MN 56401