Basketball season has been over for weeks, but the gym at Brainerd High School still will be packed next Friday night.
Filling the school’s bleachers will be thousands of churchgoers from all over the community coming together for an area-wide Good Friday service.
“That was the biggest place we could find to fit that number of people,” said Pastor Brian Kimbler of Remnant Ministries in downtown Brainerd. “The high school has been very cooperative.”
The service, scheduled for 7 p.m.next Friday, is sponsored by 12 area churches of several denominations. Kimbler said the pastors of participating churches have met for the last decade to pray for each other and their churches, and they felt like it was time to join forces and celebrate in a cooperative setting.
“As we’ve gotten to know one another, we share our pulpits, our worship teams. We really are friends. It’s cool,” said Pastor Ron Keysor of Brainerd Nazarene Church. “As the group has grown, we decided this is a good statement to make.”
The Good Friday event, established Easter weekend 2010, drew about 2,400 participants from across the area last year, and the sponsoring pastors are expecting to reach about 3,000 in attendance next weekend.
“I had no expectations last year,” Kimbler said. “It went beyond anything I could have imagined.”
The service is planned by a steering committee of participating pastors who plan every detail of the event, including the featured speaker, location and volunteers. The worship band is made up of music ministers and musicians from all different churches.
“We share the load,” Kimbler said.
“It’s not just about the service itself,” Keysor added. “The process of putting it together is a big part of it.”
Pastor Ted Feyder, worship director at Lakewood Evangelical Free Church in Baxter, said the joint effort of area worship leaders has been both a logistical challenge to figure who will play and how, as well as an exciting culmination of community worship.
“I’m grateful that I get to play again this year,” Feyder said. “It’s an incredible mix of talent, but an amazing joy to have all of us who rarely get to interact in the same setting.
“As with most Sundays, you work hard to get everything into tune and then you show up the night of and God just knocks your socks off.”
The 2010 Good Friday event was hosted by 10 churches, and the sponsoring churches for this year include: Lakewood Evangelical Free, The Journey North, Heritage Assembly of God, Church of the Nazarene in Brainerd and Merrifield, Oak Street Chapel, Living Word North, Communitas, Remnant Ministries, Pointway, and New Beginnings Bible Church, along with several area para-church ministries.
“It’s just a lot of different churches coming together,” Keysor added. “We put aside our doctrinal differences and put our focus on the cross.”
Pastor Chip Avelsgaard of Oak Street Chapel in Brainerd said he is new to the event this year and is excited to join to group of sponsoring churches.
“I heard a lot of great reports on how great the service was after the fact, last year,” Avelsgaard said.
While the participating churches are mainly evangelical, the pastors are quick to point out the event is far from exclusive. “We don’t know where this is going to lead,” Kimbler said. “We’re just letting it evolve.”
Pastor Key Lane, worship director for The Journey North in Brainerd, has spearheaded the joint worship effort and said she has been overwhelmed by the way the churches have worked together.
“During rehearsals for the Good Friday Service I have constantly been reminded of how awesome our God really is, and how He alone can bring us all together,” she said. “We all recognize the amazing gift He has given to each of us and I feel privileged to be a part of such a blessed evening.”
Kimbler said the group isn’t exactly sure what to expect this year, but after the community response to the 2010 service, there was no question if they would continue the tradition.
“In a nutshell it was, ‘When are we going to do this again?’” Kimbler said. “It will be interesting to see how this year shakes out.”
This year’s service will include worship led by various area church music pastors, a community choir made up by choir members from participating churches and Brainerd Teen Challenge students and a message from David Ridder, vice president and dean of Bethel Seminary in St. Paul.
Bob Kemper, pastor of New Beginning Bible Church, a new congregation meeting at the former Temple Baptist Church building on Oak Street in Brainerd, said one of the most meaningful things on the schedule is communion. “Sharing Ccommunion is a big part of it,” he said.
“In a sense we’re saying, ‘Yes, we are the body of Christ,’” Keysor added.
Kemper, who pastored South Long Lake Presbyterian Church before establishing New Beginnings earlier this year, said he likes the idea of what the event means for the area for years to come. “We’ve moved from just pastoring our churches,” he said, adding that the churches’ joint focus has moved to “shepherding the community.”
Keysor agreed that the Good Friday service gives the churches an opportunity to make a bigger impact in the area. “I want to make a difference 25 years from now,” Keysor said. “I think this will really make a difference.”
SARAH NELSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5879.