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Are you 50 or older? Do you want to attend an event that will provide new insights into your faith journey and spiritual life? Or do you want a place to go to develop friendships?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, a program started by First Lutheran Church in Brainerd entitled The Lakes Area Second Half Enrichment Series is for you.

The series begins this fall and is open to anyone, regardless of church denomination. The program is designed to “deepen your sense of faith and spirituality as you live with unique purpose in the second half of life in our communities and world.”

The idea for the series was implemented after Pastor Andy Smith of First Lutheran Church went on a 12-week sabbatical last summer to study senior adult ministries. Smith learned that the Brainerd lakes area was in need of expanding senior citizen opportunities for seniors  that connect with people’s faith in the second half of their lives.

“We don’t like to use the word senior (citizens),” said Smith. “So we use the second half of life.”

What the series entails is hosting several events that speak to people’s faith questions, yearnings and experiences; enrich their spiritual lives and broaden their sense that God is at work in and around them and in the world; and provide a place where new friendships can be sparked and where old friendships can be deepened.

“The events also are designed to find ways to speak to people in their second half of life in a way that helps them feel they are still in the game, so to speak; and have a significant role to play in our communities and society as the ‘new elders,’” said Smith.

Each event will take place on a Sunday afternoon from 1:30-3:30 p.m. and will include hors d’oeuvres; 15-20 minutes of live music/entertainment; a keynote presenter/speaker; and question and answer/discussion time. Tickets are $10 each and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis at the church office. A maximum of 250 tickets will be sold for events held at the church.

The first event is scheduled for Oct. 9 in the Koinonia Room (fellowship hall) at the church. The keynote speaker will be Sally O’Reilly, violinist and violin instructor from the University of Minnesota. O’Reilly will not be giving a concert, but will speak to the spirituality of music and ways in which people’s lives and especially faiths are deepened through music. An ensemble from the Brainerd High School Chamber Orchestra will provide music before O’Reilly’s presentation. 

The second event will be  Feb. 26, also in Koinonia. The keynote speaker will be the Rev. John Nunes, chief executive officer and president of Lutheran World Relief, a global crisis relief agency. Based in Baltimore, Nunes is an expert on global poverty and need. He is the author of the children’s book, “Little Things Make Big Differences: A Story About Malaria.” 

Smith said, “You will not be disappointed walking away from Rev. Nunes’ presentation and will feel very empowered in your faith to feel God’s spirit enriching your knowledge and moving in your heart with deepened care for God’s people and our work together as Christians around the world.”  

Tickets for this event will go on sale on Jan. 15.    

A third event in the series continues to be planned and is anticipated to be held this spring.

“Our whole goal is to give people in the Brainerd lakes area an opportunity to explore their spiritual journey in the second half of their life,” said Smith. “We, the people in our second half of life, still have a lot of living to do and it’s just as meaningful. We still have an influence in our community and it’s important for us to share our wisdom with others and to look at how God impacts our lives.”

Pete Ziegler, one of the members of the program and the church, said people have a lot of faith questions and the events will allow them the opportunity to discuss them in an open and friendly way. Ziegler said the events will enhance people’s lives.

Jim Erickson of East Gull Lake, also a member of the program and church, said the events also are a way to develop friendships. Erickson said this is important as seniors can feel isolated.

Erickson, who is on the board of the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center in Brainerd, said this program in no way competes with the senior center. Erickson said the program only enhances opportunities for senior citizens.

Erickson’s wife, Carole Paulson, said she is excited for the program. Paulson said the events will bring people together from many different faith backgrounds that will answer questions and issues surrounding their lives in their second half of life. She said the events also will offer people inspiration for finding deeper meaning in their lives.

The program was originated by the First Lutheran Church, but once it gets off the ground, Smith said they invite people of all denominations to help. Smith said there already are three people on the organizing committee, who are not members of First Lutheran Church.

Smith said, “We have an intentional goal that this series be ecumenical, meaning that it is open to all and does not favor any single denominational point of view. The series is intended to allow people to experience themselves among a community’s worth of others in their second half of life who all are on particular journeys of faith and yet who also work together in the love of God for the common good in our neighborhoods, churches, communities and world.”

The church is looking for donations to help the program’s mission that would go toward securing noteworthy speakers. Smith said the ticket price will help the program, but in order for the program to be successful in the future more sponsorships and sustaining gifts will be needed.

Anyone who would like to be involved in The Lakes Area Second Half Enrichment Series may call Smith at the church office at 829-9552.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851.

Becca Clemens
After graduating high school in 2004, I attended Central Lakes College in Staples, MN for 2 years where I got a diploma in Communication Art and Design. I then transfered up to Bemidji State University in, you guessed it, Bemidji, MN. In the spring of 2009, I graduated from BSU. Then in the fall of 2009 I got a job at Echo Publishing, a sister company to the Brainerd Dispatch.