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Area churches host third annual community-wide Good Friday Service

Christians around the world will gather Friday to mark the beginning of Easter weekend and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For about 3,000 Brainerd area churchgoers that means another Good Friday service at Brainerd High School.

The area-wide Good Friday event, in its third year and hosted by 11 area churches, fills the gym at Brainerd High School with a shared time of worship, and communion.

“It’s about the blood and the cross,” said Brian Kimbler, senior pastor of Remnant Ministries in Brainerd. “And celebrating that together.”

President of Minnesota Teen Challenge, Rich Scherber will deliver the message portion of the service.

The diverse group of area churches involved with the planning and facilitating of the event include Lakewood Evangelical Free Church, The Journey North, Heritage Assembly of God, Churches of the Nazarene in Baxter and Merrifield, Oak Street Chapel, Living Word North, Communitas, Remnant Ministries, Pointway Church, and New Beginnings Bible Church.

“What brought this group together is not a desire to do anything,” said Pastor Mark Bjorlo of The Journey North. “We are a bunch of pastors who like each other and wanted to do this together.”

The churches’ pastors said their focus for the event is on the truths they share, not their differences. “All of the churches involved — we are diverse in various ways — but the core foundational truth that we stand on unites us,” said Steve Erickson, pastor of Pointway Church. “There are certain non-negotiables that we agree on.”

“The number one sign that we are united together as believers is the love we have for each other,” added Pastor Russ Kalenberg of The Living Word North. “It can’t be denied when we all come together — it’s a little glimpse of what it will be like in heaven.”

The worship portion of the service is led by worship leaders and musicians, including J.P. and Rochelle Ruiz of Heritage Assembly of God who have facilitated the worship portion of the service.

“It’s definitely an honor to be asked to work with these pastors,” J.P. Ruiz said. “I know their hearts.”

Ruiz said the service provides people a taste of what community churches provide.

While the event is hosted as a combined service for the 11 churches involved, it is open to anyone looking for a church to celebrate Easter weekend with. “We’re not checking membership at the door or anything,” joked Pastor Ron Christianson of Church of the Nazarene in Merrifield.

The first combined Good Friday service held in 2010 attracted more than 2,400 area churchgoers and the 2011 service brought in about 3,000 nearly filling the high school auditorium space, leading the team of pastors to believe a second service time might be added in years to come.

“We are all really hoping that we can grow this year,” said Christianson. “We are anticipating great things this next year. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that out community will be transformed.”

The 12 months since last year’s Good Friday service brought big changes for a few of the churches involved, as well as the group of pastors that met together regularly, some for more than a decade.

Both Heritage Assembly of God and Lakewood Evangelical Free Church are in the process of searching for new senior pastors following the respective resignations of Pastor Mark Boone of Heritage and Pastor Dan Werthman of Lakewood. Oak Street Chapel lost their longtime pastor Chip Avelsgaard in a tragic motorcycle accident in June 2011.

“Those were important guys in this community,” said Pastor Steve Erickson.

The pastors said the transition has been felt deeply by other area churches because of the relationship the group of pastors had with each other.

“It’s given Brian (Kimbler) the chance to be the shepherd and really lead this group,” Bjorlo said of the changes to their group of leaders.

“As a result of this group I think we’ve taken more notice of those changes,” Pastor Ron Christian said. “We are praying for the right guy to fill each of those churches.”

The Good Friday service is expected to start at 7 p.m. in the Brainerd High School auditorium and is open to the community.

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.