First Congregation Celebrates 150th Anniversary With Community Events – Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — The First Congregational United Church of Christ is celebrating its 150th anniversary with not one but several community events.

Brainerd Church at Juniper and North Fifth streets celebrates its 150th anniversary one year after the city celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding.

“I’ve really looked at a lot of newspapers for a long time,” said Cynthia Janes, a church member and co-coordinator of the church’s anniversary celebration events. “The shrine is currently the oldest in the Brainerd region.”

The First Congregational United Church of Christ is one of the first churches in Brainerd. The land on which it stands was granted in an 1872 transfer of ownership by the Lake Superior and Puget Sound Co. to J. Gregory Smith “as trustee of the Congregational Church and Society”.

“I was able to move here with my wife, Charlotte, and we’ve been together for 42 years,” Janes said of her move from North Carolina. “Before, I went upstairs to help my mother stay at home.”

According to the Crow Wing County Historical Society, the Northern Pacific Railroad survey crew chose the spot in 1870 where the tracks would cross the Mississippi River. A year later, the first train arrived in Brainerd.

“I attended the church where my mother went, which is the first Congregational church, here, and I loved the people in the church and the community and the feeling, and that was a big reason for which we moved here to Brainerd was this church,” Janes said.

A detailed image of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is part of a prominent window on the south wall of the historic Brainerd Church. The First Congregational United Church of Christ in Brainerd will celebrate its sesquicentennial with a series of community events beginning with the June 19, 2022 church event “Pipe Organ Concert and Stories in Stained Glass”.

Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch

The 70-year-old East Gull Lake resident worked as a medical psychologist before retiring.

“People from this church – if there’s anything really interesting and useful about building community or helping people in need in Brainerd – people from this church are often involved in it,” Janes said.

Smith, a Congregationalist, not only donated the funds for the church building but helped design and build it, according to church officials, and an organ and pews were donated by Vermont Congregationalists. The local congregation provided the bell.

“We’re not a church to believe this and that and the other,” Janes said. “We are a church that follows Jesus’ example of helping those in need and improving the community by spreading love by doing things, not just talking about them.”

The first Congregational United Church of Christ was officially organized on August 13, 1872, with 18 members. The first stone was laid on August 14, 1872 and inaugurated on January 22, 1873.

Gregory Park is directly across from the church and is named after the church’s founder, and the town of Brainerd is named after his wife’s maiden name.

“His father was a senator and Mr. Smith named the town of Brainerd after that family — after his wife’s father and his wife — and he founded our church,” Janes said. “He paid for it. He built it.

Photos of Brainerd Congregational and United First Church of Christ
A detail of the full length window in the east wall of the historic Brainerd Church on Tuesday June 14, 2022 is highlighted.

Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch

The wooden structure was destroyed by fire on January 7, 1881, and was rebuilt with funding again coming from Smith.

“He wasn’t there when it burned down. But he still paid for the construction of a new church that still stands,” Janes said. “And it’s also worth noting that it’s built with the same bricks that the North Pacific stores are built from.”

By May 1881, $4,000 had been raised through donations, and the current building was erected in the summer of 1881 at a cost of $13,000, according to local historian Ann M. Nelson, “and contains the finest stained glass of the city of Brainerd. ”

“People got together and said, ‘You know, this person was so important in the creation of our church, in the community, let’s commemorate this person. Let’s make something permanent, which we can point to,” Janes said of the 16 adults and three children pictured in the windows.

“These people were honored because their values ​​were what people thought were important. And those values ​​were helping others in need and building community.

The current building was dedicated on September 30, 1883. And since that date, the First Congregational United Church of Christ has housed the oldest continuously used shrine in the entire Brainerd area and remains a vibrant part of the Brainerd community, according to the responsible. .

“We need love and we need acts of kindness and community building, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Janes said.

Over the church’s long history, its congregations have been dedicated to helping the community beyond its doors with a message of service to others and inclusion and acceptance of all, church officials say. church.

Photos of Brainerd Congregational and United First Church of Christ
A window depicting Jesus as shepherd of the little sheep is a prominent feature of the north wall of the sanctuary of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Brainerd. The shrine is the oldest in the Brainerd Lakes region, according to church officials.

Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch

“If you think Jesus was a good person and you like leading by example, then here is a place where you can find like-minded people to do good in the world when so much hate is now prevalent in our society” , Janes said.

The church invites residents of the Brainerd Lakes area to celebrate its long history by attending one of the 150th anniversary events, which begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 19, with a pipe organ concert, presentations of shrines and stained glass windows and a silent auction.

“It’s a very, very well-built church, so it’ll be around for another 150 years – we hope so,” Janes said.

Summer of Celebration Events

  • 3 p.m. Sunday, June 19 — “Pipe organ concert and stained glass stories” with organists Laura Raedeke and Grace Forbord. A presentation on the historic sanctuary and the stained glass windows as well as a silent auction will also take place. (Arrive early for a self-guided tour.)
  • 5-8 p.m. June 25 — “Meeting of all the churches” current and former attendees and their friends and families are invited to enjoy a buffet of appetizers and a history video that includes many from the church’s long history, or participate in the silent auction in progress.
  • 10 a.m. June 26 — “Live Music Celebration Service” will feature local musicians on the church lawn. Root beer floats will be offered as a summer treat, and attendees will have one more chance to bid on the silent auction.
  • 5-7 p.m. July 19 — “Party and Picnic in the Park” is an open invitation to surrounding churches, neighborhood residents, and anyone else who might be interested in joining the congregation for free food, games, other fun activities, and a few surprises.
  • 10 a.m. August 14 — “Rooted in Faith, Growing in Love” is the culminating service of the church’s 150th anniversary celebration. The service will be filled with special music, feature a proclamation from the mayor, and be followed by a dessert buffet.

FRANK LEE can be reached at 218-855-5863 or

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