The Pilgrim - February 12, 2017
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The Pilgrim - February 12, 2017


CCEJ Interfaith Breakfast

Dear First Church,

On March 2, First Church will attend the annual California Conference for Equality and Justice “Under One Sky” Interfaith Breakfast. This annual event at the Long Beach Convention Center is one of the largest local events that celebrates and connects the interfaith community, and FCCLB has historically filled two tables of interested folks.

This year, I will be the Co-Chair of the Breakfast with Vice-Mayor Rex Richardson, which means that I will have the honor of being on stage with the featured speaker, Luis J. Rodriguez, former gang member, publisher, and poet laureate of Los Angeles.

CCEJ has a very significant history as the descendant of three chapters of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, one of the key organizations in lifting up interfaith understanding in the 20th century. Their programs fight discrimination and violence, with a particular focus on empowering youth in annual retreats that are held at our church-related camp, Pilgrim Pines.

Would you like to come to breakfast? If so, please contact Office Manager Ruth Warkentin at to reserve your seat and pay $50 to the church. This is not a fundraiser for CCEJ and no funds will be retained by the church, but is an educational and community building event which gathers diverse religious and cultural organizations and strengthens our connections.

The Rev. Elena Larssen

Annual Congregational Meeting This Sunday

In This Issue

CCEJ Interfaith Breakfast
Music on Sunday
Christian Education
Annual Congregational Meeting
Piano Recital/Lecture
Sunday School Assistants Needed
Kindred Spirits Revived
Museums & Cultural Festivals Group
Small Group Fellowship Opportunities
UCC General Synod -
Want to Go?

Pastoral Installation in San Dimas
Drop-In Center News
Parish Concerns
Deadline: Tuesday at 1 pm


Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

I have only seen one of the four movies being highlighted in the current series of sermons. That movie is the focus of this Sunday’s worship, La La Land. Lisa and I both loved it. There were a few First Church folks at the same showing, as if Paul and Nancy Boyd-Batstone, Christie and Kirsten Pearce, Lisa and I met at the theater by chance knowing that Elena would be preaching on this movie! (In Hollywood, that’s called foreshadowing.) The movie had the usual romantic plot of boy meets girl, but because it’s a musical, when emotions rose, singing and dancing commenced. A month or two ago, I watched the first half of another highly regarded film, Deadpool. In that movie, when emotions rose, it led to intense fighting. In fact, there was so much fighting that I stopped watching half way through. Imagine a world where conflicts are resolved by singing songs. (That world is La La Land.) It may be total fantasy, but so are the comic book superheroes. Why not choose the former? I leave you with this quote: “People don’t sing because they are happy, they are happy because they sing!”

Curtis Heard, Director of Music

In Sunday School

Theme: Heart-felt
Scripture: Matthew 5:21-37

Adult Education

Sundays at 8:30 am in the Klar Rooms, upstairs in Pilgrim Hall

Annual Congregational Meeting This Sunday

After Church, in the Ramsay Dining Room
Complimentary Salad Bar Luncheon


Recital/Lecture by Akiko
This Sunday, 2 PM

No charge; a freewill offering will be taken.

Looking for Those Special Sunday School Assistants - Inquire Within!

By Ruth Keller, Christian Education Board Member
Now is the time ... First Church is the place ... Sunday School class is the location!
The youth of the church are looking for Sunday School Assistants to join them for a Sunday or two a month during their Sunday School class. They would like to see some new faces who will listen and share with them on Sundays. You don't need to prepare lessons, however you are welcome to share and participate during lesson time. Snacks are provided! If interested please contact the Rev. John Forrest or Cynthia King.
P.S. Reminder: Each Sunday School classroom requires two adults and we are currently shorthanded. We've been combining classrooms, yet that can be challenging due to ages of youth in the classrooms and the planned lessons. Pray about joining us!

Kindred Spirits Lives Again!

By Ron Ellwood

Kindred Spirits will meet Sunday, February 19 at 1 pm in the Koinonia Room. This will be an organizational meeting. We will decide when and where Kindred Spirits will meet and how often. Because of the time we will be meeting, this will be a dessert or finger food event. Please bring a food that will not need refrigeration and will keep during church and until the meeting time. We hope to see you then for our new kick off!

Dinosaur Alert! February 25, Natural History Museum LA

Please RSVP by February 17 with how many people, including yourself, you plan to bring. Space is limited to 14 people.
The first event of the Museums & Cultural Festivals group is scheduled at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles on Saturday, February 25. We will meet at the museum at 9:30 am and go on a group tour, “Dinosaurs.” Kids are welcome! The exhibit “Diamonds: Rare Brilliance” is the special exhibit at this time. Some of the permanent exhibits include African Mammals, Becoming L.A., Insect Zoo, and Zuni Fetishes. Miriam and Anil will pay the entrance fee in advance to take advantage of the group rate.
Costs for museum entrance plus group tour are:
Adults: $18.75
Seniors (62+ years): $16.00
Students (13 yr to adult with college ID): $16.00
Children (3-12 years): $12.75
We plan to have lunch in the NHM Grill, the restaurant there, which serves sandwiches, burgers, salads, wraps, and soups.
Please plan for a parking fee, and see for more information on how to reach the museum by car or train, and where to park. We look forward to exploring with you!
Miriam Seneviratne: (949) 280-4942;
Anil Seneviratne:

Let’s Grow Our Connections with One Another

By Kirsten Pickus, Moderator

At this past Sunday’s First Church Café, we had the pleasure of announcing multiple opportunities for First Church members and their friends to come together in small groups with themes identified by you! You may remember the survey in a Sunday bulletin last October or the rich Cookies & Community discussion we had last November in an effort to better understand the types of groups that appeal to our community. Well, your input was put to great use, and we are delighted to present a menu of groups designed to help us get to know each other better, forge friendships, and deepen connections. Please take a look at the various groups described below and let us know which interest you. Feel free to email me at with the titles of the groups for which you’d like to be placed on the “I’m Interested!” list. You can also let the leaders know of your interest, as their names are listed at the end of each description. With love and hope, here is our 2017 Menu of Small Group Fellowship Opportunities!
First Church Bakers
The Bakers will gather at church on a quarterly basis throughout the year to put on fun and delicious workshops designed to teach a skill, technique or recipe. Possible workshop themes include cookie decorating, making delicious cheesecakes, sharing recipes, and other ideas suggested by participants. Feel free to participate once or at every workshop, but advance sign-ups will be required, as participants will share ingredient costs to be announced before each workshop. Leaders are John Lockhart and Sam Johnson.
First Church Book Club
The Book Club will meet every other month on Friday evenings to discuss a shared read in a social yet thoughtful environment. Members must be adults (no childcare provided) and willing to commit to regular attendance and active participation to facilitate both depth of discussion and comfort in sharing one's reading experiences. Potential book themes will be discussed at the first meeting, and next selections will be discussed at the end of each meeting. Members must be willing to rotate hosting in their homes, and gatherings will include potluck food and drinks. The maximum size for the group will be 12 members. Leaders are Barbara de Jong and Jerry Mitchell.
Cooking & Culture
People say that the soul of any culture, historic or modern, is in its food, and it is around food that many traditions evolve. This group will explore the relationship between culture and food, as well as traditions related to food preparation, service and consumption. The Cooking & Culture group will gather several times throughout the year to discuss interesting cultural and historical aspects of food from selected regions and share a cooking experience that explores a local recipe or technique. For example, the group might consider the link between regional variations in water proximity, indigenous varieties of vegetation, and extremes in weather/temperature and traditional foods. Visits to local exhibits highlighting themes/ideas of interest to the group may also be planned. Recipes prepared will be primarily vegetarian and gatherings may take place at First Church or a nearby commercial or home kitchen. Importantly, this group is not just a cooking club; members should share a curiosity about the broader cultural impact of food, be willing to read and share learnings about different cultures of the world, and have the desire to try different foods. Advance sign-ups will be required, as participants will share ingredient costs, and regular participation is strongly encouraged. Group size will be limited to 16 people to ensure that all members can participate fully. Participants must be adults and will be involved in selecting dishes and themes for future gatherings. Leaders are Cara Varnell and Eli Chilintan.
First Church Gaming Group
Game on! at First Church - Come one, come all on the third Wednesday night of each month from 6 to 9 p.m. We are going to play! Play what? Play ALL the games! Young, old, experienced, novice - we will have something for you! Opening night includes the favorite for the Wii U, Super Smash Brothers, with enough seats for up to 8 players at a time (bring your Nintendo DS and your game cartridge!). If you haven't seen this game in action, it's a total crowd pleaser with tons of bright colors, beautiful music and appealing characters. We are also setting up Steven Universe Monopoly, Blokus, Othello, go, chess, and we are hoping the Mexican train will make a stop by our tables. We are going to be in the Pownall and Koinonia Rooms, so there will be plenty of space for something as simple as a game of cards. Snacks! Friendship! Fun! We hope to see you there. Leaders are Donna and Jim Bell.
First Church Golfing Group
The Golfers meet every Saturday morning at Recreation Park 9 Golf Course, also known as Little Rec, to golf and enjoy each other's company. This group requires previous golf experience, as it's not a substitute for lessons, but is welcoming of a variety of skill levels. Participants are asked to commit to golfing with the group on a regular basis, although it need not be weekly. Interested members will receive a weekly email asking for a commitment for the upcoming Saturday (usually around 9:30 a.m.) and will be responsible for paying the course the approximate $15 fee. The leader is Pam Chapin.
First Church Kids Book Club
The First Church Kids Book Club is a monthly group for 4th-6th graders who LOVE to read. The group began meeting in January and reads a monthly book selection that focuses on global issues of social justice. The group is limited to six members to facilitate thoughtful discussion and opportunities for reflection. Parents are invited to join in a casual meal after the meeting, and members are actively involved in selecting their next read. This group is currently at capacity. Leaders are Karen Carmean-Mathieu and Kirsten Pickus.
Kindred Spirits
Kindred Spirits will gather every month or so throughout the year for a fabulous potluck event that brings people together to eat, drink and be merry! Gatherings will take place at the church, members’ backyards, and condo clubhouses and are geared toward adult members of all orientations and their friends. Feel free to attend every gathering or just drop in when you feel inspired to wow your fellow church members and their friends with your fancy cooking. Interested participants will be invited to help plan future gatherings. The kick-off event will be a Dessert Extravaganza at 1 pm on Sunday, February 19. Come, bring your favorite dessert, and be a part of shaping the next Kindred Spirits get-together! Leaders are Perry and Ron Ellwood.
First Church Movie Group
In collaboration with the Board of Parish Life, the Movie Group will gather to have lunch, see a movie and share some coffee and conversation on the fifth Sundays of 2017. Mark your calendars now for April 30, July 30, October 29, and December 31! The leader is Alison Mitchell.
Museums & Cultural Festivals Group
The Museums & Cultural Festivals Group will gather on a quarterly basis at various museums in and around Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Possible visits include LACMA, the Bowers Museum, and the Getty Center, and participants are welcome to attend every event or only those that are of particular interest. Most visits will include sharing a meal or picnic, and children will be welcome at some events. Advanced sign-ups will be required and space is limited to facilitate discussion and ease of moving through the exhibits together. Their first event will be a visit to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles on Saturday, February 25 at 9:30 a.m. Leaders are Miriam and Anil Seneviratne.
Parks & Picnics Group
The Parks & Picnics Group will gather during clement weather at various outdoor events in and around Long Beach. The group will have a regular meeting spot at the Friday night Long Beach Municipal Band concerts in El Dorado Park, in addition to gathering for the band’s concerts at other parks on different weekday evenings. They’re discussing meet-ups for Movies in the Park, Movies at the Beach, Concerts in the Park, Shakespeare at the Aquarium, and a host of other fun, community events. Feel free to participate once or attend every event! The more, the merrier!!! Leaders are Debbie Bond, Doug Emslie, and Nancy Boyd-Batstone.
Serendipity Suppers
Serendipity Suppers will take place three to four times throughout the year, and the first event will be on Saturday, April 1. Suppers will start between 5:30 and 7 pm, so if you are interested in being a part of this event, please be sure to mark your calendars now! Dates for future suppers will be announced soon, with a possible Serendipity Brunch planned during the summer. Events will include some sort of game to help guests get to know one another better, an opportunity to break bread together, a few pre-determined conversation starters suggested by our ministers, and hopefully lots of good times with good people.
At each supper, the evening’s hosts will welcome a small group of guests into their homes for fellowship, stimulating conversation and delicious food. To make it extra exciting, the hosts will know who is coming to supper, but the guests will not find out the address of their event until 24-48 hours ahead of time.
It is our hope that everyone who wants to participate in Serendipity Suppers will be able to do so every time, but the number of host homes must be able to accommodate the number of desired guests. Thus, we encourage everyone who is able to volunteer as a host to please consider doing so. If there is a mismatch between the number of host homes and the number of guests, the coordinators will rotate participation in a way that includes interested guests at as many events as possible.
Please look for a link to a survey in The Pilgrim later this month where you’ll be able to indicate if you’d like to participate in the 2017 Serendipity Suppers program and answer a few questions. Leaders are Bill Peck, Randall Goddard, and Kirsten Pickus.
Sunday Morning Spirituality & Support
The Sunday Morning Spirituality & Support Group is a weekly, drop-in group for First Church members and their friends who are interested in sharing a devotional, talking about spirituality, and giving and receiving support to/from one another. Meetings will take place in the landing just outside of the Pownall Room on Sunday mornings from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. and will consist of a shared reading of a “These Days” devotional, discussion of the ways in which the reading may inspire one to meet the joys and challenges of a spiritual life, and an opportunity to share concerns and seek support in an atmosphere characterized by respect and compassion. Participants must be adults and able to follow the leaders’ guidance about the importance of creating a space where all who want to may share without any one person dominating the conversation. The first meeting will be on Sunday, March 5! Leaders are Dale Whitney and Chris Bobo.
Walking Group
The Walking Group is a group for First Church members and friends who like to get out in nature and feel the warm sun and cool breeze on their faces as they get their heart rates up and enjoy each other’s company. This multigenerational group usually gathers the last Saturday of every month (although the day and/or week may occasionally change) for a two- to three-mile walk in a beautiful or fun setting throughout the Greater Southern California area. Previous walks have taken place at locations such as the El Dorado Nature Center, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, George F. Canyon Nature Center, Long Beach Downtown and Shoreline and more. Everyone is welcome. Feel free to participate every month or drop in when you can. Leaders are Eillen Badilla and Julie Ford.
Relatedly, there is an Electronic Walking Group for members who have a Fitbit and want to connect via the Fitbit application to motivate each other and participate in fun challenges. The coordinator is Julie Ford.
Water 2 Wine
Come hang out if you want to get to know some of the other people who are “of a certain age” at First Church. “Of a certain age” means that maybe you grew up with computers that didn’t have punch cards, or perhaps you played The Oregon Trail in school, or you’ve felt awkward telling people that you go to church. If you can drink legally - not that you have to – let’s skip the small talk (because, who needs it!). Give us your number and we’ll text/FB you the time and location of the next meet-up. It’ll be just like Dumbledore’s Army, except with drinks and food. The current plan is to meet quarterly at various restaurants, bars and pubs in DTLB. Friends are welcome, and RSVPs are helpful. Leaders are Lauren Chambers, Allison King, and Tim O’Keefe.
Women’s Group
The Women’s Group is a monthly gathering of 8-14 multi-generational members who have a desire to deepen their connections with one another and create a space for sharing life’s challenges and joys. The group welcomes women who are mothers to young children and grandmothers to adult children, women who are nurturers and women who are creators. Participation requires a commitment to attend regularly in an effort to foster a sense of community and connection. The group will not have a spiritual focus, per se, but will be a sacred space for nurturing relationships. A regular meeting day/time will be established based on the availability of interested participants. Leaders are Kirsten Pickus and Katy Hyman.
Women’s Spirituality Book Group
The Women's Spirituality Book Group meets monthly in members’ homes in/around Long Beach. Participants must be adult women who are interested in reading a chapter or two of a book each month and have a desire to explore spiritual issues in a small group environment. Moreover, participants should be willing to commit to regular attendance in an effort to foster a sense of community and comfort in sharing one’s experiences. For this reason, group size will be limited to 8-12 women. Members gather for a potluck meal, which is followed by a time of personal sharing, and then a discussion of the book chapters. Meetings are typically held at 6 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month, though the meeting time and day may change depending on members’ availability. The leader is Terry McKiernan.

Interested in Attending the UCC General Synod?

By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

This summer the General Synod of the United Church of Christ will gather to vision and make decisions about the future of the United Church of Christ. The gathering, which happens every two years, will take place in Baltimore. As many of you know from the experience of Synod in our own backyard just a few years ago, Synod does not just feel like a meeting; it is a celebration of the many expressions of faith in the United Church of Christ. So, do you want to go? Rev. Douglas is considering organizing a trip to Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD to experience the nation’s capital and attend Synod. If you are interested in this trip, please send an email to Rev. Douglas. Synod is June 30-July 4. The DC pre-synod trip would be July 26-29. Based on the desires of the group, travel days are flexible.

 Installation of New Pastor in San Dimas

All are invited to the Installation of
the Rev. Matthew Redrich
as Pastor of the San Dimas Community Church

(United Church of Christ)
Sunday, February 26, 3 PM
216 N San Dimas Ave, San Dimas, CA
Clergy are invited to vest with red stoles
Reception to follow
RSVPs are encouraged: office@ or 909-599-1103

Drop-In Center News

By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

What’s the meaning of life? All of us little ants running around among the swirling winds of opportunity and adversity. It seemed like Sunday, February 5, could be identified in that way. The week preceding Sunday had been full for me with two speaking engagements along with all the usual. Monday, January 30, was Justin Rudd’s amazing Homeless Compassion Town Hall at Bay Shore Congregational with an estimated 600 people in attendance who brought socks and clothing for us. All were trying to figure out homelessness and what we can do about the challenge. The second engagement was on Tuesday night in a small classroom at CSULB where Dr. Jose Luis’ class was wanting to hear about social activism. Wednesday was the Long Beach Area Coalition for the Homeless meeting, and right after was committee meeting for planning a conference on the topic of homelessness with the City of Long Beach, DLBA and other agencies. It will be held on April 27. Thursday I drove up to LA to attend the planning committee meeting for LA Interfaith Summit to Combat Homelessness in LA County. See what I’m getting at? Everyone seems to be talking about homelessness! Everyone wants to know “what is it?” and “how do we fix it?”

Actually, homelessness is made up of all different people with all different reasons for their condition. Then there are those swirling winds of opportunity and adversity that we try to guide them through. The opportunity of apartments is evasive, to say the least. Not near enough available! But we keep trying with all our might!

We put a frightened newly homeless family with three children into a motel. We saved another family from eviction when the wage earner lost their job and didn’t start a new one till Monday. We gave out clothing, shoes and blankets. We bought a TAP transit card so another mom could go to her job. We gave referrals to people about companies hiring. All these little ant things that we hope will build up and become a home on ant hill.

Thank you for the support you give so we can do these things! We welcome every ounce of support available to combat the adversities. Sunday together we all said, “Amen!”

Parish Concerns

Your thoughts and prayers are requested for Ben Loa and his family; the Rev. Bill Peterson (husband of the Rev. Gail Benson, formerly our interim minister); Betty Cole; Mel White; Ariela Lawee (Eillen Badilla's friend); the family and friends of Jerry Blum (Georgette de Bruyn's friend's husband); and Manuel Arruda (father of Douglas Schading's friend Nolan Arruda).

Names on the Parish Concerns lists appear in two consecutive editions of the newsletter. To share a Parish Concern or a Parish Joy, put a note on the board on the Third Street landing or contact Ruth Warkentin in the church office.

Pilgrim and Bulletin Deadline

The deadline for submitting items for inclusion in the Sunday service bulletin and for the newsletter is Tuesday at 1 p.m. The Pilgrim is emailed every Wednesday.

Online Calendar

Don't miss out! Check the online church calendar for details about all church events. You can use the online calendar to email invitations to friends to church events and to set up emailed reminders to yourself. Just click on any event to see more information.


To place an ad in this newsletter, please contact Ruth Warkentin in the church office.

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