Christmas Dinner This Saturday!
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The Pilgrim - December 11, 2016


Sunday Celebration Notes

Lifting Up God's Love Every Sunday at 10 am

This season is filled with such beautiful music—especially here at First Congregational Church. Music is so ubiquitous to this season that we can barely think of Christmas time without humming a carol or whistling a holiday tune. It was a special day this week when I realized that I could finally hit play on my holiday playlist.
This Sunday will be filled with music:
  • We will sing our refrain as we light the Third Candle—the candle of Joy—on our Advent wreath.
  • We will sing carols together as we bring our gifts of toys for the families of DAYS to the manger. (See the article below for more info about Gifts to the Manger).
  • A beautiful duet setting of our Gospel lesson—The Annunciation and Magnificat—will be sung by soloists. The choir will sing, bells and chimes will ring, and, of course, we will hear our Mighty Moller.
  • Children and youth will gather in Ramsay Dining Hall to learn songs and run lines in preparation for this year’s Christmas Pageant: Breaking News: Baby Born in Bethlehem!
  • My sermon will consider Mary’s song of blessing, rebellion, resistance, and liberation.
  • After the Congregational Meeting all are invited to join in caroling for the Drop-In Center. We will meet after Pageant Rehearsal in Ramsay Dining Hall.
With all this singing, we should all leave with a song in our heart and the inspiration to work for God’s justice in all that we do.
See you Sunday!
John Forrest

Update on the Anti-Gun Violence March & Vigil December 14: Meet at the church at 4:30 pm

More info below.

In This Issue

Lead article
Music on Sunday
Christian Education
Poet's Notes
Gifts to the Manger
Anti-Gun Violence March and Vigil
Christmas Dinner
Winter Wonder Camp
Preserving Our Legacy
Reserve Sunday Flowers
A Word of Thanks
True Brass Choir Concert
Drop-In Center News
Parish Joys & Concerns
Deadline: Tuesday at 1 pm

Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

Lots of music happening this Sunday, the second of Advent: Charming Chimes (“Away in a Manger”), a solo by Carlos Carlos (“The Holly and the Ivy,” arr. By Benjamin Britten), a scripture reading in the form of a duet (this is a late edition to the service, so the names are not yet available), the Sanctuary Choir, accompanied by Bellissimo (Natalie Sleeth’s “Were You There on That Christmas Night?”), and the usual number of keyboard selections presented by yours truly, filling in for Marc Dickey this Sunday, including a brand new arrangement of Watcher, Tell Us of the Night. Tina Datsko de Sánchez will also be reading a new poem, with some musical underscoring.

I’m also pleased to be bringing my high school choir to come sing for the Christmas dinner on Saturday night. I hope it helps make this season of love both merry and bright!

Curtis Heard, Director of Music

In Sunday School

Theme: Song of Joy and Justice
Scripture: Luke 1:47-55

Adult Education

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

Poet’s Notes

By Tina Datsko de Sánchez
This week’s celebration of the third Sunday of Advent includes a focus on Mary the mother of Jesus. In the service, I will be offering a new poem that imagines Mary addressing the child she carries. Director of Music, Curtis Heard, will provide musical underscoring. The poetic form is a villanelle, in which the first five stanzas contain three lines with an aba rhyme scheme. The final stanza has four lines and rhymes abaa. Also the first and third lines of the first stanza repeat as the last line of stanzas two through five and as the final two lines of stanza six.
Child of God, are you resting in the womb?
When the Divine touched me, Light came rushing in.
Child of God, will you teach compassion soon?
Light filled me and stretched me until the tomb
of ego burst like a bubble within.
Child of God, are you resting in the womb?
No ‘I’, only boundless, expansive room,
where gratitude, joy, and oneness begin.
Child of God, will you teach compassion soon?
An open, spherical space was my womb,
and God’s love an ever-flowing fountain.
Child of God, are you resting in the womb?
Before me the earth with its pain and gloom,
through love was drawn into that space within.
Child of God, will you teach compassion soon?
My child, from God’s compassion you are hewn,
formed to liberate the world from within.
Child of God, are you resting in the womb?
Child of God, will you teach compassion soon?

Gifts to the Manger - This Sunday, December 11

By Nancy Valencia, Executive Director, DAYS Long Beach
In the fall of 2015, I was getting out of my car near First Church and I noticed several Summer Day Camp children crossing the street. I greeted them, we chatted for a few minutes, and I realized that these children might be perfect for our Gift to the Manger program.  I explained the program to their mother and asked if I could have their address. Needless to say, the children were beyond excitement. One child got teary eyed and told me that she had never received a present, ever. Of course, we delivered gifts to their home and as I suspected they were thrilled. Over the years, we have had similar interactions and have created many wonderful memories with children. I think the DAYS Long Beach holiday team would agree, we are always touched by the children that we serve.

I believe the originators of Gifts to the Manger, Dorothy and Edwin Baker, in partnership with First Church, would be thrilled to know that their work continues on today. We try to identify children in need through our Summer Day Camp, our after school program, local schools, and with the assistance of our community partners. Your contribution goes directly to the children and their families and with your help we will be able to fulfill some children’s dreams.
Join DAYS Long Beach in celebrating the holidays by contributing to our holiday gift program.
As in years past, we will collect food items for one complete holiday meal. To ensure that the gift bags are full and all the children receive a holiday item, we need your help.
We will need the following items to help fill our bags:
100 shopping bags
Canned fruit and vegetables such as green beans, carrots and peas
Boxed stuffing
Cake and browning mixes
Fresh bag of potatoes (5 or 10 lbs)
Fresh apples, tangerines and oranges
We are always short of gifts for middle and high school youth.

DAYS Long Beach is introducing the Holiday Sock Exchange. All you need to do is purchase a pair of colored/patterned holiday socks and stuff them with an assortment of small treats. Suggested items may include pencils, playing cars, nail polish, bags of nuts, or gift cards. Tie them together with bow and label the item by gender and age. This is an easy and wonderful gift for this age group.

In addition, DAYS is collecting gifts for our children and youth. Our children appreciate all gifts received, but if you are struggling with ideas, please consider gift cards to local stores and the movies, games such as Candyland, Yahtzee, Checkers, Sorry, and Jenga, chapter books, and art and school supplies.
Gifts to the Manger will be dedicated during worship on Sunday, December 11. Please bring your food, unwrapped toys, monetary donations and gift certificates on December 11 and join us in celebrating the holiday season. Please make checks payable to DAYS Long Beach.
We plan to start wrapping the gifts the week of December 12 and will deliver on Saturday, December 17. If you are interested in helping to wrap presents, assemble and/or deliver the holiday bags, please contact Nancy Valencia (562-234-2851). Give only what you can and together we can make a difference in a child’s life.

Update on the Advent March and Vigil to End Gun Violence:
Meet at First Church at 4:30 on the 14th

By the Board of Social Justice and Outreach

Instead of meeting at 5 p.m. as previously announced, those desiring to participate in the Advent Vigil and March to End Gun Violence should gather at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 14th, the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, to begin the march. The reason for this change is that First Church participants will now join the other march and vigil partners at Drake Park at 5 p.m. in order to march together to Harvey Milk Plaza. After gathering at the church, we will catch a shuttle bus provided by the YMCA (a new partner in the march) to Drake Park, which is located at 951 Maine Street. These changes have occurred in order to allow members of First Church to join with all other marchers and proceed as one body down to the Harvey Milk Plaza and because the march will pause for prayers and remembrance along the way at locations were victims of gun violence in our city lost their lives.

Approximately thirty people were killed by gun violence in Long Beach this year. To learn more about them, please visit the Los Angeles Times homicide website. The Board of Social Justice and Outreach encourages all members and attendees of First Congregational Church who are able to join this solemn and sure to be moving march to gather at the church at 4:30 p.m. The shuttle bus will make two trips from the Church to Drake Park, so come even if you’re running a little late. Those who are mobility challenged may wish to join only the vigil, which will take place at 6 p.m. at Harvey Milk Plaza, located at Third and Promenade, near the downtown Long Beach City Place Shopping Center.

Signs and battery-operated candles will be provided to marchers at Patterson Hall before the march. After the march to and vigil at Harvey Milk Plaza, all are invited back to First Church where we will gather again in Patterson Hall for hot cider and cookies, courtesy of the Board of Social Justice and Outreach. Children are welcome to participate.


The Christmas Dinner Is Coming This Saturday

By Jo Anne Jennings

It’s that time of year and the festivities have begun, but it’s not too late to sign up for this fun event. The First Church Christmas dinner will be on Saturday, December 10. There will be turkey and beef with all the fixings, starting with hors d’oeuvres at 5:30 followed by dinner at 6 o’clock. There will be entertainment and a special visitor. The cost is $25 per adult and $5 per child under the age of 12. Be sure to reserve your seat by contacting Debbi Lauderback at, and you may pay when you arrive at the dinner. Don’t miss the fun and friendship! We hope to see you there.

Winter Wonder Camp

By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

Junior high and high school students, get ready to do a new thing! This year’s youth winter camp is called “Winter Wonder Camp” and will be at Pilgrim Pines over Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend (Friday January 13 through Monday January 16). Junior high and high school students will be together at camp this weekend – with separate programming for each! The theme of the weekend will be “Uncharted Territory.” The programming will be organized by the Youth Roundtable (including our very own Lily Penner). The keynote for the high school program will be led by Rev. John Forrest Douglas and the junior high keynote will be led by Rev. Lee Yates.

The cost for the weekend is $190 if you register before January 2 and $210 for those who register after January 2. For more information and to register, go to

Warm Streets Coat Drive this December

By Alison Morales, Urban Community Outreach

Greetings, Church! Do you have extra warm coats taking up space in your closets at home? Urban Community Outreach is hoping you'll help us gather warm coats and jackets for our weekly guests at the Urban Community Outreach Drop-In Center. We'll be collecting and distributing these items every Sunday in December. You'll easily spot a UCO box in the Donation Center on the Third Street landing. Please refrain from donating other items in this box, or in the Third Street landing area, as we aren't set up for storage.

We really appreciate your help. Together, we can help our beloved community keep warm this winter season!

Flower Reservations in 2017

By Pamela Chapin
Reservations for flowers for Sunday services in 2017 are now being taken. Dates are available in January, February and March and throughout the year. Please book early if you have a special date.
Because of the increase in the sales tax effective January 1, 2017, the cost of flowers will increase to $110. The flower fund can no longer cover the tax. Please contact Pamela Chapin at to reserve your date. Thank you.

Preserving Our Legacy – Inch by Inch and Rose by Rose …

By Ruth Keller for the Capital Campaign Committee

Inch by inch and rose by rose we’re going to get our windows done! First Church, even though it is winter you have enabled our roses to continue to shine at Third and Cedar. The seeds were planted early spring, tender care taken throughout the summer, and then this fall blooms abound! Our gardens almost full as we gather nourishment from you over the next three growing seasons. If you are one of the First Church gardeners still with your letter of intent – use those green thumbs of yours by signing your Letter of Intent and mailing it in. Better yet, come to church to deliver your letters, for we would love to see you during the holiday season!

A Word of Thanks ...

From the Rev. Elena Larssen
For all who made December 4th so special:
The Diaconate Board for preparing the Sanctuary with pew pads and envelopes, ushering and greeting people with warmth and gentility, receiving the offering, administering Communion, and leaving the Sanctuary tidy and organized …

Worship and Arts for their unique Advent lantern design concept: lanterns, banners, and acolyte robes, including original music … this week we will hear even more of their wonderful work …

To the Music Department: Una Voce for chant music in in service … Bellissimo Bells for remarkable music in service … the Sanctuary Choir for their anthem…

To the Christian Education Department: to Sunday School teachers and helpers, pageant cast members and their advisors, including our Nursery …

To our stealth decorating team: Steve and Heather Chambers, Brad Wells, Sam Johnson, and "elves" …

A special thank you to Karen Cannon, Pat Green, and Stars Catering for our First Church Café … as many of you know, Karen is retiring in 2017 and Stars Catering will be retiring their work with First Church Café after several delicious years of service to First Church.  Karen, we are grateful for all you have done to help us build community over the table of friendship.

Our Boards: Stewardship and Finance, Christian Education, Parish Life (who are busy planning next Saturday’s Christmas Dinner), Social Justice and Outreach (planning the Advent Anti-Gun Violence Vigil for December 14), Cultural Arts, and the Diaconate … more than 60 people who make the church and its programs a dynamic reality.

And we must remember the board of Downtown Associated Youth Services (DAYS) and their beautiful Sparkling Reception! The DAYS board is always comprised of at least 50% church members who keep the congregation engaged in our vital ministry to the children of the neighborhood.
First Congregational Church is a member-driven village of several hundred people from so many walks of life. The power of a church is that we give time and energy and receive friendship and inspiration when we hold programs, events, and celebrations. Thank you to all who are making this a Season of Love!

Answers to the Final Capital Campaign Quiz

By Steve Crow, Chair, Capital Campaign Committee

1.  The thought when the window was removed was that we would see better the challenge we have with the terra cotta. Not so easy, we have learned. We need to have a better understanding of what causes the cracks. It is possible that the cracking is coming from stress, from age, from how they are connected to the facade, etc. Strategies for preservation/restoration don’t include doing a patch job that will not last long and fails to address basic structural issues.
2. Document, document, document. Before you repair, you take pictures—lots of them—of the problem before you start. And more as you do the repair. And more when you are finished.
3. Allison King says sunlight and water. 
4. These are part of the earthquake retrofit, and the wood rounds act as absorbers.

True Brass Choir Concert December 18

Drop-In Center News

By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

As most of you know the Urban Community Outreach Drop-In-Center was closed last Sunday due to the Sparkling Reception taking place in Patterson Hall. However, we continue to work with our client guests to fill their needs and create a better life for them. We will be back as usual next Sunday, December 11, and will have Long Beach City Council Member Jeannine Pearce joining us for Christmas pictures and preparations.

We have had our first table sponsorship purchased by board member Julie Lie for our spring annual fundraiser, “Bright Lights and Dark Nights.” You still have till December 15 to purchase tickets and table sponsorships at a discount! Go to our website at!

Parish Joys and Concerns

Your thoughts and prayers are requested for Liane and Vicky Elizarraraz on the arrival of a new baby, Jacksden Maverick; Perry Ellwood’s father; and Tyler Mason (Tim O’Keefe’s cousin).

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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