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    A Liberal Church, Welcoming of All, Passionately Committed to Social Justice

The Pilgrim - April 17, 2016

Celebrating Earth Day:
"The Great Kapok Tree"
and Earth Day Coffee

Performance of “The Great Kapok Tree” This Sunday
By Dr. Paul Boyd-Batstone

Kapok trees are the giants of the rainforests, found across the globe in equatorial tropical regions. The huge tree stands tall through the rainforest canopy. In Central America, it is called Ceiba pentandra. In Mayan culture the ceiba trees mark the four corners of their universe. In Brazil, they call it the kapok tree. The Great Kapok Tree, written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry, was published as a children’s book in 1993. It was dedicated to Chico Mendes, a foreman in charge of clearing land for oil fields and ranching. When he saw the impact of deforestation, he organized local protests and acts of resistance which gained international attention but resulted in Chico Mendes sacrificing his life. The metaphor in the book is that “The Man,” Chico Mendes, is ordered to chop down a kapok tree. He grows tired, falls asleep, and while he is sleeping each creature living in and around the tree speaks to him. In his dream they tell him why he shouldn't chop down the tree. 

I was a third-grade teacher in 1993, working down the street at Edison Elementary School, when I first came across this amazing book. As I read the book, each creature spoke to me in song. The boa constrictor’s message, “Don’t Chop It Down” pulsed in my mind, so I wrote a song. Then I turned the page and the bee buzzed, “They Depend on Me,” so I wrote another song. Eleven hours later, I had composed a 12-song musical based on each character of the story. I took it to Stan DeWitt, our tenor soloist at that time, who arranged and produced this musical, which has now been sung by hundreds of children across the country. One of our own FCC kids, Kailyn Kershaw, sang it in Spanish at Patrick Henry Elementary in third grade. It was used in classes in Milan, Italy, to teach English. Amazingly, our baritone soloist, Leeav Sofer, told me that when he was in third grade, he sang this musical. Lisa Bode Heard is the original soloist on the recording. You will hear Lisa and Leeav singing “The Great Kapok Tree” with our children this Sunday, along with Curtis Heard and Eddie Nazarro on keyboards, Ray Hedgpeth on guitar, and Chris Stevens on percussion, all under the direction of Tracy Halter-Balin.


In this issue:

Music This Sunday

Christian Education

Board of Social Justice and Outreach News

Background Checks for Working with Kids

Senior Coffee Next Tuesday

Scholarships Available

UCO "Jazzy Lady" Spring Gala

Faith Fair on Buddhism

"The Worth of Mirth"

UCC Calendars

Drop-In-Center News


Church Mouse

Parish Concerns

For more information ...

The Pilgrim - current and past editions of the newsletter


First Church website

Contact us

My hope is that we will hear the message of the book and reflect on how interconnected we are to our environment. May this awareness cause us to act as good stewards of God’s earth choosing life and sustainable practices over destruction and mindless deforestation.

If you'd like to hear the recordings of these songs before Sunday, you are invited to listen to the musical for free on iTunesU here.

While this energetic and engaging sermon will be fun for all ages, nursery and preschool care will be available for children under the age of 6 who prefer their own kind of fun on Sunday mornings.


Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

I am excited to be a part of our children’s music ministry production of the “The Great Kapok Tree” this Sunday as part of the band, along with Paul Boyd-Batstone (who wrote the music), Ray Hedgpeth, Eddie Nazarro, and Chris Stevens. Tracy and Paul have got these kids ready to sing, along with guest vocalists Lisa Bode Heard and Leeav Sofer. Leeav’s involvement will complete a journey that he began in the third grade, where he played the role of the woodsman hired to chop down the kapok tree in his school’s production, which was directed by his mother! Until a short time ago, he didn’t realize that he was now singing in the same choir as Paul! I am continually surprised by the bonds of music that are woven into our lives. Like the ecosystem that sustains the rainforest (the subject of the musical), music itself binds us together in ways that we don’t even comprehend!

Note to choir: even though we are not singing this Sunday, we are rehearsing on Thursday! See you there,

Curtis Heard, Director of Music


In Sunday School

Theme: Showing Up
Scripture: Acts 9:36-43

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




Board of Social Justice and Outreach Busy This Month and Next!
By Bob Kalayjian

The next two Sundays will focus on celebrating Earth Day (April 22). This coming Sunday in the courtyard after the service we will be offering fruit, snacks and information about environmental issues, including climate change and environmentally friendly food choices, There will also be a chance to hatch California grunion eggs and learn about this unique fish that lives close by. Join us for coffee and fun!

May is Gay Pride Parade! For more than 30 years we have marched in this parade and supported the festival. We hope many will join us on May 22 after the church service on Ocean Blvd. to celebrate and support this recognition of our LGBT friends and community. This year, as in the past, we will be offering six seats in convertibles for folks who can’t walk the parade route but want to participate. Please email me or call if you would like one of these seats:, 562-754-5334.


Background Checks This Sunday for Working with Our Kids
By Tracy Halter-Balin

Have you ever thought about the possibility of helping out with Sunday School, or maybe in our wonderful little nursery with the cute babies or with the always popular Parent’s Night Out? We would love to have you join in the aspect of the church! As part of our Safe Church Policy, we have our staff and volunteer teachers do a Live Scan background check.

This Sunday, April 17, we will once again have a Live Scan representative in Patterson Hall between 9 am and 12 noon. The process is quick and easy and no cost to you! Once you are on our cleared list, you are good to go. Contact me if you have any questions at Come join the fun!


Senior Coffee: "Long Beach Has the Conversation"

A Special Senior Coffee
with the Rev. Katy Hyman,
church member and Palliative Care Coordinator at
Long Beach Memorial Medical Center;
she is leading a city-wide iniative to promote conversations
about health care and end of life wishes.
Tuesday, April 19, 10 am
Koinonia Room
This event is open to the public.
Please RSVP to the church office:
562-436-2256 x100 or
Refreshments will be served.


First Church Invites Scholarship Applications
By Kirsten Pickus, Board of Stewardship and Finance

Did you know that First Church offers annual scholarships designed to supplement the financial needs of today’s student? Funding for this program comes from three sources: (1) the Kenneth Caskey Memorial Scholarship Fund, (2) the Harriett S. and Nancy A. Merritt Memorial Scholarship Fund, and (3) the Jerry Cannon Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Awards are offered every spring to college, university, technical, and trade students at any educational level. Preference is given to applicants who are members of First Congregational Church of Long Beach. Additional qualities considered include: goals; grades; church, college and community service; financial need; and proximity to achieving degree objectives. Applications are available in the Members’ Area of the church’s website under the Awards tab. Applications are due no later than April 26, 2016, and applicants are encouraged to submit all materials electronically to


UCO's "Jazzy Lady" Spring Gala
By Alison Morales and UCO Board of Directors

Tickets are still available! Urban Community Outreach would like to invite you to attend our Spring Gala on April 23. We will be honoring vice mayor Suja Lowenthal and there will be delicious food stations and grand decor, and fabulous entertainment will be provided by a jazz trio. Proceeds from the dinner will support the Drop-in Center meals and services. To learn more about UCO and to buy tickets, please go to

Thank you for your support!

Jazzy Lady


Faith Fair on Buddhism
By Jennifer Penner

Our Faith Fair on Buddhism was a wonderful event - thank you to the CE Board and all our volunteers! Between the mindful eating exercise, the "Sitting Still Like a Frog" meditation, the prayer flags, and Bob Kalayjian's wonderful display and teaching, the youth and children were enthralled and incredibly quiet listeners! We are already looking forward to the next Faith Fair on Hinduism, and are so grateful to be a part of a church that promotes and encourages events like this.

Bob Kalayjian

Faith Fair


Remarks from Dr. Ed Bloomfield on “The Worth of Mirth”

Dr. Bloomfield's remarks on "The Worth of Mirth" given on Sunday, April 3, are available on the church website, on the sermon page.


UCC Desk Calendar

The 2016-2017 UCC desk calendar is available for pre-ordering. If you would like one, please let the Office Manager know by 1 pm on Monday, April 18. The cost will be $14.


Drop-In Center News
By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

Last weekend, April 9 and April 10, were very busy at Urban Community Outreach! The government-funded night time Winter Shelter had closed and of course the whole week had rain in the forecast! I watched the reports as they kept changing with every gust of wind. It seemed like rain was inevitable for Saturday night, so we busied ourselves making arrangements with FCC and pulling in staff, and had supplies to open at 6 pm here. Open we did even though a wedding was just ending upstairs on Saturday and a fair was to be set up in that very room early Sunday morning. Everyone worked to best of their ability and it did take place. Guests came in out of the elements and enjoyed pizza and snacks in the evening and a very early light breakfast. All were out and things cleaned up by 7 am! Thank you Yvonne SaMarion and FCC for working with staff to make this available for those who would have been outside unprotected otherwise.

Sunday we had many volunteers come out to help from Eneti Tagaloa’s Sunday School Class at Second Samoan Church, Israel Rodriquez’s group from Molina, the NCIS group from CSULB, and a group of Boy Scouts. It was great to have so many caring people come to help! They prepared and served a delicious hearty chicken soup and also various salads and desserts. They made “Happy Spring” placemats and a whiteboard sign. We even were able to put bows on the little take-home chocolate gifts to be given out at our Jazzy Lady event on April 23.

I announced that there is a company who will be interviewing truck drivers and warehouse people, so we had a rush of requests for help with resumes. I realize that we need a good printer/scanner for our office. The one huge printer in there is useless! It malfunctions all the time. Our little printer doesn’t have a scanner, now so we are really are having a hard time functioning with all the requests for help.

I also interviewed several people. Some needed transportation help to get to partner agencies I send them. One gentleman needed assistance with a motel night till his money came in.

Richard CastleI’m still accepting gift certificates and silent auction items for Jazzy Lady for a couple more days before the printing of the program. I took a picture of church member Richard Castle as he donated $1,000 worth of amazing brand new Le Creuset brightly enameled cast iron and stoneware for the expression and pursuit of pleasurable cooking and dining. They are very impressive! Even if you only place them on an open shelf for their visual display!

Thank you everyone for the many ways you help make Urban Community Outreach possible!


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.




Church MouseThe Church Mouse has heard ...

... Vicki Young and Joanne Paine would like to invite anyone interested in the beautiful things created with a needle pulling thread to the Long Beach Embroiderer's Guild Open House and Stitching Exhibit on Friday, April 22, 11 am - 1 pm at the California Heights Methodist Church (3759 Orange Ave, Long Beach). No cost!


Parish Concerns

Your thoughts and prayers are requested for Nathan Moreno (Ruth Keller's newborn great-great-nephew); the family and friends of Bill Cole, upon his death; Deanna Karafiath (Tina Datsko de Sanchez's sister); Lori Delaney.

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.


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.




Akiko Dohi


Piccolo FlowersPiccolo Flowers

Piccolo Flowers provides the lovely flowers for our sanctuary
every Sunday at a very affordable cost.

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



First Congregational Church - 241 Cedar Avenue - Long Beach, California 90802
562-436-2256 - Fax: 562-436-3018 - E-mail: