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

The Pilgrim - February 7, 2016


Mardi Gras Sunday

Special music from throughout the decades - come celebrate with us!

10 am, in the Sanctuary

Complimentary parking is available for worship attenders
in the Broadway Garage every Sunday. 


From the Senior Minister

Dear Church, 

What does it mean to be a church in our time and place?

This week I had the opportunity to attend the West Coast Senior Ministers Gathering at White Retreat Center in Mill Valley, CA. This annual event was initiated seven years ago by my predecessor, our Senior Minister Emeritus Jerry Stinson, and our colleague Pat De Jong, who just retired last spring from First Congregational Berkeley (UCC). Our two congregations are "sisters" in many ways: west coast culture, similar large-membership size and organizational structure, shared historic commitments to liberal theology and the social gospel (i.e. seeing how Christianity calls us to social justice, work with children and the unhoused).

To be in a room with other clergy who share the similar joys and challenges is illuminating. Our church is very unique, but we are not alone. Here are some shared qualities (churches are listed by city):

Our parking woes and urban security problems are shared by Plymouth UCC in Seattle ... as is our priority of staying in and serving downtown. Our love for theater and performing arts are shared by Manhattan Beach UCC and Palo Alto UCC. Our deep commitment to youth and education is reflected at Eugene, OR UCC. Open and Affirming culture is expressed passionately at Irvine UCC, albeit in a less LBGTQ-friendly part of SoCal.


In this issue:

Minister's Column

Music This Sunday

Christian Education

Faith and Film

Pancake Lunch

CCEJ Breakfast

Parents' Night Out

Ash Wednesday

Women's Retreat

Church Council Members-at-Large

Sanctuary Flowers

True Brass Choir Concert


Parish Concerns

For more information ...

The Pilgrim - current and past editions of the newsletter


First Church website

Contact us

It was fascinating to also see the differences. Most churches in attendance are offering more than one worship service, not because of seating capacity but to offer a more casual, kid-friendly service in addition to a "classic" service. Many churches are facing retirements, as we have faced in the recent past, and I am able to contribute our story of a congregation that handled a retirement and leadership transition really well. All do justice work – but not all sponsor the large-scale justice programming that we sponsor on campus, and it was interesting to hear what they do with their campuses during the week: preschools, programs for the active-retired to socialize and do justice. All fascinating.

No church is precisely like First Congregational Long Beach (UCC). We definitely have our own style, vocabulary, and verve! But in our United Church of Christ denomination, we are not alone. We have wonderful neighbor churches from which we can learn and whom we can support, as well.


The Rev. Elena Larssen


Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

Quinquagesima is always a fun service for me, and a chance to go (musically speaking) where church music seldom ventures. Looking back, you might recall a steel drum ensemble, a klezmer group, an Irish fiddle band, a mariachi band, and the hard-to-categorize Amoeba People. This year, Quinquagesima coincides with the finale of a series of sermons lifting up the generations represented at First Church. The music will reflect various popular styles of the last 60 years and be backed up by a top-notch rhythm section and reed man. We’ve been having fun in choir with the anthems in recent weeks, and this Sunday we’ll pull out all the stops (to use an organ metaphor). Rather than give the extensive set list of songs, I’ll just encourage you to attend this Sunday’s celebration. It will be a Mardi Gras service not to be missed. And for those of you longing for more classical or traditional choral music, take heart – Lent is almost here!

Curtis Heard, Director of Music


In Sunday School

The children are invited to remain in the service and enjoy the Quinquagesima celebration.

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




Faith and Film: FCCLB Goes to the Oscars!
February 7 to 29: Sundays, 8:30 a.m. and Mondays 7:30 p.m.

By the Rev. Elena Larssen

February is time for Faith and Film! This class with Rev. Larssen will analyze current, Oscar-nominated films for their theological themes and religious metaphors. The same film will be discussed on Sunday morning and Monday evening; see the movie on your own (or grab a friend from FCCLB) or if you have not, come ready to hear spoilers.

Come, listen, discuss!

February 7 and 8: The Big Short
In 2008, Wall Street guru Michael Burry realizes that a number of subprime home loans are in danger of defaulting. Burry bets against the housing market by throwing more than $1 billion of his investors' money into credit default swaps. His actions attract the attention of banker Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), hedge-fund specialist Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and other greedy opportunists. Together, these men make a fortune by taking full advantage of the impending economic collapse in America.

February 14 and 15: Carol
Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) spots the beautiful, elegant Carol (Cate Blanchett) perusing the doll displays in a 1950s Manhattan department store. The two women develop a fast bond that becomes a love with complicated consequences.

Feb 21 and 22: Spotlight
In 2001, editor Marty Baron of The Boston Globe assigns a team of journalists to investigate allegations against John Geoghan, an unfrocked priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys. Led by editor Walter "Robby" Robinson, reporters Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Matt Carroll and Sacha Pfeiffer interview victims and try to unseal sensitive documents. The reporters make it their mission to provide proof of a cover-up of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.

Feb 28 and 29: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Thirty years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, the galaxy faces a new threat from the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order. When a defector named Finn crash-lands on a desert planet, he meets Rey (Daisy Ridley), a tough scavenger whose droid contains a top-secret map. Together, the young duo joins forces with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to make sure the Resistance receives the intelligence concerning the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last of the Jedi Knights.


pancakesPancake Lunch Fundraiser for National Youth Event This Sunday
By Jenny Penner

Need a little extra energy before your board meetings or to fuel up for Super Bowl Sunday? You're in luck! This Sunday First Church Café will be run by the youth (and families) who are fundraising for their trip to the UCC's National Youth Event in Florida this summer.

We will have pancakes, fruit, sausage, juice, milk, and coffee or tea. Gluten-free and vegetarian options will be available.  

Donations of any amount will be gladly accepted. In addition, for every lunch purchased, the youth will be donating $1 toward Souper Bowl of Caring - which will go directly to the UCO Drop-In Center.


California Conference for Equality and Justice
25th Annual Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast
Wednesday, February 24

Long Beach Convention Center
Registration and Boutique: 6:45 - 7:30 am
Program and Breakfast: 7:30 - 9 am
Boutique and Book Signing: 9 - 9:30 am

Please join us at the First Church tables! To reserve your space, contact the office at or 562-436-2256 x100. Tickets are $40 - mail in your check (payable to First Congregational Church) or drop it in the plate on Sunday.

The keynote speaker will be Prof. Margaret Burnham, the founder of Northeastern University School of Law's Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, which engages students in legal matters relating to the 1960s U.S. civil rights movement. In 2010, Professor Burnham headed a team of outside counsel and law students in a landmark case that settled a federal lawsuit: Prof. Burnham's team accused Franklin County Mississippi law enforcement officials of assisting Klansmen in the kidnapping, torture and murder of two 19-year-olds, Henry Dee and Charles Eddie Moore.


Parents' Night Out - Friday, February 5, 6-9 PM
By Jennifer Penner

The first Parents' Night Out of 2016 is here! We hope that your child will be able to join us this Friday, February 5, from 6 to 9 pm. We will have pizza, fruit, and drinks - and lots of fun, crafts, and games! Please RSVP to Jenny Penner at or 562-822-2094.


Ash Wednesday crossAsh Wednesday - Next Week on February 10, 7 PM

Featuring music by Una Voce


Annual Women's Retreat March 11-13

You are invited, and here's what you need to know. To assure your reservation, right away please email Deb Moore at Your check needs to be received by February 22, accompanied by the registration form (available here [pdf] or from Ruth in the office). You may place them in a church envelope with "Women's Retreat" in the memo line, or mail it to the church. The weekend cost will be $140. All meals are included in the cost, Friday evening dinner though Sunday morning breakfast. We reserved only housing with regular beds, so no bunkbeds or walking outside to the shower! If you want to room with a specific person, please indicate, but we make no guarantees. Pilgrim Pines is about 1.5 hours from Long Beach. We can coordinate rides. We must limit our group to 27, so it will have to be first come, first served.

I am delighted to say that the Rev. Katy Hyman has agreed to lead the program portion of the weekend. Below are a few words about the theme.

During the retreat we'll be focusing on excerpts from Glennon Doyle Melton's book, Carry On, Warrior. Glennon is an author, speaker, blogger ( - and proud UCC member! She writes a lot on the importance of being kind, of showing up, of telling our stories, even when life is brutiful (a phrase she coined to encompass both the brutality and the beauty of life). Glennon is a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a recovering addict, a recovering bulimic. Whether you are all of these or none of these, I think you will find something of yourself in her writing. She is energetic, funny, honest, and deeply insightful. I hope you will join us as we explore ourselves through the lens of her work.
Hope you can make it!

Deb Moore


Church Council Members-at-Large
By Karen Miller

Your newly elected Church Council met for the first time last week. In addition to the officers and representatives from the boards and committees, the church elects members-at-large whose job is to "act as liaisons among the Congregation, the Moderator, and the Church Council to keep open the lines of communication." Your members-at-large are: one-year term, Deb Buller; two-year term, a team effort by Matt Balin and Mark Wheeler; three-year term, Karen Miller. So if you have questions, comments, complaints, kudos, or requests, please give one or more of us a call or an email, and we'll be happy to bring them to the Council. You will find our contact information in the online Membership Directory. Do call or write. We're here to serve!


Flowers in the Sanctuary

Beginning in March, the cost for the two flower arrangements will be $100. This increase in cost is long overdue, as our florist has provided the arrangements at what is basically her cost.

I am now taking reservations for March and April dates. I will have the calendar this Sunday at the luncheon, so look for me so we can reserve your date.

Pam Chapin, Flower Lady


True Brass Choir Concert - Saturday, February 6, 7 pm

True Brass Concert Feb 6 7 pm


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.



Parish Concerns

Your thoughts and prayers are requested for Charles Behm (Clarence Dendy's friend); Sheryl Chambers (Judy Crawford's friend); Jim Snelling; Harold Curtis; Ruth Mitchell (John Lashbrook's mother); and Natalie Snell (Cynthia Snell's mother).

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.




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: