The Pilgrim - January 15, 2017
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The Pilgrim - January 15, 2017


Sunday Celebration Notes

Celebrating God's Love Every Sunday at 10 am
Dear First Church Community,

What a wonderful start to a new year! 

We have had two robust weekends in 2017: first, our inaugural Brunch Church service (spiritually fulfilling and delicious) and our Epiphany Sunday when we celebrated the gifts of the Magi and acknowledged the gifts of our community to the Preserving Our Legacy capital campaign. 

Now, we gather to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, parading on Saturday and having a special service of recognition on Sunday, with words and music that help us keep alive the salience and significance of Dr. King’s life and ministry of justice. 

Starting a new year is a blessing; I always enjoy cracking open a new calendar and thinking about the year ahead. For First Church, this year holds both time-honored traditions and new ways of "being church" to serve the world with compassion. A few dates you may wish to save are listed here; life can get busy and I know that you will not want to miss some of the upcoming opportunities to deepen your faith life, connect with the community for fun and friendship, and make a contribution to the well-being of our neighbors. Of course, there are many other activities and regularly scheduled events that occur on our church calendar and many more important events will continue to appear as our boards begin their 2017 planning. May our year ahead be blessed, and may your 2017 be filled with peace!

The Rev. Elena Larssen

In This Issue

Sunday Celebration Notes
Christian Education
Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade
Memorial Service for Billie Pownall
Movie Night
Heifer International
Parents' Night Out
Thank You from DAYS
Drop-In Center News
Parish Concerns
Deadline: Tuesday at 1 pm
Winter - Spring 2017 Save the Dates:
  • Annual Church Council Retreat, February 4
  • Annual Lunch and Meeting of the Congregation, February 12
  • Ash Wednesday, March 1
  • California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ) Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast, March 2 Rev. Larssen will serve as CoChair with Rex Richardson, Vice Mayor.
  • Chapman University Founders Day, March 11 Tracy Halter Balin and Matt Balin will be honored as UCC People of the Year for their extraordinary leadership with the Pilgrim Pines Camping Program.
  • Lenten Prayer Retreat with Rev. Scott Landis (Mission Hills UCC), March 25
  • Holy Week and Easter 2017, April 9-16
  • Urban Community Outreach Annual Gala, April 22
  • Annual Women’s Retreat at Pilgrim Pines Camp, April 28-30
  • Pride Sunday and Parade, May 21
  • Confirmation Sunday, June 4
  • Annual Young People’s Concert and Ice Cream Social, June 11
  • DAYS Long Beach Annual Summer in the City Gala, June 17

In Sunday School

Theme: Big Call
Scripture: Isaiah 49:1-7

Adult Education

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

Don’t Miss the 29th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade – Saturday 9 AM

By Bob Kalayjian, Board of Social Justice and Outreach
We will be gathering and decorating on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard beginning at 9 am, with a parade start at 10:30 am.  Our setup location is opposite Ninth Street (#49). We have been in this parade for many years and want everyone to come make our march meaningful to the community and bear witness to the civil rights movement, the important beginning of a long transition to a truly equitable democracy. Children welcome, come one and all!

Memorial Service for Billie Pownall - Sunday at 12:15

There will be a memorial service for Billie Pownall on Sunday, January 15 at 12:15 pm, preceded by a coffee hour hosted by her daughter, Judy Karinen, after the morning service.

First Church Movie Night - Friday, January 20

By Kirsten Pickus & Jenny Penner      
Please join us for a fun movie night on Friday, January 20 at 5:30 pm!  We’ll be showing the delightfully postmodern fairy tale “The Princess Bride” on a giant movie screen in Patterson Hall.  We’ll start the film about 6ish (or as soon as it’s dark enough), but come at 5:30 p.m. to get yourself situated and have some time to chat before the movie starts.  “The Princess Bride” is kid- and adult-friendly, has a run time of 98 minutes, and earned a 97% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 
Feel free to bring a picnic dinner for yourself and your crew, as well as pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, and the like. Bring the kids and wear pajamas! Invite friends and make it the start of a fun night in downtown Long Beach! Come straight from work and relax with your First Church friends! Bring a snack to share, or enjoy the popcorn and licorice we’ll have on hand! Regardless, just come and enjoy a fun time in community with others!

3rd and Cedar: The Preservation Blog

By Allison King

Check out the men of the retrofit on the preservation blog this week! Scroll to the bottom to see an interesting accidental snapshot.

Congratulations First Church! We Sent Many Animals to the Developing World

By Bob Kalayjian, Board of Social Justice and Outreach

Our church collected and sent $1440 to Heifer International to support the developing world with all kinds of animals and other forms of support. Thank you for supporting this worthy project.

Parents' Night Out Kicks Off 2017

By Tracy Halter-Balin

The kids of First Church had a grand time together this past Friday at the first Parents’ Night Out of 2017. We played games, made (and ate) marshmallow structures, learned new card games, and enjoyed pizza and juice around the dinner tables. We talked about our hopes for the new year, and the word “peace” was a popular answer. I made sure they didn’t mean “pizza” and they didn’t – although everyone agreed that we all are thankful for that too.  

Our next PNO will be Friday, February 3, in the Ramsay Dining Hall. Enjoy a few of our highlights! And huge appreciation to Jenny and Lily Penner, Matt and Marley Balin, Nancy Boyd-Batstone, and Sarah Schoolcraft for being awesome adults spending their Friday night with 18 energetic, happy kids!


Thank You from DAYS Long Beach

By Nancy Valencia, Executive Director
“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things but just look
what they can do when they stick together.”
-Verna M. Kelly
DAYS Long Beach would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to First Church for your ongoing support of our holiday gift drive.

Since 1970, DAYS Long Beach has been a mainstay in the community. Today DAYS Long Beach provides services in three key areas: youth education and support; leadership and academic success; and parent and family support creating continuity for our children to carry them through to adulthood.

One of the most meaningful ways to build and sustain the DAYS LB community is through our holiday gift program in partnership with First Congregational Church. Every year we identify our neediest families, and this year we provided gifts to over 130 children and youth and holiday food bags to over 65 families. Starting in early December, phone calls from second-, third-, and fourth-graders reminded us to not forget them, asking us to make sure they were on our holiday list. As you can imagine, those phone calls are sweet, sad, and heartbreaking. Wrapping, decorating and packing bags, calling to confirm addresses, purchasing grocery gift cards, and then delivering is only possible with the aid of First Church and the DAYS LB team, which this year included members of the DAYS LB board, our parents, Maria Gabino and Herlinda Haro, and DAYS LB Leaders Long Beach youth group.

In mid-December, a student in our after school program came to tutoring, slammed her backpack down, put her head down on the desk, and cried for the next two hours. We let her know that we were available to talk but she declined. When leaving she informed us that her parents had just told her and her brother that they could not afford Christmas this year. The family was unable to celebrate Christmas due to their apartment complex closing and the need to save to cover moving costs. Several weeks later, we knocked on her door with gifts, a food bag, and a Christmas tree loaded with decorations. The tree was provided by a DAYS LB board member and the decorations came to us via Edric Guise and his sister, Liz. It is difficult to capture all the feelings circulating that afternoon when we approached the apartment, but I know there was an enormous amount of love in the air.

All of the DAYS Long Beach team is deeply grateful for the support shown this past holiday season. We would especially like to thank Ruth Warkentin, Yvonne SaMarion, and all the custodians who assisted in allowing us to work for two weeks in various church spaces in preparation for delivery. I think it would be fair to say, that DAYS Long Beach loves First Church.

Drop-In Center News

By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

See you Sunday, “if the Lord is willing and the creek doesn’t rise.” Kind of a take-off on that old saying from Uncle Wiggly is what happened Sunday. Well, the creek didn’t rise out of its banks here and God must have been willing, because we were able to open and serve our client guests! However our Operations Manager, Cherry Bush, was still under the weather and couldn’t come in. I woke up with the stomach flu and a fever so we had to think fast of what we could do.

We also were scheduled to have the UCO Drop-In-Center work out of the downstairs kitchen with fewer ovens, so Chef Melody had planned a simple meal of hot dogs, soup and salad. That helped. Praise God! He sent some very faithful volunteers including my husband Terry, board member Julie Lie, and staff members Ann Lampe and Diane Gomez. We didn’t have any volunteer coordinators, so some of the First Church church members pitched in to help too, even though they had the big Capital Campaign celebration brunch in Patterson Hall to assemble. Thank you, everyone! We had a donation of 100 new blankets from Josh Ebrahemi. Men’s shoes were also donated by Charlie Feder and put under the tree for guests to receive.

Calls from client guests started coming in early. One couple, scheduled to leave on Monday by Greyhound to go back to Utah, called to say that their identity and tickets had been stolen while they attended church and had to leave their belonging outside. I sent my husband with my copy of the paperwork to go over and talk with the people at Greyhound and he successfully had a new set of tickets printed out and got confirmation that if the couple had just one picture identity between them they could board the bus. My confirmation number wouldn’t let us navigate around the Greyhound website to accomplish all that. I also sent him to UCO with local bus passes, as I had a call that one of our men had been given a job and needed bus passes to get to City of Industry. Another homeless mom called to say she was sick and needed motel vouchers so she and the children didn’t have to be out in the pending rain. I was able to do that over the phone with one of our kind motel owners.

So again, I praise God for providing ways we could function even though we had challenges. Thank you all for your partnership! Don’t forget to help with the city homeless count!


Parish Concerns

Your thoughts and prayers are requested for Ben Loa.

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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