The Pilgrim - February 26, 2017
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The Pilgrim - February 26, 2017


Dear Church, 

Churches pray.  Do we pray because we are a church?  Or, are we a church because we pray?

Or, what if we don’t pray, because praying is uncomfortable or unfamiliar to us?

Prayer is often challenging for progressive people and those who have more humanistic theologies.  But the riches of a prayer life can be real for people no matter where they rest - or are restless - on a theological map.

Prayer is not just for those who grew up praying, and it doesn’t all fit into one tidy box – much like people at First Church!

This is why the Diaconate and Sacred Practices have joined with me to invite the Rev. Dr. Scott Landis to lead A Prayer Retreat for People Who Think Praying Is Weird on March 25 here at First Church.

John Forrest and I tried to come up with a more serious-sounding event name: Prayer for Progressive People, Prayer / Meditation / Good Vibes … but the heart of the matter is that praying isn’t second nature to everyone.  It might take practice! Prayer can be a meaningful spiritual practice in a variety of forms for a variety of people. It’s a practice that any of us can try, and this Lent, we are welcoming Dr. Landis to give us a sampler. Together, we can experience guided meditation, reflective writing, labyrinth walks, and more in a friendly and non-judgmental environment.

Scott is a United Church of Christ minister, spiritual director, contemplative, and avid swimmer. He received his B.A. from Temple University in Philadelphia, M.Div. from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and D.Min. from Princeton Theological Seminary.  Ordained for over 35 years, he is currently the (Senior) Pastor of Mission Hills UCC in San Diego, which is an Open and Affirming congregation. Scott is faculty for UCC CREDO and our SoCal/Nevada Conference’s Communities of Practice programs. He is married to Randy Spicocchi and has three grown children and one granddaughter who has stolen his heart. “Whether you are a social justice person or a worship-wonk, everyone has their own spiritual style, and there is a prayer practice that can help you connect with the Creator, Spirit, or ‘Divine Other,’” says Scott.

A Prayer Retreat for People Who Think Praying Is Weird
Saturday, March 25, 2017
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. @FCCLB
$25 per person, includes morning coffee and lunch
No one will be turned away for lack of funds;
childcare will happily be provided upon request.
RSVP required to the church office by March 20.
Pay online at
or reserve your seat at

This Lent, we will have many wonderful opportunities to serve the community, celebrate the arts, and work for justice in challenging times … make sure you are also nurturing your inner self, and consider coming to pray/meditate/vibe with us!

The Rev. Elena Larssen

CCEJ Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast March 2 -
Sit with
First Church!

Contact the church office to reserve your seat.

Info below.

In This Issue

Prayer Retreat
Music on Sunday
Christian Education
Serendipity Suppers
Town Hall Discussion: Immigration and Sanctuary
Walking Group
Women's Retreat Planning
CCEJ Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast
Lenten Class
Spirituality and Support Group
Baking Group
Pilgrim Pines: It's a Spring Thing
New Members
Drop-In Center News
Parish Concerns
Deadline: Tuesday at 1 pm

The Rev. Scott Landis

Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

Once a year, we at First Church hold a worship celebration that sets the bar for celebrations. We call it Quinquagesima, and we plan it like a Mardi Gras party. We’ve had rock bands, mariachi groups, steel drums, and Irish folk musicians in the past, but this year we will be returning to the more traditional Dixieland band. They will be accompanying the choir and playing the hymns as well as providing some entertaining music on their own. So this Sunday, plan on tapping your toes and raising the roof as we celebrate! See you there,

Curtis Heard, Director of Music and Composer-in-Residence

In Sunday School

Theme: Glorious Mystery
Scripture: Matthew 17:1-9

Adult Education

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

Friendship, Fun, Food!!! The 2017 Serendipity Suppers Program Wants YOU!!!

By Randall Goddard, Bill Peck, Sara Schoenfelder, and Kirsten Pickus
Serendipity Suppers are small gatherings centered around a meal at a members’ home in which the guests don’t learn the address of their event until 24-48 hours beforehand. Moreover, guests don’t know who else will be present until they walk into the host’s home. Events include a meal, a game to help everyone get to know one another better, a few pre-determined conversation starters suggested by our ministers, and hopefully lots of good times with good people!
Anyone who is interested in participating in a 2017 Serendipity Suppers event needs to complete a short survey by clicking here.
Be sure to save the date of Saturday, April 1 for the first Serendipity Supper, and complete the survey even if you can’t participate in this first event so we’ll have your info for next time!

Town Hall Discussion on Immigration and Sanctuary Cities - Thursday

By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

On Thursday, February 23, at 6 pm First Congregational Church will host a Long Beach town hall style discussion on immigration and sanctuary cities. The purpose of this meeting is to gather members of the wider Long Beach community who are affected by recent executive orders on immigration to reflect, learn, and respond as a community. The program will feature a panel discussion by leaders of various Long Beach and LA organizations. You are invited! Please plan to come to this event to learn about ways our congregation can respond to the needs of our community. Translation will be available for those who speak Spanish. 

FCCLB Walking Group Presents: Seascape Trail - Saturday

Saturday, February 25, at 8:30 am 
Where: Point Vicente Interpretative Center
31501 Palos Verdes Dr W, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
Facebook page

Women's Retreat Planning Meeting This Sunday

By Debra Klar Bond

Come to the planning meeting for the Women's Retreat right after church this Sunday, February 26, in the Pownall Room. This year's focus is yoga for all abilities, a way to enhance your spirituality through body, mind and spirit! The date for the retreat is April 28-30.

Sit with First Church! Contact the church office to reserve your seat.

Lenten Class Starts March 5

By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

During the season of Lent, Rev. Douglas will be leading an adult education session on the book Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower by the USA Today columnist Tom Krattenmaker. Click here to order the book from Amazon. We will also have a few copies available at church. While the discussion will be based around the book, reading the text is not a requirement to participate. 
Class Topics
March 5 - Killer Instinct
March 12 - Sexploitation
March 19 - High Anxiety
March 26 - Saved from What?
April 2 - Incarceration Nation and the Invisible and Forgotten
April 9 - Real Victory


Sunday Morning Spirituality and Support Group to Begin on March 5

By Dale Whitney and Chris Bobo
The weekly Sunday Morning Spirituality and Support group, led by Chris Bobo and Dale Whitney, will begin meeting on March 5, and all are welcome. It will be a drop-in group for adults - both regular attenders and people who just drop in for the day. The meetings will take place every Sunday morning from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. in the Third Street landing on the second floor, at the top of the stairs between the Pownall Room and the balcony. The format will be a selection from the “These Days” devotional booklet, followed by group discussion of the ways in which the reading may inspire one to meet the joys and challenges of a spiritual life in an atmosphere of respect and compassion. Participants must be adults willing to follow the leaders’ guidance in a space where all who want to may share without any one person monopolizing the conversation.

Inaugural Workshop of the First Church Baking Group - March 18

By John Lockhart & Sam Johnson
Please save the date of Saturday, March 18 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. for a fun cookie decorating workshop with the newly formed First Church Baking Group! A great time will be had by all! Look for more information and an opportunity to sign up in upcoming issues of The Pilgrim.

Second Annual It’s a Spring Thing
Pilgrim Pines - March 31 to April 2

From Tracy Halter-Balin
The wonderful Rev. Allysa DeWolf will be keynoting on the theme “Mixtape of Our Lives.” While we are able to use the conference Young Adult budget to make this event extra affordable for those 30 and under, this is an event for adults of all ages! We want people of every age older than 18 there!
Who: Anyone 18 or over and graduated from high school
What: A spring retreat full of personal and spiritual growth, fun and friendship
Where: Pilgrim Pines Camp
When: Friday March 29 at 6 pm to Sunday April 2 at 11 am
Price: $100 (see below to get $55 off)
The Southern California Nevada Conference of the UCC is sponsoring campers 30 and younger to attend for $45! Limited number of sponsorships available. Make sure to claim your spot today! Please pass the word around and invite anyone you think would be interested! For more information, email:

New Members

During the service on February 12, four individuals joined in the covenant of membership with First Church.
Kevin Bebe
I decided to join membership at First Congregational Church because I was looking for a Christ-centered community passionate for social justice, and I want to be a part of the incredible work First Church does in the community. For the past 25 years, I have worked in community-based non-profit organizations developing innovative programs for children, teens, adults, and seniors. Recently I resigned from non-profit work and have taken another career path working for a Long Beach law firm. Regardless, I am passionate about community programing and as a member I hope my experience and skills will be useful to help strengthen the vision and mission at First Congregational Church.

Bill Duch
What brought me to the church four years ago was an invitation to sing with the choir in the first production of October Mourning. I enjoyed the experience so much I stayed on and became a regular member of the choir. It became more and more clear to me that the church and its mission were very much aligned with my thinking about arts, social justice, and service that I decided to take the final step and become a member of the congregation. I count myself among the "Jesus adjacent." I've lived in the Bluff Park section of Long Beach for the last seven years, after having spent most of my adult life on the east coast. I'm a retired market research professional, and I now work part time as a realtor. 

David Plowman
I came to attending First Church three years ago after a major transition in my life. Since then, church has always played a key role in my life. I knew it was time to officially become a member when, after a recent medical procedure, I realized that 90 percent of my visitors were friends I’d met from church. I’m grateful for the tremendously positive impact the church and its members have had on my life, and I’m looking forward to being able to continue to pay God’s blessing forward.

Dorian Wilde
I began attending First Congregational Church of Long Beach in July seeking solace. The person I'd built my life around had moved north for work, I was about to lose my car, and I had started to define myself as a student. I made the decision to join when I realized I had found a family - while I miss my soul mate every single day, First Church makes it a little easier, providing me with focus and inspiration.


Drop-In Center News

By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

Sunday, February 19, was the third Sunday of the month, and as we expected we had quite a crowd of people come to us. It had been raining for several days and everyone came in a little gloomy. They began cheering up a little as they saw how beautiful Patterson Hall was decorated with hearts for Valentine’s month. Lovely paper hearts were sprayed all over the walls and a pitcher of red carnations was on the beverage table. Patterson Hall was warm and cozy, and the aroma of good food filled the air. With school back in session, more volunteers are starting to come to volunteer.

Our free store with tables of clothing, blankets, shoes, and hygiene items lined the edges of the patio. The three outreach workers were very busy all day talking with people. The computer lab was very busy too. We kept cooking more food in order to have enough. There were not enough chairs for people to sit down and eat. The chair situation keeps getting worse each week! We gave a family some money for laundry and diapers and another gentleman help for his family as his construction jobs have been non-existent because of the rain.

The director from AIM Living Spaces came to talk with me and see if together we could do more for our clients and get them into apartments. They are based in Torrance. I told her I’d do what I could, but the situation is bleak with not enough resources or apartments available. We are getting more and more referrals asking us to try to help people.

Tonight, Tuesday night, February 21, is a study session at Long Beach City Council Chambers to discuss Affordable Housing in Long Beach. I hope it is effective and we can figure out what we can do to change this homeless situation and do something as quickly as possible.


Parish Concerns

Your thoughts and prayers are requested for Yvonne SaMarion upon the death of her aunt; Manny Becerra (Alison Morales' student); Julie Corell and her family (Ruth Keller's friend); Dan Alexander (Eillen Badilla's friend's son); Nik Johnson (Amy Peer's nephew); Rochelle Bell (relative of Donna Hutt Stapfer Bell); and Margaret Brown.

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.

Copyright © 2017 First Congregational Church of Long Beach, All rights reserved.

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