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

The Pilgrim - March 22, 2016

Sunday Celebration Notes
Lifting Up God's Love Every Sunday at 10 am

Dear Church,

What a joy it was to be back in service with you this past Sunday! Thank you all for your kind words and signs of welcome.

This Sunday we will celebrate one of the “High Holy Days” of the First Church liturgical year: Pride Sunday. We will gather at 10 a.m. for our service before we join the community in the Long Beach Pride Parade. Our participation in this parade is a physical reminder to the LGBT community that God’s love is expansive and all encompassing. I hope that you will consider participating in this important outreach to our community.

Words from the Board of Outreach and Social Justice about participation in the Pride Parade:

The 33rd Annual Pride Parade kicks off after church this Sunday, May 22. As usual we will be toward the back of the parade in order that those who wish to join in the fun and march (everyone!) will have time to come down to Ocean Blvd. after church.

The following needs and suggestions should be noted:

  1. Exact location/cross street on Ocean will be announced at the church service.
  2. Marchers will be blessed and empowered by the clergy at the service.
  3. We need families and children, wagons, strollers, trikes and bikes, etc.
  4. Anyone not able to walk the parade should contact Bob Kalayjian to secure a seat in our two convertibles (robkal@me.com or 562-754-5334). There are two seats left!
  5. Water and orange slices provided.
  6. Arrange for car pooling and shuttling from church to our location. Anyone who can shuttle folks to the site on their way home from church should contact Bob at the email/phone above.
  7. Anyone interested in helping staff the booth at the festival Saturday or Sunday should contact Bill Kuehl (wokuehl@yahoo.com or 714-538-9408).

Our church has been in 32 of the 33 parades and we have a booth in the festival area to promote our very early, strong and continued commitment to embracing members of the LGBT community. Please come down and march in support of that beautiful heritage.

The Rev. John Forrest Douglas


In this issue:

Music This Sunday

Christian Education

Youth to March!

MenAlive Saturday

Summer Sunday School - Volunteers Needed

Walking for Health

Board of Supervisors Candidates Forum

Young People's Concert

Church Picnic

Hygiene Items Drive Update

Are You Graduating?

Send a Kid to Camp

Poet's Notes

Summer in the City

Drop-In Center News

Email Hack


Parish Concerns

For more information

The Pilgrim - current and past editions of the newsletter


First Church website

Contact us

Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

"Sorida" is a term of greeting in the Shona language of Zimbabwe, similar to "shalom" in Hebrew. Composer Rosephanye Powell has written a work called "Sorida (A Zimbabwe Greeting)" that the choir will be singing this Sunday. Using both Shona and English words, it is a song that welcomes all as neighbors. It will also feature Just Cuz as a special vocal group. You’ll recognize them as Lisa’s back-up singers in last Sunday’s service! The music will have you swaying back and forth in the pews!

Curtis Heard, Director of Music


In Sunday School

Theme: Voice of Wisdom
Scripture: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

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




FCC ZONE Youth Joining in the Parade!
By Tracy Halter-Balin

In place of Sunday Night Beloved Bells and ZONE, all middle and high school youth are invited and encouraged to join in the Pride Parade festivities after church this Sunday. Jeremy Morales will be at the parade site early, so call him or send a message to find the FCC group! His number is 562-756-2166. 


MenAlive at First Church - This Saturday, May 21, 7:30 PM

Men Alive

No charge; a free will offering will be taken.


volunteering imageSummer Sunday School - Volunteers Needed
By Jennifer Penner, Board of Christian Education

Summer Sunday School is nearly here! In order to give our program-year Sunday School teachers a well-deserved break over the summer, we'll have a one-room Summer Sunday School for preschool through fifth-graders. We need four teachers each Sunday: one lead teacher and three assistants. Older youth are welcome to sign up to be assistant teachers, or they are welcome to stay in church for the service. Our theme this summer is "Compassion." The curriculum will be provided, and if you request in advance, we can also provide all the supplies. There are also two Sundays when the Sunday School class will be helping in the Drop-In Center.

Ever wondered what fun things the kids do when they run out the door to Sunday School? Wonder no more!  Sign up to participate in this fun and rewarding way to get to know the kids in our church community! You can sign up for slots on this site. Questions? Contact John Forrest Douglas or Jenny Penner.


Walking for Health

The next meeting of the walking group Walking for Health will be May 28.


Board of Supervisors Candidates Forum at First Church

On Tuesday, May 31, Greater Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization and other local organizations will be hosting a candidates’ forum for the open Fourth District County Supervisor’s seat. The Supervisors direct millions of dollars for housing, health care, mental health and social services in our area. The forum will start at 6:30 pm at First Congregational Church. Make an informed choice on our next County Supervisor, June 7th.


Young People’s Concert – Sunday, June 5
By Tracy Halter-Balin

All members and friends of FCC are cordially invited to attend our annual Young People’s Concert coming soon on Sunday, June 5, at 1:30 pm in our Sanctuary. Plan to stick around after our First Church Café and board meetings and enjoy performances by all of the youth music groups of the church, as well as solo performances by many of our talented youth. After the concert, all are invited to join us for an Ice Cream Social in the Koinonia Room.


All Church Family Picnic
Sunday, July 31

Put it on your calendar and save the date. There’s food, fun and great community for people of all ages on this Sunday afternoon at El Dorado Park. It’s an event you don’t want to miss!


Spring Hygiene Drive Update
By Alison Morales, Urban Community Outreach

Thank you, First Church! Urban Community Outreach is so grateful for the hygiene products you've been donating this month. We're hoping you'll continue to help us gather up a few specific items for our weekly guests at the Drop-in Center. We're collecting toothbrushes, toothpaste, and baby wipes every Sunday in May. You'll easily spot a box for donations in the narthex, and we'd really appreciate your help. Together, we can help our beloved community feel fresher and healthier!

Baby wipestoothbrushestoothpaste


Are You Graduating?
By Tracy Halter-Balin

We will soon be honoring our 2016 graduates from high school and college. If you or someone you know is graduating, please send information to Tracy Halter-Balin at bellgirl99@hotmail.com by May 29. Please include the name of the school and type of degree that's being received. For our high school students, please also include college or "next-step" plans. We love celebrating these milestone achievements! Thanks!


Help Send a Kid to Camp
By Tracy Halter-Balin

A long time ago, when I was a camper, I remember my mom taking on a part-time job so that my brother and I could go to Pilgrim Pines for a week. I have no idea how much a week away cost at that time, but I’m sure it was enough to make us tighten our belts a bit. I also remember the thrill of being the recipient of an First Church campership! What an honor! I know camp made (and makes) me a better person. You’ve heard it before: being in nature, in community, is good for the soul.

And now it’s time to give back! While time and talents are always appreciated, what really makes camperships possible for our youth is your treasure. Pilgrim Pines costs $425 per week per camper. That only covers the cost of food and housing, so there is no profit going toward the camp itself. Some of our families have three or four kids who really love and need that time away. Can you help? We’ve made donating super simple – just go to the church onling donation page and you’ll see Pilgrim Pines Camperships. It’s that simple. Any amount is great and much appreciated.


Poet's Notes
By Tina Datsko de Sánchez

This week our celebration of Pride Sunday will be carried beyond the church walls by many First Church folks marching or riding in the Pride Parade.  In 2014 I had the opportunity to explore some of the roots of this celebration when the Rev. Elena Larssen commissioned me to write a poem about Harvey Milk.  To prepare I again watched the film Milk, as well as the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk.  I also read many of Harvey Milk’s speeches, which was a wonderful way to get to know him better.  I offer the poem to honor his legacy.


Without hope, not only gays, but those blacks, the Asians, the disabled, seniors, the us’es, without hope the us’es will give up. I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it life is not worth living. And you and you and you have gotta give ‘em hope.
                                                                        --Harvey Milk, 1978

In a black and white photo, Harvey Milk’s wide smile
welcomes.  And his clear-seeing eyes,
those eyes of a visionary, see a future
of inclusion, see that he can lead
the us’es of the world to the promised land,
even if he cannot enter it.

We’ve got to come out, he says.
We’ve got to be true to ourselves—
gay and straight, every ethnicity, age or ability—
because authenticity liberates.
The truth will set us free
from myths and stereotypes,
from the futility of bigotry,
from hate that is always born of fear,
from recurring cycles of violence.

Because love is bigger and wider and stronger than fear.
Though he is taken from us, we find each other.
We step out of the closets and tombs of our fear.
With our hearts on fire, we light up the night.
We become a river of light,
pouring from the Castro to City Hall,
pouring to Sacramento and Washington, D.C.,
pouring around the world.

And each person standing in the light
of their authentic self
becomes a beacon to family, friends and neighbors
to come out of their own fear,
so together, standing shoulder to shoulder,
we live out God’s love and justice.


It’s Time to Celebrate “Summer in the City”
By Nancy Valencia, Director, DAYS Long Beach

DAYS Long Beach is pleased to announce its 47th year providing a free summer day camp to children and youth in Long Beach. DAYS Long Beach cordially invites our wonderful First Church community to our annual “Summer in the City” event on Saturday evening, June 4.

Join us Saturday, June 4
Patterson Hall
6 PM to 9 PM
Hors d’oeuvres at 6 PM, dinner follows at 6:45 PM
Entertainment by our very own DAYS campers

Tickets: $ 50; $375 for a table of 8

Go to www.dayslb.org to order tickets and/or make credit card payment. To pay by check mail to DAYS Long Beach, 1230 E. Wardlow Road, Long Beach, CA 90807. Please make checks payable to DAYS Long Beach.

Summer in the City


Drop-In Center News
By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

It was another busy weekend for Urban Community Outreach. On Saturday we partnered with Molina Healthcare in a Long Beach Health Care Symposium from 9 am to 2 pm at Long Beach City College.
Sunday, May 15, was a good Sunday. A team of volunteers from Molina Healthcare came to volunteer and were very helpful. Dr. Sophia Momand and the Hope Students came to provide their services.

Hot nourishing meals were served to the guests, and announcements were made that we would be holding a new shoe and sock give away next Sunday, May 22. Shoe and sock manufacturers want to donate these. The guests were happy about that! Since then reporters have picked up on that, and looks like we’ll also have some gently used shoes and clothing plus hygiene items from First Church so we have something for everyone. We also announced that Molina is providing a free healthcare clinic Saturday, May 21, from 7 am to 3 pm at Cabrillo High School. If anyone needs some healthcare services check it out.

The young lady we gave money to for gas and work-related costs got the job! Yeah! She came in wearing her badge and beaming from ear to ear! She brought her son to meet me, too. Very cute little guy. They hold the pay for two weeks, so we gave her money to help with motel vouchers so she could shower and rest at night after toiling hard all day. She signed the receipt and I also gave her a list of lower-cost motels. (It’s so great to be able to make copies in our office now!)

I gave a disabled gentleman guidance about signing up for Section 8 since it is now open and they are giving preference to disabled people and seniors. I hope that helps him.

Some of our guests will be receiving a certificate of having 15 units of college credit earned in the Antioch University Bridge program here at FCC. It will be a beautiful ceremony at UCLA. What a wonderful partnership!

Thank you for your FCC partnership! Together we are making a lot of good things possible for our guests!



Email Hack

Dear Church,

We discovered Tuesday morning that my elarssen@firstchurchlb.org email account had been hacked by a person requesting banking information. The church office is handling this with our outsourced IT worker and there should be no further problems, but should you receive a strange email requesting banking information do not respond – contact me or the church office with any questions. 


Rev. Elena Larssen


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 Ligia Jiménez (Eillen Badilla's friend); Jan Waggoner, and Gary Shelton.

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.




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: office@firstchurchlb.org