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

The Pilgrim - March 27, 2016

Easter lily image

Easter at First Church

9 am Breakfast

9:30 am Easter Egg Hunt

10 am Service of Celebration

11 am Easter Nibbles


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

Dear Church, 

Whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!

We say those words every Sunday, and they are truer than ever on Easter when so many friends and visitors come to First Church. This year, we are anticipating the beauty of the service, the playful sounds of our children at their Egg Hunt, and looking forward to celebrating this season of renewal together.

When you invite your friends, please make sure they know they can park for free in the Civic Center Parking Structure. It’s very important that our holiday visitors know that we provide ample free parking because we are happy to have guests.

Blessing on your Holy Week … and as we journey to Easter, may we know that our joys and challenges are shared with a Spirit of Hope that is alive in each one of us~

The Rev. Elena Larssen


Maundy Thursday Service

Tomorrow, March 24, 7 pm
In the Sanctuary


In this issue:


Maundy Thursday

Music This Sunday

Christian Education

Flowers for the Cross

Youth Music News

Game Night

Organ Recital: "Nordic Delight and Classic Rock"

Poet's Notes

Register for Camp!

Meet the New Members

Help for John Forrest Douglas

Bread for the World Offering of Letters

ZONE Lock-In

Palm Sunday

News about Bill Cole

Screening of "Feminist" at Art Theatre Tonight

Drop-In-Center News


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

“Alleluia,” which is the Greek version of the Hebrew “Hallelujah,” is an interjection which literally means “Praise ye Jah,” or “Praise God.” It can also be a noun meaning a hymn or song of praise to God. In the Roman Catholic tradition, the word is excluded from the liturgy during Lent, a custom that I apply to the music that the choir sings at First Church. On Easter, however, all the pent-up “alleluias” will burst out in abundance. One of the anthems this Sunday contains at least fifty or sixty! (I’ll give you one guess what the title is!)

The second anthem is one that we introduced in 2012, called “Magdalene’s Song,” which is my setting of Tina Datsko de Sánchez’s poem. The first part is sung by our soprano soloist Megan O’Toole, who laments Jesus death, but gradually comes to understand that love is still alive. The anthem ends with the full choir singing a song of praise to God.

Of course, the joy of Easter is even more meaningful taken in the context of Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday, the choir will sing “Were You There,” arranged by Cory Johnson, who is the organist at Riviera United Methodist Church in Torrance. The bell choir will also be playing at this service, which will include a Tenebrae, or “service of darkness.” Those who attend on Thursday will have a heightened sense of the “alleluias” on Sunday!

Curtis Heard, Director of Music


In Sunday School

Pre-K - 5 Topic: Easter Day
Jr. & Sr. High Topic: John 20:1-18

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




Flowers for the Cross
By Tracy Halter-Balin

Please bring your beautiful flowers to church at 8:30 am on Sunday to help decorate our Easter cross in the courtyard. Thank you!


Youth Music News
By Tracy Halter-Balin

To the families of All Seasons Choir singers and other young children of FCCLB,

For the past few weeks in children’s choir, we have been working with Paul Boyd-Batstone as we learn the music from "The Great Kapok Tree," based on the wonderful book by Lynne Cherry. Paul composed the music. We will be presenting this fun and perfect Earth Day musical on Sunday, April 17 during the morning worship service. I’d like to invite all children who would like to be a part of this production to join us!

There are lines to learn, songs to memorize, more parts to fill and costumes and set designs to figure out. In order to get the most out of this jungle adventure, attendance at Sunday morning practices is really important. There are two additional dates that must be attended, Sunday, April 10 at 11:30 - 12:30 and Saturday, April 16 from 10 am to noon, so that the staging and choreography can be fine tuned. Also, I have CDs of the music available so be sure to get one this week!

Please come to the following rehearsals:

Sunday, April 3 - 9 am
Sunday, April 10 - 9 am and 11:30 am
Saturday, April 16 - 10 am to 12:00 noon
Sunday, April 17 - 9 am rehearse and 10 am performance

Let me know if you have any questions. This is going to be a lot of fun!


Game Night Is Back!
By Yvonne SaMarion

Friday night at First Church is Game Night! The adult gamesters of First Church will gather upstairs in the Pownall room on April 1 at 6:30. Join us for a potluck dinner (please bring a dish that will feed four). Drinks and an evening of fun with fun people will be provided. This month is wide open as to what game will be played – we’ll have a variety available. If you have a favorite game – bring it with you. Your favorite game may win the night! Come one, come all and join in the fun. We’ll have the welcome mat out for you!



Organ Recital April 8: "Nordic Delight and Classic Rock"

Organ Recital


Poet's Notes
By Tina Datsko de Sánchez

Our Lenten journey has brought us to Holy Week. I am grateful for all the thoughtful comments people have shared with me about how the poetry has touched them. For Good Friday/Easter Vigil Saturday, Rev. John Forrest Douglas came up with the idea of making a video of the poem “The Tomb” and emailing the video to the congregation. Six readers gave voice to the poem: Tim Mountain, Carver Cossey, Heather Chambers, Curtis Heard, Eddie Nazarro, and myself. The video will be coming soon (this Friday) to an inbox near you!


Have You Registered for Pilgrim Pines Summer Camp Yet?
By Tracy Halter-Balin, Summer Camp Director

Registration is up and running and we want YOU to join us for a week of fun and memory-making up on the mountain! Here are some links to get you started:

Let me know if you have any questions or if you are interested in a campership from our church. We want to have as many FCCLB folks there this summer as possible, so we need you.


New Members

Meet the new members who have recently joined the church:

Alex Gomez is an educator who is fluent in Spanish. He comes to First Congregational because he desires to reconnect with his spirituality in a diverse and open-minded community.

Eric Hendrix is a geologist who is a partner in an Orange County consulting firm; his specialty is water resourcing and environmental contamination (i.e. working to increase water supply and quality). His partner is Kyle and they love the Tehachapi Mountains. He joins First Church by baptism this Easter Sunday in Booth Chapel at 9 a.m.

Barya “Berra” Hoel is a travel manager who lives here in Long Beach. She says that her primary reason for joining FCCLB is to find a sense of balance and because of her friend Maria. She describes herself as analytical and enjoys sorting things out through discussions with others.

Mary Ann Johnson joins First Church after a decades-long hiatus from any church participation. She is recently retired as a public defender in Orange County, and lives in Long Beach with her partner. Mary Ann appreciates the historic architecture of our campus and the Sunday sermons.

Joan Stiehl is the owner of a Farmer’s Insurance agency and is a dedicated member of the Long Beach community, collecting more than a thousand pairs of socks for the homeless this past Christmas. She is a patron of the arts, and can frequently be seen ushering at arts events both at First Church, Music Theatre West, and the Carpenter Center.

Carol Van Alsten comes to us through a transfer of membership from West Avon Congregational Church in Avon, CT. Carol loves music and has sung in a choir in a UCC church for 22 years. Carol is a retiree from aerospace industry where she worked for over thirty years.


A Little Something We Can Do to Support John Forrest and Ben During Their Stay in Houston
By Kirsten Pickus

As many of you know, John Forrest was released from the hospital on Friday and will be recuperating in Houston for the next couple of weeks. He and Ben have a place to stay, but, as you might imagine, eating restaurant food for an extended time can be expensive and not allow as much dietary flexibility as one needs when trying to recover from major surgery (not to mention providing care to someone who is regaining strength and functioning!). The great news is that there is a Whole Foods Market close to where John Forrest and Ben are staying, and the Whole Foods website provides an option to purchase electronic gift cards that can be delivered via email. So we at First Church can offer a bit of tangible support to John Forrest and Ben by purchasing e-gift cards to Whole Foods Market. If you are interested in doing this, please visit the Whole Foods website.

After entering your name and the amount desired, be sure to put the following in the recipient email box: Thank you for considering this request!


Follow-Up to Bread for the World Letters
By Miriam Seneviratne, for the Board of Social Justice and Outreach

Thank you to all who signed letters advocating further funding for international maternal and children nutrition programs! Special thanks to Jo Anne Jennings who set up the 2015 letter signing campaign so efficiently, that it was simple to follow this year! This is the count for letters signed: Alan Lowenthal: 28, Senator Feinstein: 38, Senator Boxer: 29, Linda Sanchez: 4, Janice Hahn: 3, Dana Rohrabacher: 2, Mimi Waters: 4, Maxine Walters: 4, and Ted Lieu: 4.


ZONE Lock-In Last Weekend
By Tracy Halter-Balin

Last Saturday night, ten of our youth participated in the Spring Lock-In. Beloved Bell ringers started at 5 pm with a rehearsal and were joined by the others at 6. We kicked off the event with an awesome behind-the-scenes tour led by Sam Johnson and Tim O’Keefe. It’s safe to say we treaded where many have never treaded before! Up-close views of the amazing, huge organ pipes, roof-top views of the downtown area, climbing skinny staircases all the way up to the bell tower, seeing the rose window from the outside, and finding out what a church keeps in its attic!

Then it was time for a pizza feast, ice cream sundaes, and a couple of rounds of Sardines (a crazy version of hide and seek). To quiet things down, we watched “The Incredibles” and settled into our sleeping bags on the floor of the Pownall Room. Rise and shine at 7 am for breakfast next door at the Potholder. Four of our hungry youth attempted to finish the Mac Daddy Frankie, an 18-inch pancake! While all made dramatic progress, no one completed it. Our lock-in came to a finish by creating the palm crosses to be shared with the congregation. Huge special thanks to Deb Buller, Kristen Miranda, Jenny Penner, Jeremy Morales, Nicole O’Keefe, Sam Johnson, Tim O’Keefe, and Tracy Halter-Balin for making this an event to remember!

ZONE Lock-in pictures


Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday    Palm Sunday


News about Bill Cole

Long-time church member Bill Cole is now receiving hospice care at home. He would appreciate cards and short visits. Please arrange visits with Betty Cole.


Tonight: Screening of "Feminist: Stories from Women's Liberation"

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) celebrates Women's History Month with a screening of "Feminist: Stories from Women's Liberation" on Wednesday, March 23 at 7 pm at the Art Theatre (2025 E Fourth St, Long Beach). Filmmaker Jennifer Hall Lee will be there to discuss her independent film, which won "Best of the Fest for Documentary at the Los Angeles Women's International Film Festival.

Advance tickets may be purchased on for $10. Tickets will be available at will call. Event proceeds will help provide STEM camperships to underrepresented girls.


Drop-In Center News
By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

If I had to choose only one word to describe Sunday, March 20, at Urban Community Outreach’s Drop-In-Center I’d have to choose “joy”! The whole day was so meaningful for so many and brought so much joy.

It began with a large group from Western Federal Credit Union arriving early morning to volunteer. Just before noon North High School students, their parents, and chaperones arrived. Around 1 pm Shannon Parker, from the Long Beach Health and Human Services’ Multi-Service Center, visited and said she’d come back to help. At 2:30 Lincoln Bauer brought over the people who came to his “Act Day.” There were several from all walks of life wanting to learn more about poverty and homelessness in Long Beach so they can understand the challenges and be a part of the solution. They wanted to not just complain about the situation, but to learn, “act,” and volunteer to help us and other agencies trying to work on the solution.

Ann Lampe from Palos Verde comes every Sunday to volunteer. She is trained in social service work, and I put her to the task of helping interview people to identify their needs and challenges. What a wonderful help she is! She is becoming a very integral part of UCO helping with many things. Dr. Sophia Momand came, and the CSUDH students from HOPE Program came and assisted her. Dr. Sophia said she had so many wanting help and she felt really needed that day. Among those she saw, she treated three very ill people with life-threating conditions and felt she really made a difference. Her face beautifully radiated joy!

In fact, all the people I mentioned above, and those I didn’t mention, our staff, the volunteer coordinators, me, and my family, we all felt the precious joy of being able to do something to ease people’s pain and suffering and help them change their lives!

This happiness is contagious! If you want to find what makes us so happy you can learn more about it any Sunday, or at our April 23, spring fundraiser, “Jazzy Lady.” We’ll share our joy with you!

Drop-in Center


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 Kim Anderson (Larelle Hendon's sister); Xander Bell; Bill Cole; Chris Bobo upon the death of his mother; Harold Sutherland upon the death of his mother; Judy Reeves; Mary Lou Klar; Mary Martin; Marisa Rose Cherry (Margaret Cherry's daughter); Rip Loizedis (Sonia Gallardo's friend); Doris Sutherland (Harold Sutherland's mother); Kat Meyer (Lisa Bode Heard's friend).

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

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: