Advent at First Church!
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The Pilgrim - December 4, 2016


Sunday Celebration Notes

Lifting Up God's Love Every Sunday at 10 am

Dear Church,

The Season of Love has begun … no, not the Summer, the Season!

Advent, the four weeks leading to Christmas, began on Sunday with a service of unusual beauty – thank you to Jubellance, Tracy Halter-Balin and Lisa Bode Heard for Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, the Sanctuary Choir, the Capital Campaign Committee for the Preserving Our Legacy Litany, and to the children who fill the chancel with wiggles, good ideas, and energy during the Time with Our Children. (I may be related to the two-year-old who whispered-yelled It’s QUIET time!!! roughly 900 times during the kid’s prayer. Truth).

Also, many of you appreciated the words of Diana Butler Bass in her piece on Blue Advent; that link is here for your reference: "Forget red and green: Make it a blue holiday instead." Quotes and references are footnoted in the texts of sermons, and audio files are posted at our (new!) website:

There are many moods that Advent addresses: hope, joy, apprehension, anticipation. It’s a funny season, in many ways: it’s a season of waiting, but it’s full of activity. It’s a season of giving, but we also receive. It’s a happy time that can be nuanced with tears and fears. Wherever you are on your spiritual journey this year, there is an event for you at First Church: a protest, a class, a dinner, a concert, a Blue Christmas service for those who are mourning this year, and Sunday mornings full of joyful music and inspiring words.

Come, let us experience the season together!

The Rev. Elena Larssen

In Sunday School

Theme: Growing Together
Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10

Adult Education

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

Christmas Dinner 
Saturday, December 10

Don't forget to sign up after church this Sunday for the Christmas Dinner!

In This Issue

On Advent
Christian Education
First Church Café
Winter Festival & Sparkling Reception
Advent Class
Congregational Business Meeting
Gifts to the Manger
Anti-Gun Violence Vigil
Warm Streets Coat Drive
Heifer Project
Capital Campaign
Quiz Answers
ICO Gala
Drop-In Center News
December Birthdays & Anniversaries
Parish Joy & Concerns
Deadline: Tuesday at 1 pm

First Church Café This Sunday

It's the first Sunday of the month - time again for First Church Café, from Karen Cannon of Stars Catering. The cost for lunch is $9 for adults and $4 for children 10 and under.

All are welcome. If you or your family need financial assistance to be able to enjoy lunch, vouchers are available. A number of our boards will meet after lunch, but lunch is not just for board members. Here is the menu:

Tailgate Picnic Soup
Crisp celery, onions and sweet peppers, with chopped tomatoes, garlic and barbeque beans with two secret ingredients emblematic of a football game
 Toppings bar: shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions, corn chips and more
 Olives, pickles, garden crudités and ranch dip
 Freshly baked cake selection
 (vegan and gluten-free versions of the above also)
 Iced tea, lemonade, and water

Just a Few Tickets Left!
Winterfest and Sparkling Reception - Sunday, December 4

By Nancy Valencia, Executive Director, DAYS Long Beach

Winterfest Concert and Sparkling Reception are this coming Sunday! Please consider joining us as we celebrate the holiday season with California State University Long Beach Choir Department. We will then continue the gaieties with the Sparkling Reception in Patterson Hall. If you have not joined us in the past, you are in for a treat.

Tickets to the Concert and Sparkling Reception: $60 
Date:  December 4 
Time:  Concert begins at 4, followed by the beautiful reception

For more information or to reserve your tickets, send an email right now to or call 562-234-2851. We so look forward to you joining us.

DAYS Long Beach provides services in three key areas: Youth Education and Support; Leadership and Academic Success; and Parent and Family Support.  Through a holistic approach to helping youth and families of Long Beach, DAYS Long Beach provides the needed support to build future success for the members of our community. All proceeds from the Sparkling Reception will go directly to DAYS Long Beach. To learn more about our work, please consider visiting our website:

Conversations on Turning toward Advent

By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas
We have our plans, our time, and ideas about how this holiday season should work. However, Advent changes all of that. The arrival of this season shifts our focus and gives us a greater expectation than day-in-day-out living. Advent interrupts our schedule and points us toward a new hope. It brings the blessing of an unplanned arrival. God seeks to stir within us so we may turn our faces toward something new.

Join the Rev. John Forrest Douglas in a weekly class discussion of Advent. We will view interviews with theologians, writers, and poets to guide our discussions. Classes are offered on Sunday mornings at 8:30 and Monday evenings at 7 in the Chapel. Sunday and Monday offerings are identical.

December 4 & 5 Advent as Looking
Be Still and Look – Glennon Doyle Melton

December 11 & 12 Advent as Poetic Imagination
A Womb for a Wounded World – Malcom Guite

December 18 & 20* Advent as Embodiment
Matter Matters – Barbara Brown Taylor
*Offered on Tuesday, December 20 to allow attendance at Christmas Blues Service.

Congregational Business Meeting - Sunday, December 11

The annual Congregational Business Meeting will be on Sunday, December 11, immediately after the morning service. We will vote on the officers, board members, and budget for 2017. Childcare will be provided.

Gifts to the Manger - Sunday, December 11

By Nancy Valencia, Executive Director, DAYS Long Beach
The holiday season is here and once again DAYS Long Beach is asking for Gifts to the Manger support. For decades, Dorothy and Edwin Baker, in partnership with First Church, delivered holiday gifts and food to needy families in our community. DAYS Long Beach has continued this holiday tradition, and with your help we will be able to fulfill this much loved practice. Join DAYS Long Beach in celebrating the holidays by contributing to our holiday gift program.
As in years past, we will collect food items for one complete holiday meal. To ensure that the gift bags are full and all the children receive a holiday item, we need your help. We will need the following items to help fill our bags:
100 shopping bags
Canned fruit and vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, and peas
Boxed stuffing
Cake and brownie mixes
Fresh bags of potatoes (5 or 10 lbs)
Fresh apples, tangerines, and oranges
DAYS Long Beach is introducing the Holiday Sock Exchange. All you need to do is purchase a pair of colored/patterned holiday socks and stuff them with an assortment of small treats. Suggested items may include pencils, playing cars, nail polish, bags of nuts, or gift cards. Tie them together with bow and label the item by gender and age. This is an easy and wonderful gift for youth.

In addition, DAYS is collecting gifts for our children and youth. Our children appreciate all gifts received, but if you are struggling with ideas, please consider gift cards to local stores and the movies, games such as Candyland, Yahtzee, Checkers, Sorry, and Jenga, chapter books, art and school supplies.
Gifts to the Manger will be dedicated during worship on Sunday, December 11. Please bring your food, unwrapped toys, monetary donations and gift certificates on December 11 and join us in celebrating the holiday season.
We plan to start wrapping the gifts the week of December 12 and will deliver on Saturday, December 17. If you are interested in helping to wrap presents, assemble and/or deliver the holiday bags, please contact Nancy Valencia at 562-234-2851. Give only what you can and together we can make a difference in a child’s life.
Happy holidays and thank you,
DAYS Long Beach

Advent Vigil and March to End Gun Violence - Wednesday, December 14

By the Board of Social Justice and Outreach
2016 is another horrific year for gun violence in the United States. According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of November 29, there have been 52,213 incidents of gun violence, 13,494 deaths, including 622 children, 357 mass shootings, 298 officers shot or killed, and 1,715 officer involved incidents resulting in the death of the subject/suspect.
On Wednesday, December 14, the anniversary of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that resulted in the deaths of 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 years, members and attendees of First Church will join other faith communities and opponents of gun violence for a candlelight vigil and march to end gun violence. Those interested in participating in the vigil and march should mark their calendars for Wednesday, December 14, from 5 to 7 pm.
More information on the vigil and march will be supplied as the date draws nearer. The Board of Social Justice and Outreach encourages all members and attendees of First Congregational Church who are able to join the march to gather at the church at 5 pm. Those who are mobility challenged may wish to join only the vigil, which will take place at 6 pm at the Harvey Milk Plaza.

Warm Streets Coat Drive in December

By Alison Morales, Urban Community Outreach

Greetings, Church! Do you have extra warm coats taking up space in your closets at home? Urban Community Outreach is hoping you'll help us gather warm coats and jackets for our weekly guests at the Urban Community Outreach Drop-In Center. We'll be collecting and distributing these items every Sunday in December. You'll easily spot a UCO box in the Donation Center on the Third Street landing. Please refrain from donating other items in this box, or in the Third Street landing area, as we aren't set up for storage.

We really appreciate your help. Together, we can help our beloved community keep warm this winter season!

Give the Gift of an Animal – The Heifer Project International

By Bob Kalayjian and Miriam Seneviratne, Board of Justice and Social Outreach
It has been some years since Bob Stiles and Bob Kalayjian offered the opportunity for folks to purchase an animal (or more) for a family in the developing world. Heifer International does this work, and it is a great program and a lot of fun to make this gift for yourself, your family, or friends. Buy a flock of chicks or ducks, a llama, pig, or goat, or give big and make it a water buffalo or cow. Supporting this work changes lives and families around the world. Come by our table next to the Free Trade Market after church and learn more. We are trying to create an ark of animals gifted to the world from First Church.

Capital Campaign Call for Participation

By Steve Crow, Chair, Capital Campaign Committee
Last Sunday, after announcing the location of the Commitment tables, I added these comments:
 As this Capital Campaign nears its end, I have come to experience it as a set of conversations. After the congregation charged the Capital Campaign Committee with the task of raising $900,000 to repair our rose windows, our terra cotta, and our brickwork, we engaged in a variety of conversations. A set of potential lead givers welcomed face-to-face conversations; we made special presentations to the Council and to each of the Boards; and most recently we sent to everyone else a sizable packet of materials regarding the campaign and its goals. Even the people who attended Titanic found in their programs a brochure inviting them to participate.
Today I am both elated and a bit disappointed. We are coming within a few thousand dollars of reaching our financial goal, thanks to everyone who completed the conversation with a signed Letter of Intent. But we are waiting to hear from over four dozen of you who have yet to respond. While we would love to have you commit to a financial gift, we would also welcome a response that simply says, “Good luck, but I cannot commit to extra giving at this time.” That completes the conversation at least for the time being. And that’s what we really want.
This coming Sunday will conclude our Commitment Sundays. Then we begin the task of making telephone calls to those from whom we have not heard. We hope that very shortly we will hear from all who have yet to respond.

Capital Campaign Quiz Answers

By Steve Crow

1. All of the 16 spindles on the east rose window terra cotta have cracks readily visible from the ground.
2. As with the brick patterns, many distinctive images are repeated in the ornate complexity of the terra cotta. Not counting the central cross, I counted 17 distinct images in the pillars and the terra cotta facing in the surround. If you want, we can gather outside and count together.
3. The damaged sills on the north facade show that earlier sills were repaired by using concrete (see the rebar). The damaged sills on the east facade show that terra cotta remains the principle building product.

ICO Fundraising Gala - December 10

We invite you to join us in honoring the community heroes at ICO’s Fundraising Gala Dinner to be held on Saturday, December 10 at St. Mary’s Medical Center from 6 to 9 pm. Your support and partnership will allow ICO to continue its important work in pursuing social justice through faith and community empowerment. Tickets for dinner and entertainment are $40 each or $300 for a table of 8 seats. We look forward to having you join us!



Drop-In Center News

By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

Sunday, November 27, was like no other! Special in its own right. Thanksgiving dinner and all the fixings were served to 240 guests on this cold blustery day. Food Finders donated turkeys and canned goods to us, so we had an abundance of good food.

Paige Pelonis and her team from City HeART came and helped the children make beautiful art creations. They just blossomed under the loving and enthusiastic guidance! Their little faces glowed! They will come again on December 18 with clothing and Christmas gift wrap so people can choose a gift and wrap it for a gift to give to someone.

Torie Oishi brought a North High School Hunger Awareness Group of students who were really helpful. They had collected clothing and hygiene items, and they helped sort and give out these welcome commodities. Israel Rodriquez came and brought volunteers from Molina. They are always so faithful in coming to help. UCO board member Laura Ava-Tesimale came from One Global Family Foundation and brought some volunteers. Christina Le brought her CSULB Health Science Association students, and they pitched right in so we had lots of good help. Natalie Switt, from Temple Israel, brought clothing and jackets to give out. Laura Scully from the Unitarian Universalist Church had her students make 100 bagged lunches for the guests to take home. Those are always a blessing.

Besides the food and resource give-away, we helped a mother with car registration and a parking ticket and another family with money to do laundry so the kids could go to school with clean clothes, gave a mother rent money so they wouldn’t be evicted, gave a motel stay for a family, and referred our first client guest, a young man, to our new SAMHSA Program for assessment of addictions and mental health challenges. Praise God! He is so tired of his way of life and desperately wants a better way of doing things. He wants a future!

Check out our website! We have the “Save the Date” up for the April 22 spring fundraiser, “Bright Lights and Dark Nights” for UCO. Through December 15 you can get a discount on tickets purchased!



December Birthdays

1 Katie Handen-Llopis
4 Ester Baliscao Sagun, Ellie Wilson, Tom Dorsey, Alex Balin
5 Finn McKiernan
7 Tom Nettifee
10 Brian Arnold, Waverly Farrell
11 Clive Graham, Sara Schoenfelder, Linda Booth
12 Ronald Mullens, Brynn Witter
14 Cole Barth, Carol Van Alsten
15 Veronica E. Bloomfield, Mark Wheeler
16 David Blackburn
18 Mark Taylor
19 Patricia Kalayjian, Trinna Lytle, Peggy Boyd
21 Wayne Itoga, Cathy Chambers
22 Margaret Cherry, Winston Sharpe, George Suematsu
23 Judith Reeves, Noel Llopis
24 Marley Balin, Sean Balin    
25 Helen Clark, Dan Brink, Jason Llopis
26 Betty Cole
29 Shelley Sinclair
31 Mary Humme, Kristine Emry-Jackson

December Anniversaries

Helene and William Kennann, 12/08/1949
Rebekah Martinek and Annie Williams, 12/08/2005
James Hardeman and Chuck Fowler, 12/09/2003
Alison and Jeremy Morales, 12/10/2011
Kim and Jonathan Hendricks, 12/14/1996
Barbara and John de Jong, 12/19/1975
Eddie Nazarro and Darrell Sanders, 12/21/2013
Perry and Ron Ellwood, 12/31/1981
Deanna Melzian and Linda Silas, 12/31/1999

Parish Joy!

Jacksden Maverick was born on Monday to Vicky and Liane Elizarraraz! He is 5 pounds, 7 ounces and 19 inches long. Liane is doing well and they are already home.

Parish Concerns

Your thoughts and prayers are requested for Tyler Mason (Tim O’Keefe’s cousin); Robert Stapp and his family upon the death of his sister’s husband; and Patti and Don Hulse (Kathy Young’s friends).

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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