First Congregational Church of Long Beach - logo
    A Liberal Church, Welcoming of All, Passionately Committed to Social Justice

The Pilgrim - February 21, 2016

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

Dear Church, 

Hope Is the Story … during this holy season of Lent, First Church is meditating upon the parables of Jesus, and looking for the ways those ancient teachings guide us in interpreting today’s challenges. Last Sunday, we spent time with the Good Samaritan, the outsider whose compassion blossomed like a fig tree to shelter a stranger. In the coming weeks, we will be hearing about the following teachings:

Annual Meeting Sunday, February 21: The Story of Lost Things: Children, Coins, and Other Treasures

February 28: John Forrest Douglas, preaching The Story of Hope: Seeds, Soil and Sowers

March 6: The Story of Hope: Banquets, Invitation and Acceptance

March 13: The Story of Hope: Wisdom Tales

March 20: Palm Sunday

March 24: Maundy Thursday, 7 p.m. service

March 27: Easter Sunday!

Are you coming to the Retirement Housing Foundation service on Thursday? CEO Laverne Joseph is a member of our congregation, and we are delighted to welcome the General Minister and President of our denomination, the Rev. John Dorhauer and our Conference Minister, the Rev. Felix Villanueva. Popular author and President of Andover Newton Seminary Martin Copenhaven will preach.

From their website: Retirement Housing Foundation (RHF) is a non-profit organization of 170 communities in 26 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We provide housing and services to more than 18,000 older adults, low-income families and people with disabilities … (RHF is) a program that has grown from the very modest beginnings of a $7,000 investment and the efforts of three United Church of Christ (UCC) visionaries to what it is today, one of the largest organizations devoted to building and preserving affordable housing for the most vulnerable members of society. There is no cost for this special service of celebration.


In this issue:

Music This Sunday

Christian Education

Annual Congregational Meeting

Women's Retreat

BOCA to See "Pygmalion"

Faith and Film

Poet's Notes

Summer Camp at Pilgrim Pines

Spring Camp for Adults at Pilgrim Pines

Drop-In-Center News


Parish Concerns

For more information ...

The Pilgrim - current and past editions of the newsletter


First Church website

Contact us

I know your thoughts and our prayers are with John Forrest Douglas and Ben West as they are in Houston, and are making key decisions about the treatment plan for Rev. Douglas’s cancer diagnosis. You can keep up with Rev. Douglas’s progress at his page; here is the note from yesterday:

Our trip to Houston has been a productive one. After some tests, we met with the surgeon and heard his course of treatment. John Forrest is scheduled for surgery on March 10th, 2016. The plan is a pleurectomy (removal of the lining of the right lung) followed by HITEC (heated chemo-therapy fluid). It will be an estimated 6 hour long surgery and an estimated stay in Houston for 3 weeks to a month.

We also were able to do a little sight seeing as well and went to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts.
As always we are so grateful for all the kind and supportive comments from everyone.

Life's journey often takes us through some difficult paths, but for now it seems like we can see part of the way forward. So as we go along the way together, we appreciate the continual thoughts and prayers that remind us that we are loved and cared for in a community of friends and family that exhibits the grace that surrounds us all.

Peace and love,
Ben and John Forrest

We are so blessed as a church that Rev. Douglas is sharing his journey with us; the Moderators and I will keep the congregation informed as we make plans for coverage during his medical leave and – perhaps most importantly – how we can be supportive to John Forrest and his ministries during this spring.

The Rev. Elena Larssen


Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

Musically, there’s a lot happening this Sunday:

Just Cuz (sort of a re-incarnation of Avocation) will be singing the prelude – a song about winter called “The Winter’s Night” which invites you to ignore the 80-plus degree weather! Just Cuz consists of Heather and Lauren Chambers, Tracy Halter-Balin, and Erin and Melody O’Keefe. If you did not know, Heather and Melody are sisters, Tracy is their cousin, and Lauren and Erin are the daughters of Heather and Melody – unless I have that all wrong, which is possible!

All Seasons Choir will sing “God of Great and God of Small” by Natalie Sleeth.

The Sanctuary Choir will sing Moses Hogan’s arrangement of “Elijah Rock.”

Lisa Bode Heard will be singing “The Boxer” by Paul Simon, with Tracy Halter-Balin on guitar.

Marc Dickey, as usual, will play something amazing for the offertory and postlude.

Carver Cossey and Lily Penner will lead us from church to the Congregational Meeting downstairs by singing ”Ease on Down the Road” from The Wiz.

And finally, I will be giving a piano recital in the sanctuary at 1 p.m. I hope you’ll stick around and even invite your friends to attend. I’ll be playing some pieces I’ve been practicing on and off for quite some time. I wear several hats as a musician – primarily conductor, composer, and pianist. Of these three, the piano is my first love, and I still enjoy playing the classic repertoire for its own sake. Although I have no delusions about being a concert pianist, I hope to do justice to the pieces on Sunday’s program, (Chopin’s Ballade No. 2, Elgar’s Enigma Variations, and Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 7) and I hope you enjoy them as well!

See you on Sunday!

Curtis Heard, Director of Music


In Sunday School

Topic: Trusting God
Scripture Reading: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

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




Annual Congregational Meeting This Sunday

First Congregational Church will hold its Annual Meeting in the Ramsay Dining Room after the service this Sunday, February 21.


Annual Women's Retreat March 11-13 - Spaces Still Available!

You are invited, and here's what you need to know. To assure your reservation, right away please email Deb Moore at Your check needs to be received by February 22, accompanied by the registration form (available here [pdf] or from Ruth in the office). You may place them in a church envelope with "Women's Retreat" in the memo line, or mail it to the church. The weekend cost will be $140. All meals are included in the cost, Friday evening dinner though Sunday morning breakfast. We reserved only housing with regular beds, so no bunkbeds or walking outside to the shower! If you want to room with a specific person, please indicate, but we make no guarantees. Pilgrim Pines is about 1.5 hours from Long Beach. We can coordinate rides. We must limit our group to 27, so it will have to be first come, first served.

I am delighted to say that the Rev. Katy Hyman has agreed to lead the program portion of the weekend. Below are a few words about the theme.

During the retreat we'll be focusing on excerpts from Glennon Doyle Melton's book, Carry On, Warrior. Glennon is an author, speaker, blogger ( - and proud UCC member! She writes a lot on the importance of being kind, of showing up, of telling our stories, even when life is brutiful (a phrase she coined to encompass both the brutality and the beauty of life). Glennon is a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a recovering addict, a recovering bulimic. Whether you are all of these or none of these, I think you will find something of yourself in her writing. She is energetic, funny, honest, and deeply insightful. I hope you will join us as we explore ourselves through the lens of her work.

Hope you can make it!

Deb Moore


BOCA Goes to Long Beach Playhouse Presentation of “Pygmalion”
By Mario Coello

On Sunday, March 20, the Long Beach Playhouse will present its performance of George Bernard Shaw’s classic satire, “Pygmalion,” at 2 p.m. Many of you might know the story from “My Fair Lady,” the 1964 musical film adaptation, about a poor Cockney flower girl’s transformation into a well-mannered sophisticate under the tutelage of a pompous professor of phonetics. First Church is proud to announce that our own Martha Duncan is a member of the cast!

The Board of Cultural Arts will be taking reservations this Sunday after church in the courtyard. Tickets are $15 for seniors 65 and over, $18 for adults, and $8 for children. Join us for an entertaining afternoon of classic theater! 


Faith and Film: FCCLB Goes to the Oscars!
February 7 to 29: Sundays, 8:30 a.m. and Mondays 7:30 p.m.

This class with Rev. Larssen is analyzing current, Oscar-nominated films for their theological themes and religious metaphors. The same film will be discussed on Sunday morning and Monday evening; see the movie on your own (or grab a friend from FCCLB) or if you have not, come ready to hear spoilers.

February 21 and 22: Spotlight
In 2001, editor Marty Baron of The Boston Globe assigns a team of journalists to investigate allegations against John Geoghan, an unfrocked priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys. Led by editor Walter "Robby" Robinson, reporters Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Matt Carroll and Sacha Pfeiffer interview victims and try to unseal sensitive documents. The reporters make it their mission to provide proof of a cover-up of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.


Poet's Notes
By Tina Datsko de Sánchez

First, a note of gratitude for the artistic gifts of the team creating our new “Hope is the News” installation in the sanctuary. Led by Harold Sutherland of the Worship and Arts Ministry Team, these talented church members include Cathy Chambers, Tim Mountain, Tom Nettifee, Trisha Pappas, Robert Stapp, and Mel White. The newspaper articles and words of hope can provide food for thought to enhance our journey through Lent.

Last week’s poem, “The Colt,” uses a Malayan poetic form called a pantoum, in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza become the first and third lines of the next. Also, the first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated and inverted to become the second and fourth lines of the final stanza. This week’s segment is written in the voice of Jesus and gives a poetic evocation of the Passover meal and prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. The suite of poems will be used throughout Holy Week in variety of spoken and sung formats.


                For Elena and John Forrest


Do you understand what I’ve done to you?
If I, the Teacher, washed your feet,
you must now wash each other’s feet.
What I’ve done, you do—and live a blessed life.

Take this bread and pass it among you,
this is my body given for you.
Do this in my memory.

Take this cup and pass it among you.
This is my blood, God’s new covenant,
poured out for many people.

Friends, I feel a crushing sorrow.
Can you keep vigil with me?

Abba, I am sweating now.
Can there be another way?

Friends, I feel a crushing sorrow.
Can you keep vigil with me?

Abba, if there’s no other way
than drinking this cup to the dregs,
I am ready. Do it your way.


Summer Camp 2016 at Pilgrim Pines Camp
By Tracy Halter-Balin

As we return to work and school from a lovely three-day February weekend, can you believe it's time to start making plans for July? Well, it is. I'm taking it upon myself to start getting the word out about Summer Camp 2016! Yay!

Registration is just beginning and it seems impossible that we should have to think about camp but we do love it when we (campers and volunteers) can all go the same week. Due the National Youth Event in Florida, Week 3 is earlier this year. Dates are July 10-16. However, there are four wonderful weeks you can choose from. Here is the link for the online registration. You can also print out paper copies too.

Let me know if you have any questions. I am expecting the volunteer link
to be up and running very soon too.

Pilgrim Pines in the fog


First Annual It’s a Spring Thing! Spring Adult Camp
By Tracy Halter-Balin

Pilgrim Pines and the Outdoor Ministry Team invite you all to the first annual It's a Spring Thing! Spring Adult Camp.

Here are the details:
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, April 8 at 6 pm to Sunday, April 10 at 11 am
Cost: $100 registration is now available online at

And here is some cool news - FCC will help with registration fees! Contact Elena for more information. We'd love to have a great turn out from FCC.

Once you’ve reserved your spot online, make checks payable to Pilgrim Pines Camp and mail to: It’s a Spring Thing - Pilgrim Pines, C/O SCNCUCC, 2401 N Lake Ave, Altadena, Ca, 91001.

The Southern California Nevada Conference of the UCC is sponsoring campers 30 and younger to attend for $45! Limited number of sponsorships available.

Also, as a bonus, if you plan on volunteering at summer camp, there will be a counselor training, Sunday, April 10 from 12:30-3:30 pm (after It’s A Spring Thing is over). Make sure to claim your spot today!


Drop-In Center News
By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

Valentine Sunday was all pink and red and full of love. Volunteers helped decorate Patterson Hall. Hearts and huge donated pink tissue paper balls decked the walls. We made pretty flower centerpieces with hearts around them and had a handmade Valentine for each guest. Laura Greer and her son, Colin, and his fifth-grade class made lovely cards and brought beautifully decorated gift packages to hand out. Megan Ono and a group of adult friends had also made really nice Valentines and brought them along with new underwear. They helped distribute them as well as volunteer their time. We had a good chicken pasta dinner.

For some reason I had three seniors needing help this weekend. We have one couple looking for a new location as their apartment building is being sold. She is in a wheelchair and needs first floor access. They’d really like a small two- bedroom house or nice ground floor apartment. They want to pay around $1,200 or $1,300 since the husband will retire soon and their income will be less than the $5,000 a month they get now. I told her how to search on the computer for housing and did a little searching with her to help get her started.

Another 64-year-old had very little income and has been couch surfing with relatives. We are digging out the resume, improving it, and hoping that someone will hire her. I’m sending her back to some places where she is on the waiting list. She has been a hair stylist for 20 years, can do medical billing, and has taken care of her mother until her mother passed. So she has skills. I told her to take the paper resume around and let people see how fit and clean she is. Applying online they just look at an age and it is easy to pass someone by because they sound too old.

A third senior woman came to me. She first and foremost needs mental health services to establish what is real and what is not. When we figure that out we can more easily help to fill her needs. I referred her to the Winter Shelter and MHA.

Our hearts go out to the young families trying to make ends meet. We helped two with some transportation costs.

One man has found a job in Long Beach at the port, but is driving back and forth to Riverside because his wife's family is there and she had a temporary job there where her parents watch the kids. We decided that what they need is to establish closer to long Beach. She is sending her resume to me to work on. We will seek childcare in Long Beach and also see what rental assistance they might be eligible for.

It was a busy Sunday, but good. All the sweethearts were out for dinner, but my husband and I were lucky enough to get into a restaurant for some dinner too after we closed DIC. So it was a good day.



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 Fran Holand; Rick Mills; and Lori Radcliffe (Janet Harrington's daughter-in-law).

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: