The Pilgrim - February 19, 2017
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The Pilgrim - February 19, 2017


Capital Campaign Charitable Gifts

Dear First Church,

Following the success of last fall’s campaign to raise capital pledges to restore our stained glass windows and exteriors, I have a good piece of news to share on behalf of the moderators and Church Council.

As you have likely heard, we have exceeded our pledge goal of $900,000 and now have pledges for $1,100,000. Over the next three years, those pledges will likely be added to by new members or interested community friends who would like to support the cause of preserving our historic building exteriors and playing our part in the revival of downtown Long Beach.

What you may not know is that part of our pledges are designated for mission. We retained the Rev. Priscilla Bizer of the United Church of Christ (our denomination) Church Building and Loan organization, which provides support and services for capital campaigns to UCC churches like ours. Typically, the fee for a consultant of this nature is 10% of the annual pledge base of the church and all goes to the consultant, but the UCC does things a little differently. Our consultant fee of $30k was divided in roughly three ways: one third to Church Building and Loan to fund their ministries, one third to the national giving program of the UCC, called “Our Church’s Wider Mission” (which significantly increased the amount of our annual pledge to the wider church and is credited to our congregation), and lastly, to a charitable cause of our choice.

At the last Church Council meeting, the Council agreed to devote our charitable portion to DAYS Long Beach and Urban Community Outreach, the two ministries founded and sponsored by this congregation on our campus. Truly, the clients, volunteers, and staff of UCO and DAYS are not just running programs on our campus – they are part of the First Church community, expressing our values of justice in their own areas of expertise, empowering our service to the community, and making our life at Third and Cedar more diverse, more exciting, and a reflection of our dreams of God’s justice.

Together, First Church and DAYS and UCO are making Third and Cedar into “The Corner of Arts and Justice” – and it is a joy to be able to support one another’s dreams.

Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day,
The Rev. Elena Larssen

CCEJ Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast March 2 -
Sit with us!

Info below.

In This Issue

Capital Campaign Charitable Gifts
Music on Sunday
Christian Education
Women's Retreat Planning Meeting
Kindred Spirits
Museums & Cultural Festivals Group
Parenting for the Resistance
Spirituality & Support Group
Chapman Founder's Day
Baking Group
Small Group Fellowship Opportunities

CCEJ Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast
Curtis Heard - Composer-in-Residence
Church Council Retreat
Sunday School Assistants
Drop-In Center News
Parish Concerns
Deadline: Tuesday at 1 pm


Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

The choir started rehearsing this week’s anthem, "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho," before I knew about the pop culture series, but a fence and a wall are the same thing right? So for the movie Fences, we present the well-known spiritual with the lyrics “and the walls came a-tumblin’ down.” I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I saw the play a few years ago. As I recall, there is an actual fence, but the main meaning of the title is allegorical. Like the main character in Fences, we build physical, spiritual, and emotional boundaries for many reasons, but as many hymns and songs suggest, our goal should be to tear down walls or anything else that divides us.

The other ongoing theme this month is the story of Joseph. We couldn’t let that pass without doing something from one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's early musicals, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, so Carlos will be singing "Close Every Door to Me," which describes how, through faith, one can overcome obstacles. (Hmm, that sounds familiar....)

Finally, I must repeat how honored I am to be named Composer-in-Residence. I am not the most disciplined when it comes to writing music, so I need all the encouragement I can get!

Curtis Heard, Director of Music

In Sunday School

Theme: Going Beyond
Scripture: Matthew 5:38-48

Adult Education

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

Women's Retreat Planning Meeting This Sunday

By Debbie Bond

We are now in the planning stages for the Women’s Retreat! This year we have a great weekend date of April 28-30, well after Easter and spring break. The Rev. Marlene Pomeroy from the First Congregational Church of Pasadena will be our keynote, and she will be leading us in the lessons of yoga for all abilities.
Save these dates:
Planning – Sunday, February 26, after church
Planning – Sunday, March 12, after church
Planning – Thursday, March 30, after staff meeting and before choir practice, time TBD
Retreat – Friday, April 28-30

Kindred Spirits Meets This Sunday

By Ron Ellwood

Kindred Spirits will meet this Sunday, February 19, at 1 pm in the Koinonia Room. This will be an organizational meeting. We will decide when and where Kindred Spirits will meet and how often. Because of the time we will be meeting, this will be a dessert or finger food event. Please bring a food that will not need refrigeration and will keep during church and until the meeting time. We hope to see you then for our new kick off!

Dinosaur Alert! February 25, Natural History Museum LA

Please RSVP by February 17 with how many people, including yourself, you plan to bring. Space is limited to 14 people.
The first event of the Museums & Cultural Festivals group is scheduled at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles on Saturday, February 25. We will meet at the museum at 9:30 am and go on a group tour, “Dinosaurs.” Kids are welcome! The exhibit “Diamonds: Rare Brilliance” is the special exhibit at this time. Some of the permanent exhibits include African Mammals, Becoming L.A., Insect Zoo, and Zuni Fetishes. Miriam and Anil will pay the entrance fee in advance to take advantage of the group rate.
Costs for museum entrance plus group tour are:
Adults: $18.75
Seniors (62+ years): $16.00
Students (13 yr to adult with college ID): $16.00
Children (3-12 years): $12.75
We plan to have lunch in the NHM Grill, the restaurant there, which serves sandwiches, burgers, salads, wraps, and soups.
Please plan for a parking fee, and see for more information on how to reach the museum by car or train, and where to park. We look forward to exploring with you!
Miriam Seneviratne: 949-280-4942;
Anil Seneviratne:

Parenting for the Resistance - February 27, 6 PM

By Christi Gomoljak
Parenting for the Resistance will meet at First Church on February 27 from 6 to 9 pm. This mighty grassroots organization is organically growing in our local community and is dedicated to providing a safe inclusive environment for the exchange of ideas and feelings, while supporting families as they resist inequity and stand for peace. Parenting for the Resistance, a nondenominational organization, was founded in November 2016 by a group of thoughtful parents as a response to the community’s desire to seek support, resources, and knowledge about actions we might take to support our children in the current political and social climate. We believe our collective power can bring about the change we are seeking for our children’s future. Our affinity group meets monthly to share our lived experiences with one another, to crowdsource resources that can support our parenting goals, and to create actionable plans to continue to be active in our local community, both through projects we can support at home and at marches, protests, and gatherings in our community and surrounding cities. Children meet together in one space while parents and care-givers meet to discuss various topics in another. We are planning on providing food for the group in a potluck style, so please plan to bring along a dish, snack, or treat to share. Drinks will be provided. We hope to have you come to our next meeting to meet like-minded families and continue to make your beliefs about equity and justice actionable.

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.

Matt and Tracy Balin to Be Honored at Chapman University Founder's Day

Chapman University will hold its 33rd Annual Founders Day, March 10-11. The event held on the Orange, CA campus has many strong options for participants to enjoy:

  • The featured speaker is Dr. Michael Kinnamon, former head of the National Council of Churches, ecumenical leader, and educator. He will lecture on Friday, addressing the climate of fear that pervades American culture and how Christianity and all of the major world’s religions call us to resist the power of fear in our lives. He will also be featured at a Saturday afternoon panel of leaders of various world religions.
  • The featured preacher on Saturday morning is Dr. Frank Thomas, professor of homiletics at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. He will also do a preaching workshop for ministers that day.
  • First Church's own Matt Balin and Tracy Halter-Balin will be honored as the United Church of Christ Church Leaders of the Year, and the Rev. Nora Jacob will be honored as Disciples Church Leader of the Year.
  • Workshops on Saturday morning for prospective students and their parents, and a big reunion event—a Saturday late afternoon Chappy Hour for all alumni, Disciples on Campus parents and prospective parents and friends.

Online registration can be found at Questions or needing assistance with online registration? Please call the Office of Church Relations at 714-997-6760. And do not let the cost of registration keep you away. If you need a scholarship, please ask for it!

Mark Your Calendars for the 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.

Let’s Grow Our Connections with One Another

By Kirsten Pickus, Moderator

During 2017, First Congregational Church of Long Beach is delighted to kick off a selection of small group fellowship opportunities for First Church members and their friends. The groups are organized around themes and are designed to help us get to know each other better, forge new friendships, and deepen existing connections. Please take a look at the various groups, and let us know which interest you. You may email Kirsten Pickus at with the titles of any groups that look appealing to you. Alternately, you can speak with the group’s leaders whose names are listed at the end of each description. We hope you’ll consider joining us in this special effort to foster a deep sense of community in and around the church that values freedom of thought, the arts, social justice, and an extravagant welcome for all.

See our 2017 menu of small group fellowship opportunities here.

Join other First Church folks at this wonderful event - 
contact the church office to reserve your seat!


Curtis Heard Honored as Composer-in-Residence

By Kirsten Pickus, Moderator
On Sunday, February 12, Curtis Heard was honored as the Composer-in-Residence of First Congregational Church of Long Beach. This designation is in recognition of the tremendous contributions he has made to our music program. His work has added beauty and meaning to our services, and he has created masterpieces that epitomize the intersection of the arts and justice, with compositions for choir, piano, organ, chamber ensembles, hand bells, and theatrical productions. His talents have infused our music program with new offerings, invigorated sacred pieces, integrated beautiful secular music, and created unique and rich opportunities for First Church to premiere new works. We are grateful for the awe-inspiring and amazing musical gifts he has shared with us and are proud to have recognized him as our Composer-in-Residence.

Church Council Starts the Year with a Retreat

By Karen Miller, Member-at-Large
The Church Council recently spent a Saturday morning in a retreat designed to clarify the roles and responsibilities of Council members and start the process of reviewing our mission statement to determine whether there may be opportunities to refresh and renew our priorities over the upcoming year. We were fortunate to have our Associate Conference Minister, the Rev. Libby Tigner, present to guide us through consideration of topics such as good governance, congregational polity, characteristics of good mission statements, and key components of effective leadership teams. Participants were also treated to a reflective and, ultimately, interactive activity that allowed us to think about our dreams for First Church in 2022 and the types of goals that need to be developed in order to achieve our dreams. It was a wonderful way to begin our year serving as the elected leadership of our congregation.

Looking for Those Special Sunday School Assistants - Inquire Within!

By Ruth Keller, Christian Education Board Member
Now is the time ... First Church is the place ... Sunday School class is the location!
The youth of the church are looking for Sunday School Assistants to join them for a Sunday or two a month during their Sunday School class. They would like to see some new faces who will listen and share with them on Sundays. You don't need to prepare lessons, however you are welcome to share and participate during lesson time. Snacks are provided! If interested please contact the Rev. John Forrest or Cynthia King.
P.S. Reminder: Each Sunday School classroom requires two adults and we are currently shorthanded. We've been combining classrooms, yet that can be challenging due to ages of youth in the classrooms and the planned lessons. Pray about joining us!

Drop-In Center News

By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

I am writing this on Valentine’s Day and thinking about our client guests with love. It’s not that we love them that matters as much as how we love them. Love can’t be taught to people, like a class on “Love.” The only teacher is experiencing love. So we demonstrate love in all our actions. We work hard to help them with their challenges, providing hot meals, teaching skills, and giving services, resources, and referrals.

Sunday many of them had a little money in their pockets from the checks they had received at the beginning of month, so we didn’t have an extremely large crowd in attendance. We made chili, rice, salads, and desserts. Food Finders volunteer Willis Johnson brought a large Trader Joe’s donation, and we were able to have enough to hand out food for them to take with them too.

We had some returning volunteers it was very good to see. Though we were still short on volunteers, we managed to make and give out hygiene kits to many. “Perfect Plus” of Beverly Hills provided lots of nice hygiene items to us. The guests really appreciated getting those.

Some new folks had called me during the week for assistance and then came in Sunday for us to talk more. I was able to give one gentleman rental assistance so he and his son can remain in housing. This time the single parent was a man. He has raised his son alone since infancy. He hadn’t been able to procure as many handyman jobs as usual. He is working towards a new permanent job. I gave him a flyer on a job fair, and we will help him prepare a resume telling of his work experience. He also has a lead on a trucking company that says they will send people to truck driver training classes and hire them.

There were a couple of our other client guests with which I had to practice tough love. One of our large families has a teenage daughter with two babies and not going to school or working. I told them they need to go down our list of things to do before I will give them more money. Their goal is permanent housing, so the daughter must allow us to help them get the children into daycare and either go to school full time or get a job. Her older sister is going to school and working and is a good example of that. I helped the mother get IHHS for caring for the grandmother so they are growing in income. They have a decent income now but had been evicted earlier, so with a large family and an eviction it is hard to place them.

So Sunday was an example of many kinds of love. A single father loving and raising a son, companies donating food and hygiene items so the poor could be helped, volunteers coming and giving of their time, a loving staff and volunteers going above and beyond their job descriptions, disenfranchised community members gathering in fellowship and trying to learn to love themselves and each other. Yes, Sundays at UCO’s Drop-In-Center is a display of pure love!

Happy Valentine’s Day! May you experience lots of love today!


Parish Joy

Julie and Jeff Gholson wish to share the joyful news of the arrival their granddaughter, Justine Louisa Baij, a beautiful, big, baby girl (9.95 lbs., 22 inches). Zoe Gholson and Jeff Baij are the enchanted parents. All are doing well.

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 nephes); Rochelle Bell (relative of Donna Hutt Stapfer Bell); Margaret Brown; Ben Loa and his family; the Rev. Bill Peterson (husband of the Rev. Gail Benson, formerly our interim minister); Betty Cole; and Mel White.

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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