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The Pilgrim - February 14, 2016

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

Dear Church, 

What a fantastic Quinquagesima! Thank you to the Music Department and to all who made our Gifts of the Generations series so illuminating and enjoyable. I have been hearing lots of interested comments about the generational theory piece ... do you want to hear more? Would you enjoy a chance to have a multi-generational conversation over a meal? Email me if you’d be interested in a discussion or social event with a multi-generational focus ...

The abrupt shift from Mardi Gras and Quinquagesima is part of what makes Ash Wednesday so powerful. Our service tonight will have a shadowy, reflective feeling, and all ages are welcome:

Ash Wednesday Service Tonight 7:00 p.m.
Featuring Una Voce chant choir and
Dr. Marc Dickey at the organ

Our theme for Lent this year is Hope Is the Story

There is a saying attributed to the great liberal Protestant theologian (some would say the greatest theologian of the 20th century) Karl Barth: preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. I hear this as a reminder – not just to preachers, but to all of us - to consider our faith in its current context, not to remain in the history or poetry of the Christian story, but to bring its message of hope into our lives, into the issues of the day, and into our actions in real time.

What would Jesus say about the water in Flint, Michigan? What would Peter say about the presidential primaries? What would the woman at the well say about the Anglican Church welcoming the Roman Catholic church to worship at Hampton Court ... for the first time in more than 400 years?

Let’s ask these questions together during Lent 2016~

Have a beautiful week,
The Rev. Elena Larssen

P.S. Fabulous conversations with the Faith and Film class this week – looking forward to discussing Carol on Sunday and Monday night! Carol is not showing is very many places, so I’ll show clips, and I recommend looking online or watching Far from Heaven by the same filmmaker, Todd Haynes, so that all can get into the conversation.



In this issue:

Music This Sunday

Christian Education This Sunday

Annual Meeting Sunday, February 21

Faith and Film: Carol

CCEJ Breakfast

Poet's Notes

Moderator's Moment

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

When children (and many grown-ups) are asked, “What is God?” they often reply, “God is love.” Early 19th-century hymn author Thomas Cotterill puts it this way:

Our God is love, and all the saints God’s image bear below;
The heart inspired with love for God, with love for all will glow.

This Sunday, the choir will sing this text, set by Hal Hopson in honor of Valentine’s Day!

I’d like to thank the choir, Marc Dickey, and the soloists (including Sonia Gallardo for her solo on “Happy”) for providing exceptional music last Sunday! As promised, it was a Quniquagesima to remember! I’ve also had a couple of requests for the words to the postlude, so here they are:

Sung to the tune “All of Me”

All of us, why not take all of us?
What’s the fuss, we’re no good without you.
Take the GI’s, and the Boomers.
The Silent Ones may just be late bloomers!
God that panders, take all our Homelanders.
Take the “I” of this generation.
Take all our parts, we give you our hearts,
So, why not take all of us!

Millenials, just like perennials,
Seem to pop up over and over.
Some are large, some just tiny specks,
Leaving room for Generation X.
All our strengths, and all our weaknesses,
Whether we’re a minus or plus.
Take all our parts we give you our hearts,
So, why not take all,
The big and the small,
Why not take all of us!

See you Sunday!

Curtis Heard, Director of Music


In Sunday School

Topic: Sharing Bread on Our Journey

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




Annual Meeting - Sunday, February 21

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


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.

Up Next on February 14 and 15: Carol
Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) spots the beautiful, elegant Carol (Cate Blanchett) perusing the doll displays in a 1950s Manhattan department store. The two women develop a fast bond that becomes a love with complicated consequences.


California Conference for Equality and Justice
25th Annual Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast
Wednesday, February 24

Long Beach Convention Center
Registration and Boutique: 6:45 - 7:30 am
Program and Breakfast: 7:30 - 9 am
Boutique and Book Signing: 9 - 9:30 am

Please join us at the First Church tables! To reserve your space, contact the office at or 562-436-2256 x100. Tickets are $40 - mail in your check (payable to First Congregational Church) or drop it in the plate on Sunday.

The keynote speaker will be Prof. Margaret Burnham, the founder of Northeastern University School of Law's Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, which engages students in legal matters relating to the 1960s U.S. civil rights movement. In 2010, Professor Burnham headed a team of outside counsel and law students in a landmark case that settled a federal lawsuit: Prof. Burnham's team accused Franklin County Mississippi law enforcement officials of assisting Klansmen in the kidnapping, torture and murder of two 19-year-olds, Henry Dee and Charles Eddie Moore.


Poet's Notes
By Tina Datsko de Sánchez

As your Poet in Residence, I am honored to collaborate with our clergy and the Worship and Arts Ministry Team and to contribute poetry for use in our worship life. For Easter 2012, I contributed a poem, “Magdalene’s Song,” which was set to music by Director of Music Curtis Heard. “Magdalene’s Song” is a poetic re-imagining of the gospel story of Mary Magdalene encountering the empty tomb. After writing that poem, I got the idea to poetically re-imagine other elements of the gospel narratives of Holy Week in ways that might enliven them for progressive Christians.

In early January I sat with the gospel texts, and what appeared is a poem in six parts in the voices/points of view of the colt that carried Jesus into Jerusalem, Jesus at Passover and in Gethsemane, Peter after Jesus is arrested, the tomb, Mary Magdalene (incorporating "Magdalene's Song"), and the archetype of Christ consciousness. As we move into our Lenten journey, one section will appear in The Pilgrim each of the six weeks of Lent. The first section imagines Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem from the perspective of the colt he was riding. The poem is dedicated to the Rev. Elena Larssen and the Rev. John Forrest Douglas in gratitude for their leadership and vision as we imagine together the second century of this church on the corner of arts and justice.


                        For Elena and John Forrest


I carry him into Jerusalem.
The crowds shout: “Rabbi, have mercy on us!”
My hoof steps are cushioned by cloaks and palms.
This teacher shows the way of truth and life.

The crowds shout: “Rabbi, have mercy on us!
Hosanna to God’s servant! We want to see!”
This teacher shows the way of truth and life.
Take his yoke upon you and he will lead.

“Hosanna to God’s servant! We want to see!”
Their eyes are shining with wonder and awe.
Take his yoke upon you and he will lead,
for the first shall be last and the last, first.

Their eyes are shining with wonder and awe;
those with so little can recognize truth.
For the first shall be last and the last, first.
And in God we are sisters and brothers.

Those with so little can recognize truth.
My hoof steps are cushioned by cloaks and palms.
And in God we are sisters and brothers.
I carry him into Jerusalem.


Moderator's Moment
By Tim Mountain

As we enter the Lenten season, I am finding myself grateful for such a loving, caring community as First Church. Each of us has such an important role to play in the lives of our fellow travelers on this life journey of faith. I hope you all are able to participate in some of the services coming up that celebrate our lives together such as the Annual meeting on Sunday, February 21. See you in church.


Drop-In-Center News
By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

Sunday, February 7 was a peaceful Sunday, all in all. It was the first Sunday of the month so we had a little lighter number of people coming to us. It was the last day Dominique Smith, Volunteer Coordinator Chair, was with us as she is moving out of state. So it was bittersweet. She has been an excellent Volunteer Coordinator for three years and we will miss her, but we are grateful for the work she has done and we wish her well.

During the week we were gifted a windfall of 1,000 socks from Justin Rudd. We sorted the socks in categories of men, women and children and held about half to be given out another day. They are always so happy when we have new socks for them.

One of the families I’m working with came in with smiles and progress to report. Dad had started his new job on the Queen Mary, their income tax refund arrived, I had found childcare for them, and things were starting to look up. Now they wanted to talk about an apartment. Someone had recommended an apartment in Lynwood to them and someone else told them about a mobile home for sale. I told them to hold off a little and consider apartments in Long Beach if we could find one, because it would save them gas and driving time. I set about researching apartments in Long Beach and told dad to go in the computer lab and do some research too.

Harvey, one of our cleaning crew, has returned from his month-long visit to his home state of Louisiana. He is looking for a new place to stay too, so my research would help more than one. I compiled a list of apartments for Harvey and gave it to him and then went in search of the family. I actually found a cute small three-bedroom house in Lakewood listed for $1,000 a month. Almost too good to be true!

I was so glad to get news that the City Council approved two items to help alleviate the housing crunch in Long Beach. One preserves 148 units of affordable housing for low-income families, and the other approves issuance of a multi-family housing revenue bond permitting the acquisition of St. Mary Tower Apartments, extending the affordability of the property for the next 55 years. It is really good news that they are preserving and protecting existing affordable housing in Long Beach!

Good things happening! Just got word of a room for a family for $500 a month till we can get her full-time work. The part-time job just doesn’t cut it.

Onward and upwards! It’s spring in southern California. Did you notice the trees starting to bud? Till next week ... keep the faith!

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 Fran Holand; Rick Mills; Lori Radcliffe (Janet Harrington's daughter-in-law); Charles Behm (Clarence Dendy's friend); Sheryl Chambers (Judy Crawford's friend); and Jim Snelling.

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.




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