The Pilgrim - February 28, 2021

The Pilgrim - February 28, 2021


From the Senior Minister:
Safety-Diversity and Re-Opening

Dear friends,

As exciting news comes from our Associate Minister Search Committee, I want to share preliminary reopening updates. The Diaconate and Safety leadership set March as the time to reconsider and update our program practices, so we know this work begins right around the corner.

Our budgeted goal includes a soft re-open of worship in July, with a fuller re-opening in October. But what about small events, ensembles, gatherings, and programs? What about outdoor worship for a baptism or vigil? What about off-campus events? Those are the options which may become viable earlier.

The phrase “same storm, different boat” will still apply as the vaccines are deployed. For example, people over 65 are getting vaccines right now, which is wonderful. School-age children are not scheduled for eligibility and show a 0% vaccination rate.[1] As has been the case so far, families will likely base their choices on the risk for the most-vulnerable member.

Here at the church, that means a staggered approach to activity may pervade 2021. We may have a large population of vaccinated church members long before we have a fully vaccinated staff, for example, as our staff is virtually all under retirement age. Programs will likely be segmented to accommodate the safety-diversity of the community – fortunately, this is already our program model at FCCLB, so we have solid program strategy in our collective bank of wisdom.

Currently, the congregation’s activity is primarily online. Another important element of life at 241 Cedar, however, is that while the legal guidelines have generally not allowed for church gatherings in person, the work of UCO, DAYS, and Un Mundo Preschool have all carried ‘essential ratings’ since early in the pandemic. Our historic building has been relatively quiet since the conclusion of the (also essentially rated) Rose Window construction project. Pilgrim Hall and our courtyard and its amenities are in use seven days a week for that good work of preschool and food support to the neighborhood. Operating our “multi-organizational ministry environment” will surely be a key element to maintaining a safe environment into the future.

In this time of challenge, let us give and receive grace, patience, and kindness. As the proverb says: to go fast, go alone. To go far, go together. Let us work for a grace-filled re-opening that prioritizes safe, segmented action and allows us to gracefully regather in our church home.

Sending prayers for grace to fill your day and give you peace,

The Rev. Elena Larssen

[1] Vaccines - Coronavirus COVID-19 Response (

Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

By Curtis Heard, Director of Music and Composer-in-Residence

The Sanctuary Choir will close out the month of February with another African American Spiritual, “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” This soothing melody has a simple message that contains great profundity: Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again. I, for one, am hopeful that with more and more folks getting vaccinated (a balm indeed), our souls will be revived. Echoing the optimism of the anthem will be the song that George Carson has selected for this Sunday, “What a Wonderful World.” There’s a great video with some animation that will lift your spirits: “What a Wonderful World.” I pray that you will find the music this week a healing force in your life!


In This Issue

From the Senior Minister
Heard's Words
Gates Updates
Tell Them We Are Rising
Poet's Notes
Annual Meeting Videos
Central Assn. Spring Meeting
Black Art in LB History
Sacred Practices
Thursdays for the Soul
Phoenix Affirmations
Caste Awareness
Video of the Week
Birthdays & Anniversaries
Parish Concerns
Deadline: Tuesday at 1 pm

Sunday Worship 10 AM
Livestreamed on our YouTube Channel -
Click Here!

Theme: Lent
Scripture: Genesis 17:1-7, 15
Preacher: The Rev. Elena Larssen

Coming next week: Rev. Larssen will preach.

A recording of last Sunday's service is on YouTube here.

Great American Novels for Lent

February 14: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
February 21: The Color Purple, Alice Walker
February 28: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
March 7: Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
March 14: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
March 21: A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

The Gates Updates: Sunday School

By Greyson Gates, Director of Children's and Youth Ministry

Back by popular demand, the grades 5-6 Sunday School has been reinstated with Ewan Scott at the helm and Matt Balin providing support!

In our children’s Sunday School, we are continuing to learn from Jesus’ talents as a storyteller. This week we are discussing the parable of the Prodigal Son. This story is such a powerful one because it reminds us that even when we make mistakes, big or small, we are held in the love of our support systems and God. The Sunday School team looks forward to exploring this topic with the FCCLB kids, and Kathryn, Clayton, and I are excited to explore social justice topics with the youth group!

Tell Them We Are Rising Documentary – Discussion on Social Justice Sunday, February 28, 11:30 AM

By Byron Jobin-Reyes

In celebration of Black History Month, the Board of Social Justice and Outreach invites you to join us in watching and discussing the documentary “Tell Them We Are Rising,” which examines the impact Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have had on American history, culture, and national identity. Beginning with the earliest attempt at education to today’s campuses, still in existence, the 90-minute documentary will give you a glimpse of this 150-year-old story, finally being told. We want to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of our nation from the Black community. As the UCC’s very own Rev. Traci Blackmon said, “…as we approach February, please remember Black people are not defined by the worst things white people have done to them. That’s not our history. It is theirs.”

We will have a discussion about this documentary at the board’s Social Justice Sunday Forum this Sunday, February 28, 11:30 a.m. We invite all members of our church and our community to join the discussion of this very important documentary.

How will this work you ask? You can see Tell Them We Are Rising on YouTube here.

This Sunday, February 28, we will come together for a Zoom discussion of the film. Please invite others to watch the documentary and join us for our discussion. The Zoom meeting is already set up; please see the information below, and we will send out another reminder as we get closer to the date.

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 990 3312 7492
Passcode: 241241
One tap mobile
+16699006833,,99033127492#,,,,*241241# US (San Jose)
+12532158782,,99033127492#,,,,*241241# US (Tacoma)

Poet’s Notes

By Tina Datsko de Sánchez, Poet-in-Residence

This week we will celebrate the second Sunday of Lent. I find the liturgical seasons a reminder of how life moves in cycles. Right now, one cycle that resonates deeply is that we are about to complete one year since the beginning of safer-at-home orders that necessitated our community to re-invent itself on-line. An aspect of last year’s Lenten theme was “Listening for Wisdom,” for which I wrote a poem and Curtis Heard wrote music. The Sanctuary Choir was able to sing “Listening for Wisdom” live in church before the shut-down, and José Sánchez-H. was able to film it. Curtis is including the video as an introit in the services throughout Lent.

At the time of writing, the poem was dedicated to the Rev. Elena Larssen, with gratitude for her vision in guiding this church on the corner of arts and justice. At this time of both cycling back and moving forward, I multiply my gratitude to Rev. Elena for her wisdom in leading us through these exceptional times. I also offer gratitude to everyone in this community whose listening for wisdom has kept us safe and connected, including Julie Ford, Church Council, the Safety Committee, all the boards and ministry teams, Curtis Heard, Dr. Marc Dickey, Tracy Halter-Balin, Adreana Langston, Paisha Bleich, our soloists, and the Sanctuary Choir.

Listening for Wisdom

For Elena Larssen

We tune our hearing to silence.
We wait on the source of being.
Our minds release the roar of thoughts.

We incline our hearts to listen
for the still small voice of Wisdom.
It is Sophia who beckons.

Holy Wisdom, be now among us,
fill our hearts with your dancing light,
give us to know our true being.

Let us be beacons of God’s peace,
shining with the light of justice,
living out God’s love in the world.

2021 Annual Meeting Videos

If you missed the Annual Congregational Meeting this past Sunday, here on YouTube you can see the videos for staff Appreciation, Karen Miller being given the Pillsbury Award, and Julie Ford being given the Herrington Pathfinder Award.

Save the Date: Central Association Spring Meeting
April 24, 10 A.M.
Via Zoom

Black Art in Long Beach History: A Short Quiz

By Cathy Chambers, Board of Social Justice and Outreach

“There have always been Black artists, they just ... have not been part of the mainstream,” one of the artists featured in the new HBO documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light reminds us.

Who were the Black visual artists with a connection to Long Beach? Curious, I began to research, limiting my focus to the decades between the1940s and 1980s (ish). The following seven artists, architects, and activists were among those I encountered, with most of my information found online.

Match numbered descriptions in the first column to the lettered individuals in the second (answers and informational links will be included in next week’s Pilgrim).

To learn more:

From the library:

  • Untold Legacies: A Pictorial History, Black Long Beach 1900-2000 & Beyond. The National Council of Negro Women, Long Beach Section, 2007.
  • The Heritage of African Americans in Long Beach: Over 100 Years.Volume I. In Association with the African American Heritage Society of Long Beach, 2007.

Sacred Practices – Wednesdays, 6:30 PM

By Bob Kalayjian

All are welcome to join us for meditation, yoga, poetry, Reiki energy and reflections on lovingkindness and compassion. Gathering at 6:30 and beginning the practice at 7 p.m.

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 912 6797 1533
Passcode: 446

Thursdays for the Soul: Recovering Spiritual Practices of Enslaved Africans

Thursday, February 25, 12:30 PM
From the United Church of Christ

Join us for a conversation about African spiritual practices and the church. The spiritual practices of Africans were problematized in the enslavement and colonization of African people. Those brought into the Americas as enslaved people carried with them heritage, culture and spiritual practices that were interrupted with the introduction of Christianity and the vilification of African traditions. Is the “table” wide enough to make room for the ways in which African spiritualities are accompanying African descendant people on their spiritual journeys? How can we honor people and traditions shrouded by the imposition of racism and afrophobia? Register here.

Women’s Book Discussion: The Phoenix Affirmations – Saturdays, 7 PM

By Debbie Bond

The First Church women’s spirituality group meets on Saturdays at at 7 p.m. for a six-week study engaging with Dr. Eric Elnes’ book The Phoenix Affirmations: A New Vision for the Future of Christianity. This small book offers expansive insights on our evolving faith. We welcome all FCCLB women and their friends to join this weekly gathering during which we share and consider ideas and experiences.

“The Phoenix Affirmations is a set of twelve principles originally penned by a group of clergy and laypeople from Phoenix, Arizona, in an attempt to articulate clearly the broad strokes of the emerging Christian faith. Pastors, theologians, and biblical scholars from every mainline denomination, with degrees from major seminaries and divinity schools, added input. According to Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence, Elnes’ The Phoenix Affirmations: A New Vision for the Future of Christianity stands today as the clearest, most articulate presentation of Progressive Christianity” (Wikipedia).

Please contact Debbie Bond for the Zoom information if you would like to participate:

Caste Awareness Discussions – Mondays, 7:30 PM

Caste Awareness Discussions (CAD) is our new group meeting. These one-hour meetings will lead us on a journey of how the American caste system was designed to control others. This unpleasant side of our history is as strong today as it was in our country’s infancy. While controlling race and class was and is a big part of the caste design, it is not limited to them today and can include other caste groups based on sexual orientation, gender, physical attributes, age, ability, nationality, and more.

Through our meetings we hope that you will learn, share, and discover ways to be involved in changing our own behavior and the community we live in. We will learn how to actively become anti-racist and see how bias and “othering” can impact those around us. Our meetings are a safe and confidential space to come and share how the things we say and do can impact others, sometimes negatively, even when we think we are being kind and helpful. All are welcome. Please join us at our Monday Zoom meeting at 7:30 p.m.

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 938 4148 5098
Passcode: 321
One tap mobile
+16699006833,,93841485098#,,,,*321# US (San Jose)
+12532158782,,93841485098#,,,,*321# US (Tacoma)

Video of the Week: “Siyahamba,” South African Freedom Song - Sanctuary Choir

March Birthdays

1   Frances Holand
2   Christie Pearce
3   Louise Lawler
4   Nicolas Abel, Matthew Chavis, Jeff Gholson, Randy King
5   Natalie Gissel
6   Kirsten Pearce
8   Richard Grauman
9   Julie Gholson
10  Curtis Heard, Kathy Wallace-Phelps, Dorothy Wine
11  Elena Larssen
12  Bill Gamble, David Travis Bourassa
13  Alison Mitchell
14  Sarah Schoolcraft
15  Tracy Halter-Balin, Wayne Hester
18  Jayden Elizarraraz, Richard Harrison
19  Teri Brewster, Nicol Hedgpeth
21  Laurel Hanson, Christine Rhoads
23  Shelby Johnson, Tim Mountain, Micah Turner
24  Randall Goddard, Jerry Mitchell
25  J. J. Halter, Erin O’Keefe
26  Maria Alarcon, David Cartwright, Margaret Jacoby
28  Marion Hinze
29  Douglas Emslie
30  Akiko Dohi

March Anniversaries

3    Lisa & Curtis Heard, 31 years
6    Gayle Connell & Margaret Jacoby, 28 years
10  Jeff & Julie Gholson, 42 years
29  Debra Moore & Paulette Marks

Parish Concerns

Please remember Bill Armstrong; Marion Hinze and her family; Teri Brewster; Richard Landuyt’s brother-in-law, Ed Mohnike; the family and friends of Frantina Acevedo upon her death; and Adreana Langston, working on a refinance of her condo to forestall a foreclosure sale.

To share a Parish Concern or a Parish Joy, email Ruth Warkentin, the office manager:

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.


All activities are on Zoom unless otherwise indicated. Zoom meetings are screened with a waiting room and monitored by tech stewards. The church calendar is posted online here.

Wednesday, February 24
6:30 pm    Sacred Practices
Thursday, February 25
7:30 pm    Sanctuary Choir Gathering
Saturday, February 27
10 am       Urban Community Outreach Food Drive – Alley at Potholder Lot
7 pm         Women’s Book Discussion: The Phoenix Affirmations
Sunday, February 28
9 am         Sunday School
                 Adult Education
                 Koinonia Room Coffee Hour
10 am       Service of Celebration of God’s Love – FCCLB YouTube Channel
11 am       Coffee Hour
11:15 am  Service of Communion and Prayer
11:30 am  Social Justice Forum: Discussion of “Tell Them We Are Rising”
1:30          Drop-In Center – on-site
2 pm         Youth Group
Monday, March 1
7:30 pm    Caste Awareness Meeting
Wednesday, March 3
6:30 pm    Sacred Practices

To place an ad in this newsletter, please contact Ruth Warkentin in the church office.

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