The Pilgrim - March 5, 2017
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The Pilgrim - March 5, 2017

Dear Church,

For generations, our congregation has studied the person of Jesus. Great forums have been held, some historic sermons have been preached, hymns and chants and oratorios have been sung.  Scripture has been read, as well as scholarship from the latest publications by theologians and historians.

In fact, the greatest controversy this congregation ever faced was not about immigration, or human sexuality, or race, but about Jesus.

In the first part of the twentieth century, our congregation fell into debate about the nature of Jesus: was he more human or more divine? Which is more important? Which should be the focus of our study and prayer? It was such a strong debate that, for more than a decade, the “more divinity” portion of the congregation split off and formed Plymouth Congregational Church, which did well as an independent congregation. 

It was one of the first great acts of Henry Kendall Booth, the most celebrated preacher in our congregation’s history and a noted public voice of his time, to reconcile the two congregations back to First Congregational.  I often think that the minister of Plymouth Congregational deserves tremendous respect for bringing his congregation back into First Church, as it surely put him out of a job. 

This was all done with great propriety. It was a time and a place and a culture of courtly debate and gentile disagreement. There were no angry email chains. No one flamed anyone else on social media. No one egged anyone else’s house (that we know of!). It was a sign of the underlying wisdom which would eventually prevail that diversity of belief was not feared.

Diversity of belief is a cornerstone concept for our Pilgrim-Protestant religious tradition. We understand that conformity is not required to build community; rather, even groups of like-minded people must provide understanding for one another as a practice in building real, caring relationships.

As Jesus is quoted in the book of Matthew: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” Then he says that even tax collectors (!) are kind to their loved ones, and calls his students to a higher ethic of lovingkindness for all.

This season of Lent, our services will themed Who Do You Say That I Am?: Images of Jesus. We will study different passages and stories from scripture that show difference aspects of Jesus’ ministry. It’s a chance to piece together our own images of Jesus, be that human or divine, unlike or just like us. It’s a chance to face the great controversy of Christianity: who is Jesus? And who do we say he is, today and in our own lives?

The Rev. Elena Larssen

First Church Café This Sunday: Pancake Brunch

Proceeds to benefit the handbells program.

In This Issue

"Who Do You Say That I Am?"
Music on Sunday
Christian Education
Parents' Night Out
First Church Cafe: Pancake Brunch
Lenten Class
Spirituality and Support Group
Serendipity Suppers
Game ON!
Cookie Decorating Workshop
Prayer Retreat
Confirmation Update
Sanctuary Training
It's a Spring Thing at Pilgrim Pines
Summer Camp at Pilgrim Pines
Drop-In Center News
March Birthdays & Anniversaries
Parish Joy & Concerns
Deadline: Tuesday at 1 pm

Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

I am no Latin scholar, but I do know how to go online, type in Latin phrases, and see an English translation pop up. As in any language, Latin words take on different meanings depending on the context. Taken as a whole, entire texts also take on different meanings depending on the context. This is why we continue to read and study literature and sacred writings of the past. It is illuminating and strangely comforting to see that the problems we face today are not so different than those of society hundreds, and even thousands of years ago.

This Sunday, the choral anthem is from the late baroque/early classical period with a Latin text taken from the Psalms. (Perhaps the musical opposite of what we heard at the rousing Quinquagesima service last Sunday!) Rather than give my commentary on theses verses from Psalms 82 and 59, I will give a translation and let you relate it to today’s current events:

    Sciant gentes quoniam nomen tibi Deus:
    tu solus Altissimus super omnem terram.
    Deus meus, pone illos ut rotam,
    et sicut stipulam ante faciem venti.
    Commovisti Domine terram et conturbasti eam.
    Sana contritiones ejus, quia mota est.
    Ut fugiant a facie arcus, ut liberentur electi tui.

    Let the Gentiles know that God is Thy Name:
    Thou alone art the Most High over all the earth. 
    O my God, make them like a wheel,
    and as stubble before the wind.
    Thou hast moved the Earth and divided it.
    Heal Thou the breaches thereof, for it is moved.
    That they may flee before the bow. That thy elect may be delivered.

As we journey together through the Lenten season, I hope that the music will provide a source of reflection, inspiration, reconciliation, and peace.

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

In Sunday School

Theme: And So It Begins
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11

Adult Education

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

Parents’ Night Out This Friday

By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

The time has come yet again! Parents’ Night Out is back this Friday night, March 3 from 6 to 9. Kids and youth are invited to come join for a night of fun and community here at First Church. Of course, we will have pizza and snacks. Adults who have been cleared to volunteer with children, we need a few more hands on deck to help out with the fun. Please let John Forrest know if your child will be coming or if you are willing to volunteer!

First Church Café This Sunday: Breakfast for Lunch

By Tracy Halter-Balin

The handbell program will be cooking up some yummy pancakes with all the fixin’s this Sunday, March 5, for you to enjoy after church and before your board meetings. The ringers of Beloved Bells, Jubellance, and Bellissimo are excited about hosting a traditional pancake brunch for our FCC family. Since this is a fundraiser for the bell program, we will be collecting a free-will donation. All are welcome. We are gluten and vegetarian friendly, too - what a great day to invite your friends to church!

Lenten Class Starts This Sunday

By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

During the season of Lent, Rev. Douglas will be leading an adult education session on the book Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower by the USA Today columnist Tom Krattenmaker. Click here to order the book from Amazon. We will also have a few copies available at church. While the discussion will be based around the book, reading the text is not a requirement to participate. 
Class Topics
March 5 - Killer Instinct
March 12 - Sexploitation
March 19 - High Anxiety
March 26 - Saved from What?
April 2 - Incarceration Nation and the Invisible and Forgotten
April 9 - Real Victory

Sunday Morning Spirituality and Support Group Starts This Sunday at 8:30 AM

By Dale Whitney and Chris Bobo
Please join us for a weekly Spirituality & Support Group beginning this Sunday at 8:30 a.m.  We'll meet on the second floor of the Third Street landing, just outside the Pownall Room. Everyone is welcome, and it would be wonderful to see you there!

Friendship, Fun, Food!!! The 2017 Serendipity Suppers Program Wants YOU!!!

By Randall Goddard, Bill Peck, Sara Schoenfelder, and Kirsten Pickus
Serendipity Suppers are small gatherings centered around a meal at a members’ home in which the guests don’t learn the address of their event until 24-48 hours beforehand. Moreover, guests don’t know who else will be present until they walk into the host’s home. Events include a meal, a game to help everyone get to know one another better, a few pre-determined conversation starters suggested by our ministers, and hopefully lots of good times with good people!

Anyone who is interested in participating in a 2017 Serendipity Suppers event needs to complete a short survey by clicking here.
Be sure to save the date of Saturday, April 1 for the first Serendipity Supper, and complete the survey even if you can’t participate in this first event so we’ll have your info for next time!

Game ON! Wednesday, March 15, 6 PM

By Donna Hutt Stapfer Bell

First Church's gaming group, Game ON! is having their second meeting on Wednesday, March 15 in both the Pownall and Koinonia Tooms, officially starting at 6 pm (but Donna will be there as early as 5:30 pm setting up), and going until 9 pm. The plan includes video games on the WiiU (SuperSmash Bros, with a side of Splatoon) on the large screen television, card tables set up for Blokus, Scrabble, Steven Universe Monopoly, Rock Me Archimedes, Chess, other board games ... including Bible Trivia, which was donated to us this past Sunday, if that floats your boat.  We also have half a dozen decks of cards if all you want is company playing Solitaire and complaining about the hand you dealt yourself. 

The goal is to huddle up, support each other through these trying political times, reconnect and HAVE FUN. Yes, there will be a snack bar. Yes, there will be coffee (and tea). Hosted by Donna and Jim Bell (with Xander!), we will have games to suit any activity level, any age, any skill, any interest. And we will teach! Bring your Nintendo DS, tablet, laptop (yes, we speak Steam) or smart phone - and feel free to bring your dinner with you, perhaps we'll make a food run in true gamer style, if there is enough interest! Bring a friend! Bring difficult relatives! (We love them.) Come for an hour and go home with a smile on your face - no worries!   

Would you like to play a game? 

Cookie Decorating Workshop on March 18!

By Kirsten Pickus for John Lockhart & Sam Johnson, Baking Group Leaders

First Church’s new Baking Group is holding its inaugural workshop on Saturday, March 18 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Patterson Hall. They’ll be decorating cookies with tutelage from the awesomely talented John Lockhart! Cookies, frosting and all accoutrements will be provided. You’ll just need an apron, a container to take home your masterpieces, and a smile! Advanced registration is required to ensure adequate supplies for all, and limited space is available for this small group activity.  Participants will get to take home 8-10 cookies each, and the cost will be $12 per person. Be sure to sign up no later than March 9 by sending an email to Kirsten Pickus at

The Diaconate Board and Sacred Practices
Welcome you to explore…


A Lenten Prayer Retreat for
People Who Think Praying Is Weird
with The Rev. Dr. Scott Landis


Does ‘prayer’ freak you out?

What is prayer anyway?

What about meditation?

What about meditation?

Saturday, March 25, 2017
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. @FCCLB
“Whether you are a social justice person or a worship-wonk, everyone has their own spiritual style, and there is a prayer practice that can help you connect with the Creator, Spirit, or ‘Divine Other.’” –Dr. Landis

Scott is a United Church of Christ minister, spiritual director, contemplative, and avid swimmer. He received his B.A. from Temple University in Philadelphia, M.Div. from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and D.Min. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Ordained for over 35 years, he is currently the (Senior) Pastor of Mission Hills UCC in San Diego. Scott is faculty for UCC CREDO and our SoCal/Nevada Conference’s Communities of Practice programs. He is married to Randy Spicocchi and has three grown children and one granddaughter who has stolen his heart.
Experience guided meditation, reflective writing,
labyrinth walks in a friendly and non-judgmental environment.
$25 per person, includes morning coffee and lunch
No one will be turned away for lack of funds
RSVP required to the Church Office by March 20
Pay online here or reserve your seat at

Confirmation Update

By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

Did you know that our Confirmation program has been in full swing since September? Confirmation provides the opportunity for high schoolers to explore their own faith, form community, and consider if they would like to formally join the covenant community of this congregation. The class meets for a class and a field trip each month; this past weekend, the confirmands did both!

On Saturday, February 25, joined by the confirmation class from Manhattan Beach Community Church UCC, we took a tour of the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights. We learned about Buddhism, took a tour of the beautiful grounds, and shared a dim sum lunch.

On Sunday, the class gathered in the High School Sunday School room after church to review 2000 years of church history in less than an hour! The confirmands learned about the various movements in the long and sometimes sordid history of Christianity that helped us become who we are today.

Please hold this group of teens in your prayers as they continue on this journey of confirmation.

Long Beach Sanctuary Training Session 

Saturday, March 11, 1:30-4:30 pm
Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach (5450 E Atherton St, Long Beach, CA 90815)

The Rev. Alexia Salvatierra will be leading this special training for congregations and religious leaders who wish to offer or learn more about physical sanctuary on either a short-term or long-term basis and rapid response. All are welcome! Please RSVP by email to Grecia Lopez-Reyes See the flyer below for more details and check out the Facebook event here

Second Annual It’s a Spring Thing at Pilgrim Pines - March 31 to April 2

From Tracy Halter-Balin
The wonderful Rev. Allysa DeWolf will be keynoting on the theme “Mixtape of Our Lives.” While we are able to use the conference Young Adult budget to make this event extra affordable for those 30 and under, this is an event for adults of all ages! We want people of every age older than 18 there!
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 March 29 at 6 pm to Sunday April 2 at 11 am
Price: $100 (see below to get $55 off)
The Southern California Nevada Conference of the UCC is sponsoring campers 30 and younger to attend for $45! Limited number of sponsorships available. Make sure to claim your spot today! Please pass the word around and invite anyone you think would be interested! For more information, email

Summer Camp 2017 at Pilgrim Pines Camp!
"Branching Out: Connecting through Community"

By Tracy Halter-Balin

This year’s camp will really come together in community as we explore "Branching Out." Our summer theme will engage our campers in building friendships, enjoying God in nature, and challenging themselves and each other while having fun. "Branching Out" is designed with God and community as our core value. Our daily themes and activities are designed with opportunities to share the love of God and love and compassion for each other and creation. There will be family groups, music, campfire circles, folk dances, field games and more, in a bountiful mountain camp which offers peace and a safe space. Our volunteers are filled with the spirit and willingness to put a little love in your heart!

We at First Congregational Church tend to go during Week 3. The dates are July 16-22. If you have any questions, please contact Tracy Halter-Balin or John Forrest Douglas. There is also information regarding camperships on the website, or see one of us. This week fills up the quickest, so don't delay.

Here is the link for the Summer Camp Brochure filled with lots of information.
Here is the link for Camper Registration.
And here is the link for being a volunteer.

Drop-In Center News

By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

This morning I was thinking about the meaning of the word “pilgrim” since that is the name of the newsletter. Of course originally it meant the group of English Puritans who founded the colony of Plymouth in New England in 1620.

In its broadest sense, a pilgrimage is an extended journey with a purpose. Isn’t that kind of like what life is like? We are here for an extended journey through life on this earth and hopefully we have a purpose. Have you thought about what your “purpose” is lately?

I know what Urban Community Outreach’s “purpose” is, though our mission statement is a little vague. “To advance the interests and promote the welfare of the economically disenfranchised and homeless people in Long Beach by offering a welcoming environment to provide respite, nutrition, opportunity, and hope.” That word “opportunity” has come to mean more and more things as we grow and provide more services and a stronger support system. With so many people coming to us, we have many ways we help because each of their life’s journeys is different.

Sunday, February 26, we had a senior couple who came for assistance in finding a way to bring in more income because their rent is going up. I was able to establish that she is taking care of his health needs and so should be eligible for IHHS payment from the government. We are working on that for them. He has an appointment this week to get his doctor to sign a letter stating that so they can prove his condition warrants her assistance. We helped a church member who had gone over budget this month and couldn’t afford all of her rent. We gave utility assistance for a mother trying to make a go of it.

We also had the Long Beach Community Chamber come to sing and provide some cheerful music for the group. They really liked it. Some danced! Another handsome young homeless man was inspired by seeing the piano and came up and played a beautiful classical piece, to our surprise! We gave him some new shirts for an interview so he could get going on the next part of his life’s journey. Sundays at UCO’s DIC are such a blessing and a joy!

March Birthdays

1 Frances Holand
2 Christie Pearce
3 Louise Lawler
4 Jeff Gholson, Randel King, Matthew Chavis
6 Kirsten Pearce, Erica Sears
8 Richard Grauman
9 Julie Gholson, Lisa Davis
10 Curtis Heard, Dottie Wine, Kelly Hanna, Danny Reich
11 Elena Larssen
12 Bill Gamble, David Travis Bourassa
13 Alison Mitchell, Mitchell Earl-Itoga
14 Sarah Schoolcraft
15  Wayne Hester, Tracy Halter-Balin
18 Melanie Hiller, Jayden Elizarraraz
19 Teri Brewster, Nicol Hedgpeth
21 Christine Rhoads
23 Shelby Johnson, Tim Mountain, Micah Turner
24 Jerry Mitchell, Randall Goddard
25 J. J. Halter, Erin O'Keefe
26 Margaret Jacoby, Maria Alarcon, David Cartwright
28 Marion Hinze
29 Douglas Emslie
30 Bob Phibbs, Akiko Dohi, Prince Guy
31 Parker Dunnegan

March Anniversaries

3 Lisa and Curtis Heard, 27 years
4 Jim Watson and Daniel Bell, 40 years
6 Gayle Connell and Margaret Jacoby, 24 years
10 Jeff and Julie Gholson, 38 years
29 Debra Moore and Paulette Marks

Parish Joy

Jeremy and Allison Morales, together with big sister Bethany, welcome baby Josephine! She was born at Tuesday at 11:45 am, 9 pounds 2 ounces, 22 inches. All is well!

Parish Concerns

Your thoughts and prayers are requested for  Peggy Loa upon the death of her husband, Ben Loa, this past weekend; Jerry Anderson (Donna Hutt Stapfer Bell's friend); and Anita (Georgette deBruyn's sister's friend).

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.

Copyright © 2017 First Congregational Church of Long Beach, All rights reserved.

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