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    A Liberal Church, Welcoming of All, Passionately Committed to Social Justice

The Pilgrim - March 6, 2016

One Great Hour of SharingOne Great Hour of Sharing Offering This Sunday
From the Board of Social Justice and Outreach

The One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) special mission offering of the United Church of Christ involves you in disaster, refugee/immigration, and development ministries throughout the world. This year the focus is on refugees. When a disaster strikes or people are displaced or made refugees by violence or extreme poverty, you are part of the immediate response and of the long-term recovery.

Through OGHS you engage in holistic development programs including health care, education, agriculture, food sustainability, micro-financing, and women’s empowerment. Because the UCC relates in mutual partnership to churches and organizations through Global Ministries and worldwide response and recovery networks, your contributions to One Great Hour of Sharing put you in the right place at the right time for the relief, accompaniment and recovery of the most vulnerable. You meet immediate needs and you address the underlying causes that create those needs in the first place. Your offering will be collected at the March 6 service. Thank you for your generous contribution.


Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

On February 18, the Sanctuary Choir, along with the choir from Los Altos UCC and singers from other local UCC churches, sang at the worship service that was held as part of the annual conference of the Retirement Housing Foundation held in our sanctuary. The RHF is one of the largest non-profit providers of affordable housing and services to seniors, low-income families and persons with disabilities throughout the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U. S. Virgin Islands. One of our anthems at that service was Ken Neufeld’s arrangement of “Be Thou My Vision.” Ken is a CSULB alum and a long time friend of many of us at First Church, and a talented composer. His keyboard parts are especially creative – this setting is really a duet between the keyboard and choir. I’m sure you’ll enjoy one of the great hymns of our faith this Sunday!

Curtis Heard, Director of Music



In this issue:

One Great Hour of Sharing Offering

Music This Sunday

Christian Education

First Church Café

Parents' Night Out

Game Night

Poet's Notes

ZONE Dinners

National Youth Event Fundraiser

Youth Trip Last Sunday

Benevolence Fund for John Forrest Douglas

RIP Ray Lowen

Thank You!

Screening of "Feminist" at the Art

Taizé at St. Luke's

Drop-In Center News


March Birthdays and Anniversaries

Parish Concerns

For more information ...

The Pilgrim - current and past editions of the newsletter


First Church website

Contact us


In Sunday School

Topic: Returning to God
Scripture: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

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




First Church Café This Sunday

It's the first Sunday of the month - time again for First Church Café, from Karen Cannon of Stars Catering. The cost for lunch is $9 for adults and $4 for children 10 and under.

All are welcome. If you or your family need financial assistance to be able to enjoy lunch, vouchers are available. A number of our boards will meet after lunch, but lunch is not just for board members. Here's the menu:

Turkey Noodle Soup
Tender turkey with egg noodles, vegetables, and a savory broth,
served with crackers plus dinner rolls and butter
Vegan and gluten-free soup also

Ranch Salad
Crisp romaine, spinach and four-way lettuce with house-made ranch dressing,
garlic croutons, cucumbers, tomatoes and black olives
Gluten-free and vegan version also

Spring Fruit Cups
 Fresh fruit, either plain, or with vanilla pudding and whipped cream

Iced tea, lemonade, and water


Parents' Night Out This Friday!
By Tracy Halter-Balin

It's the first Friday of the month and that means it's time for the always fun and energetic Parent's Night Out (sometimes also known as "Kid's Night Out").

We'll have some outside messy fun, so wear clothes that can handle it! Of course we'll also have lots of non-messy options as well, so everyone is welcome. Babies through fifth grade are invited to join in, and any junior high and senior high youth are welcomed with open arms to join in the fun and help oversee some of the activities. We'll serve our traditional pizza and veggies and enjoy lots of fun fellowship.  

RSVPs are encouraged so we know how much food to buy, so let Tracy know by Friday morning if you'll be joining us. Email or call 562-754-3324.

See you there!


Game Night Is This Friday!
By Yvonne SaMarion

Friday night at First Church is Game Night! The adult gamesters of First Church will gather upstairs in the Pownall room on March 4 at 6:30 pm. Join us for a potluck dinner (please bring a dish that will feed four). Drinks and an evening of fun with fun people will be provided. This month is wide open as to what game will be played – we’ll have a variety available. If you have a favorite game – bring it with you. Your favorite game may win the night! Come one, come all and join in the fun. We’ll have the welcome mat out for you!



Poet's Notes
By Tina Datsko de Sánchez

In the Christian liturgical tradition, the road to Easter passes through Good Friday. This week’s poem is a re-imagining of the story of the crucified Jesus being entombed. Through the technique of personification, we hear the story from the perspective of the tomb itself. The poem uses repetition as well as theme and variation, as each stanza begins with the same line but imagines a different aspect of how the tomb might by understood by progressive Christians. 


                        For Elena and John Forrest


I could not hold onto him,
but I embraced him.
I was his cocoon
as his spirit transformed
and found bright wings of love.

I could not hold onto him,
but comforted him
in the dark and quiet.
I let him rest and know
he’d completed his task.

I could not hold onto him,
but gave him courage
that his light and wisdom
could flow through the Divine
and into many hearts.


ZONE Dinners
By Jeremy Morales

Our middle and high school youth gather each Sunday night in the Senior High Room for ZONE. Our program is divided into two parts: first, we gather for dinner, then have an evening activity. We are in need of individuals or groups to provide dinner for ZONE. For those chefs in our midst, you can cook dinner, and others among us can provide pizza, take-out, and other pre-made food is great as well. Ten to twelve youth and adults regularly show up for ZONE. To sign up, please contact Jeremy Morales (562-756-2166, The following dates are currently available:

March 13
April 10
April 17
April 24
May 1
May 22

Thank you in advance on behalf of the youth!


National Youth Event Fundraiser
By Tracy Halter-Balin

When I think of Easter, of course my first thought is "Yay, my favorite holiday, celebrating Jesus, church and great music." And my close runner-up thought is "candy."  Not just any candy but See's candy! My dad always surprised me each year with one of those awesome chocolate eggs in its own box. Yum! He probably stood in line for hours to get just the right one.

Well, I'm here to tell you that you can have that same joy - both of giving and receiving -  a See's Easter Treat without having to stand in line at all. We are providing you with the great opportunity to order something wonderful while supporting the Florida-bound youth at the same time.

Good prices, great selection and delivered right to you. We'll have a table in the courtyard after church on March 6 and 13. You can prepay with cash or checks. Candy will be available on Palm Sunday (March 20) just in time for your Easter fun!

I'm partial to the peanut butter egg in case anyone is interested...

See you Sunday!


Last Sunday's Youth Trip
By Jeremy Morales

Just as a piece of news! Last weekend, eight youth from our church when on the first adventure day trip of the year. It started with a 30-minute hike from the Greek Theater to the Griffith Observatory. While there, they had an opportunity to see the Hollywood sign, the planetarium show, and various exhibits. This was followed by an early dinner at the Palm’s Thai Restaurant on Hollywood Blvd.

Griffith Park   Griffith Park



Benevolence Fund for the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

Many of you have asked about how to support the Rev. John Forrest Douglas as he undergoes cancer treatment this spring, and I am pleased that our Stewardship and Finance Board has approved a “John Forrest Douglas Benevolence Fund.” You may contribute online or via check or cash; please make checks to First Congregational Church with “Douglas Benevolence” in the memo line or on the envelope. Per IRS regulations, this is not a tax-deductible gift.

If you would like to send a card or note, please drop it in the church office. We will bundle up cards and mail them together in ‘care packages’ from First Church.

Rev. Douglas will be in Houston, Texas for surgery at St. Luke's Episcopal Medical Center from March 7 and will be in Houston for about a month. His husband, Ben, will be able to be with him, and our prayers and encouragement will travel with them, every step of the journey.

Thank you for your kind and loving generosity, dear First Church.
The Rev. Elena Larssen


RIP Ray Lowen
By Dale Whitney

Former First Church member Ray Lowen passed away just recently. He was in his late 80s, according to the Press-Telegram obituary. Personally, I was closest to him back in the 1990s when he was a frequent attender of a Sunday morning Bible Study that I was leading at that time - my favorite quote of his would be "If it helps people, it is of Christ; if it hurts people, it is not of Christ." A memorial gathering for Ray will take place at 12 noon on Sunday, March 6 at The Center at 2017 East Fourth Street, near the Art Theatre.


Thank You from Warm Streets Coat Drive
By Jenny Penner

Warm Streets Coat Drive has come to an end, and we would like to thank everyone who has participated! Your donations helped us provide eight bins of warm clothing to the Urban Community Outreach Drop-In Center. If you have more donations, please feel free to take them over to any of the wonderful volunteers on a Sunday.


Screening of "Feminist: Stories from Women's Liberation"

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) celebrates Women's History Month with a screening of "Feminist: Stories from Women's Liberation" on Wednesday, March 23 at 7 pm at the Art Theatre (2025 E Fourth St, Long Beach). Filmmaker Jennifer Hall Lee will be there to discuss her independent film, which won "Best of the Fest for Documentary at the Los Angeles Women's International Film Festival.

Advance tickets may be purchased on for $10, or you may send a check, payable to "AAUW Long Beach," to AAUW Long Beach, PO Box 15023, Long Beach, CA 90815. Include the ticket holder's name. Tickets will be available at will call. Event proceeds will help provide STEM camperships to underrepresented girls.


Taizé at St. Luke's Episcopal Church



Drop-In Center News
By Arlene Mercer

Sunday, February 28 worked! Of course that was due to good staff and volunteers and to the fact that we have a very mobile medical staff. Out front of First Congregational Church the 40-foot Wellness Station with visiting phlebotomists and nurses very ably did HIV/AIDS testing. Inside FCC Dr. Sophia Momand and the CSUDH HOPE organization assisting her saw and treated patients and handed out new socks and some clothing and hygiene items. Then we had a call from a young gentleman we have just housed. You know, one of our “family.” He had a cold and the apartment heat had gone off Saturday night. It couldn’t be fixed till Monday or Tuesday. The days have been warm, but the nights are chilly, and he only had one thin blanket for his bed. He felt chilled. He wished he had some cough syrup, ibuprofen for his aches, and another warm blanket to snuggle in. Thanks to my willing husband, just like magic, he received a house call with the wished-for things! I’m so proud of our whole crew!

Our guests were delighted with the good chicken enchiladas, Spanish rice, roasted vegetables, kale salad, fruit salad, and dessert. Some liked it so well they tried to get in line over and over again for more helpings!

I interviewed a pregnant young lady as well as several others. She sticks out in my mind as she has come to UCO since she was little girl. She is bright and pretty, but lacks resources and knowledge of how to build a life for herself. I hope to get her into a program so she can give birth to a healthy baby and learn some things while there that will help her with making a good future.

We had some new volunteers on Sunday, one of them a party planner! Yeah! She had some great ideas for our April 23 “Jazzy Lady” event. We are having fun planning an evening of jazz and good food in a 1920s setting. Help us step back in time if you can. If you can loan any decorations from that era let me know.

Grace and joy!




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.


March Birthdays

1 Frances Holand
2 Christie Pearce
3 Louise Lawler
4 Matthew Chavis, Jeff Gholson, Randel King
6 Kirsten Pearce, Erica Sears
8 Richard Grauman
9 Lisa Davis, Julie Gholson
10 Kelly Hanna, Curtis Heard, Danny Reich, Dottie Wine
11 Elena Larssen
12 Bill Gamble, David Travis Bourassa
13 Mitchell Earl-Itoga, Alison Mitchell
14 Sarah Schoolcraft
15 Tracy Halter-Balin, Wayne Hester
18 Melanie Hiller
19 Teri Brewster, Nicol Hedgpeth
21 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 L. Hinze
29 Douglas Emslie
30 Akiko Dohi, Prince Guy, Bob Phibbs
31 Parker Dunnegan


March Anniversaries

3 Lisa and Curtis Heard, 26 years
6 Gayle Connell and Margaret Jacoby, 23 years
10 Jeff and Julie Gholson, 37 years

Parish Concerns

Your thoughts and prayers are requested for John Lashbrook and his mother; Jim Snelling; Cathy Gruman; David Cavanaugh upon the death of his partner, Rick Mills; Marie Palza (the niece of a friend of Deb Moore); and the family and friends of Diane Bingham upon her death (a friend of Ruth Keller).

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: