The Pilgrim - March 12, 2017
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The Pilgrim - March 12, 2017


Lenten Notes

Dear First Church,

The season of Lent brings also brings us into a new season of church music: minor keys, contemplative themes, theological questions … the music we sing and hear will take us into the seasonal question Who Do You Say that I Am?: Images of Jesus.

We will also sing hymns for this time of year: “Hope of the World,” “Beautiful Jesus” (the so-called ”Lutheran National Anthem”), “Beneath the Cross of Jesus,” “Lift High the Cross.” These are historic hymns that are presented in our hymnal, The New Century Hymnal, with inclusive language that reflects not only gender justice concerns but also awareness of white privilege, colonialism, and modern scientific understanding. While that sounds ambitious, we are fortunate to have a hymnal that is historic without being an artifact!

That said, we may be pushed from time to time by the shadowy themes of Lent: self-examination, humility, frailty. It’s a time of year when we are called to be honest about the flaws of the world and humanity – including our own. This is part of the reason we will be chanting the gentle chants of the Taizé community in the middle part of our service; the gentle repetition of prayers of assurance remind us that self-examination is worth the challenge, humility is grounding, and frailty is part of being human.

Lenten prayers for our congregation, our community, and the world~

The Rev. Elena Larssen

Daylight Savings Time Begins This Sunday!

Set your clocks forward one hour Saturday night.

In This Issue

Lenten Notes
Music on Sunday
Sunday School
Lenten Class
Sanctuary Training
New Women's Group
Women's Retreat
Spirituality & Support Group
Potato Bar Luncheon
Gaming Group
Baking Group
Walking Group
Serendipity Suppers
Treasurer's Report
Summer Camp
SCIC Annual Assembly
Drop-In Center News
Parish Concerns
Deadline: Tuesday at 1 pm

Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

American composer Stephen Paulus (1949-2014) wrote oratorios, operas, and hundreds of choral and symphonic works. One of his most popular is also one of his most simplistic. "The Road Home" is based on a folk song ("The Lone Wild Bird"), but with an original text by Michael Dennis Browne. The pentatonic melody paired with the universal themes of wandering and returning (being lost and being found) have resonated with choirs and audiences worldwide, and will resonate with you this Sunday as our Sanctuary Choir sings it during worship. Also this Sunday: a solo by Megan O’Toole!

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

In Sunday School

Theme: Glimpses of Grace
Scripture: John 3:1-17

Lenten Class Continues - Sundays at 8:30 AM in Booth Chapel

By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

During the season of Lent, Rev. Douglas is 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 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 12 - Sexploitation
March 19 - High Anxiety
March 26 - Saved from What?
April 2 - Incarceration Nation and the Invisible and Forgotten
April 9 - Real Victory

Long Beach Sanctuary Training Session This Saturday

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 to John Forrest Douglas. See the flyer below for more details and check out the Facebook event here

Women's Group Starting April 9 - Sign Up Now!

By Kirsten Pickus and Katy Hyman

The Women’s Group is a monthly gathering of 8-14 multigenerational members who have a desire to deepen their connections with one another and create a space for sharing life’s challenges and joys. The group welcomes women who are mothers to young children and grandmothers to adult children, women who are nurturers and women who are creators. Participation requires a commitment to attend regularly in an effort to foster a sense of community and connection. The group will not have a spiritual focus, per se, but will be a sacred space for nurturing relationships. Meetings will begin April 9, taking place on the second Sundays of each month from 11:30 to 1 pm. If you are interested in participating, please email Kirsten Pickus at for more information, as there are just a few open spaces remaining in this group.

Women’s Retreat at Pilgrim Pines – April 28-30

By Cheryl Doorbar

The First Congregational Church Women’s Retreat is a time for women from our congregation to experience spiritual renewal in the beauty and relaxed atmosphere of Pilgrim Pines. It is also a time to build and renew friendships with women in our faith community.

This year’s retreat will feature the Rev. Marlene Pomeroy of First Congregational Church of Pasadena, who will guide us through yoga practice for all levels of experience. Drawing inspiration from the meditative aspect of yoga, there will be an opportunity to make mandalas, participate in a drumming circle, craft your own drum, and much more.

The cost for the weekend will be $140, and if you would like to make payments, that would be fine. Please complete the registration form (download here) and return it to the First Church office via email or regular mail. If you are unable to participate for the whole weekend, the reduced, Saturday-only rate, which includes three meals, will be $80.

And don't forget the planning meeting taking place after church this Sunday in the Pownall Room. Everyone interested in helping to plan the retreat is invited.

Bread for the World Offering of Letters

From the Board of Social Justice and Outreach

Families, churches and community groups, and businesses all need to do their parts to end hunger. It’s crucial that our government also does its part. Through the 2017 Offering of Letters, we urge Congress to make funding decisions that put our country and the world on track to ending hunger by 2030. This will be a challenging year. Programs that help families alleviate hunger and get out of poverty are threatened with deep funding cuts. As in years past, your persistent and faithful advocacy will be important in defending the interests of people who are hungry.

Vital policies and safety-net programs — including WIC, global nutrition, SNAP, and refundable tax credits — must be properly funded and protected. Dismantling or cutting funding for such programs by the 115th Congress would take us backward and make the goal of ending hunger by 2030 unlikely.

We have made great progress reducing hunger and poverty in our country and around the world, but our work remains unfinished. Families, churches and community groups, and businesses all need to do their parts to end hunger. It’s crucial that our government also does its part.

We will be writing letters on Sunday, March 26, after the church service.

Sunday Morning Spirituality and Support Group

By Dale Whitney & Chris Bobo

The drop-in Sunday Morning Spirituality & Support Group, led by Chris Bobo and Dale Whitney, meets weekly on the second floor of the Third Street landing, just outside the Pownall Room. The group's format includes a short reading and group discussion in an atmosphere characterized by respect and compassion. All adults are welcome, so please join us every week or whenever your schedule permits!

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 Rooms, 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 for 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 Walking Group Presents: Moro Canyon -
Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach

March 25 at 8:30 am 
Time: 1 hour (approximate); elevation: 35’-550’; distance: 2.85 miles, moderate loop trail
Address: El Moro Visitor Center, 8471 N Pacific Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Carpool opportunities available; parking fee: $8

Friendship, Fun Food!!! Join us for Serendipity Suppers!!!

By Randall Goddard, Bill Peck, Sara Schoenfelder and Kirsten Pickus

The first Serendipity Supper event is coming up on April 1, and we'd love to have you participate! Small, preassigned groups will gather at members' homes and have the opportunity to share an evening meal together while delighting in the opportunity to get to know their surprise dinner companions better. Guests won't learn the address of their event until a day or two before; moreover, the specific guests at each dinner party will only be revealed as everyone arrives!

Please click here to complete a short survey to participate in the event on April 1 or any of the subsequent events planned for later this year. We'd love to see as many people as possible involved with this fun program!

The last day to complete the survey is this Sunday, March 12.

Treasurer’s Report

By Steve Crow

I intend to provide this snapshot early each month. February proved to be an expensive month, thanks in part to replacing a large water heater, making some unanticipated building repairs, and paying off our web redesign costs, as well as some larger-than-expected parking lot costs from last year (you don’t pay on Sunday, but the church does). Moreover, our donations and offerings are running $3000 short of budget. So we had to move $15,500 from our invested funds to cover our expenses. Although we had budgeted to be running a modest deficit at this time, we now show a deficit of $11,217. Maybe March will see us recover some ground.

Summer Camp 2017 at Pilgrim Pines Camp!

By Tracy Halter-Balin

This year’s camp will really come together in community as we explore "Branching Out: Connecting through Community." 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.

South Coast Interfaith Council 64th Annual Assembly

Dinner, Spotlight Awards, Celebration, Elections of New Board Members, Business Meeting
Keynote Speaker: Swami Sarvaprihanandaji, Vedanta Hindu Society
Thursday, March 16, 6-9 pm
Registration begins at 5:30
St. Cyprian Catholic Church, 4714 Clark Ave, Long Beach 90808
$35 per person, dinner included
To make a reservation, contact the SCIC: 562-983-1665 or
or mail a $35 check to 759 Linden Ave, Long Beach, CA 90813.

Drop-In Center News

By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

“Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” That darn Carpenters’ song ran through my head last Sunday when we began setting up for our Sunday Drop-In Center at Urban Community Outreach. It was going to be another rainy Sunday afternoon. But I reminded myself that sometimes when there are struggles you make the most progress.

Nurse Anna faithfully came and set up under the eaves. She brought another nurse to help. They provided services for many people. We gave motel vouchers to one family between residences. We helped a senior couple go down their to-do list to attain the goal of more income to be able to stay in their apartment as the rent goes up. A nice young man worked off his community service eight-hour requirement for tickets and I sent a letter to the LA City Attorney on his behalf. Diane found some available apartments and ran lists for clients. We wrote letters for three clients confirming that they were homeless and offering to partner with other agencies to seek solutions for them.

School is back in session and we had plenty of volunteers, so we were able to have some help with assembling invitations to our UCO spring fundraiser, “Bright Lights and Dark Nights,” to be held Saturday, April 22, here at First Church. It takes a lot of stamping, inserting, and labeling to get those together. We work for the money we hope to bring in! I hope you will come and join us that night, as we have a beautiful evening planned! It promises to be memorable as we honor our Nurse Anna and three Quality of Life officers, eat a wonderful meal, and have great silent auction and opportunity items to get below market rate. All this and also hear fun 1920s music played by the Mostly Kosher band. Check out our website at Deb Moore is gathering information about the evening and posting it to the website.

Parish Concerns

Your thoughts and prayers are requested for Ben Rockwell; Rochelle and Remy Bell (relatives of Donna Hutt Stapfer Bell); Peggy Loa upon the death of Ben Loa, her husband; Jerry Anderson (Donna Hutt Stapfer Bell's friend); Anita (Georgette deBruyn's sister's friend); John Michael Rodgers; and Manny (student of Alison Morales).

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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