First Congregational Church of Long Beach - logo
    A Liberal Church, Welcoming of All, Passionately Committed to Social Justice

The Pilgrim - March 13, 2016

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

Dear Church, 

Hope Is the Story … that is our theme this Lent, which seems more and more appropriate as signs of spring arrive. Certainly, our good hopes and prayers go with Rev. Douglas as he prepares for surgery tomorrow; your cards and donations are so meaningful! The Douglas Benevolence Fund is still available (though the IRS will not allow it as a deduction), and any cards you drop off or send to the office will be packaged up and sent along to John Forrest and Ben during this month in Houston.

Rev Larssen at CLUE RallySigns of hope may be as simple as the pink blossoms on that apricot tree here at the parsonage, but there are also signs of hope that take the form of action.

This week, the Board of Social Justice and Outreach invite you to begin learning more about the current phase of justice work for hotel workers. Many of you know that our congregation, led by Senior Minister Emeritus Jerry Stinson during his tenure, worked to help pass Measure N, improving working conditions for those in the booming tourism industry.

This spring, we can build on that work by supporting a safety measure for female workers in our local hotels … please see the story below by Vicki Doolittle.

I am also delighted that over 20 women will attend the Women’s Retreat at Pilgrim Pines this weekend; I will get to spend Saturday with them … and seven young adults are already signed up for the April 8-10 Young Adult Retreat Weekend at Pilgrim Pines! It’s a great thing when people take time out of their busy lives to renew their hopeful spirits and retreat with one another to the mountains – it’s good for the congregation as a whole, as well.

Blessings of hope,
The Rev. Elena Larssen


Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

The anthem this Sunday is an arrangement of the spiritual “There Is a Balm in Gilead” by fellow UCC musician and composer from the Seattle area, Carol Sams. Carole was in Long Beach not too long ago, so she could sing at the wedding of her sister-in-law Kathleen O’Neal! In this arrangement, you’ll hear the altos, tenors and basses set a rhythmic pulse with the words of the spiritual. The sopranos then enter with the tune, but not quite when you expect. The music continues with many surprising turns of harmony and rhythm, finally ending in peaceful resolution. This will be the second time I have conducted this arrangement since taking on the position in 2010. I suppose that when I start repeating myself, it means I’ve been here a little while! I must say though, that in this case, the old adage rings true: Time flies when you’re having fun! See you on Sunday!

Curtis Heard, Director of Music


In Sunday School

Topic: God's Fresh Ways
Scripture: John 12:1-8

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




Stations of the Cross with Long Beach Hotel Workers This Friday
From Vicki Doolittle and the Board of Social Justice and Outreach

Senior Minister Elena Larssen and the Board of Social Justice and Outreach invite you to participate in an event this Friday, March 11, to support the fair treatment of hotel housekeepers in Long Beach. Hotel workers at The Westin and Renaissance in downtown Long Beach are organizing for better jobs and dignity in their workplace. First Church has been invited to join efforts with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), community organizations, and faith leaders to pass a local policy that will protect hotel workers from unfair and unbearable workloads and sexual harassment on the job. The Stand with Women Against Abuse policy, also known as Claudia's Law, will limit the square footage a hotel housekeeper is required to clean; install a panic button system in hotels that workers may use when feeling unsafe; allow workers to be re-assigned to an area other than where an assault has occurred; post notices around the hotel informing guests that workers have a panic button; and ensure that working overtime is mutually agreed upon.

In this issue:

Music This Sunday

Christian Education

Stations of the Cross with Hotel Workers

Moderator's Moment

Poet's Notes

Easter Lilies

National Youth Event Fundraiser

UCC General Minister's Podcast

Pilgrim Pines 1-2-3 Campaign

Youth News

Parents' Night Out a Success!

Drop-In-Center News


Parish Concerns

For more information ...

The Pilgrim - current and past editions of the newsletter


First Church website

Contact us



We need to encourage the Long Beach City Council to pass this important policy, Claudia's Law, to ensure the dignity and safety of these workers. Please join us in these efforts to demonstrate that we are grateful for our hotel workers who provide a vital service in our community and that we stand with them when they are exploited and abused at work, and we affirm, as people of faith, that they are God’s children and as such, their work and their humanity is sacred.

What:   Stations of the Cross with Long Beach Hotel Workers
When:   Friday, March 11, at 4:45 pm
Where:  Meet at the Westin, 333 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90802
Why:     As many Christians observe the holy season of Lent, a time to reflect on the life and death of Jesus. Religious leaders and community join hotel workers in a powerful Lenten ritual personalized to the hotel workers’ struggles for justice.


Moderator's Moment
By Tim Mountain, Moderator

As Easter approaches I am looking forward to celebrating one of the most important events in the church calendar. I hope many of you will make an extra effort to attend the many services offered during this important time of the year, starting with Palm Sunday. I want to especially encourage as many of you as possible to donate flowers for the flower cross that is created each year and is displayed in the courtyard on Easter Sunday. On Saturday, March 26 from 10 am to 2 pm you are invited to bring your flowers and help spruce things up for Easter Sunday. There are always many visitors and occasional church attendees that come that day and we want to look our best.


Poet's Notes
By Tina Datsko de Sánchez

This week’s poem re-imagines the story of Easter morning from the perspective of Mary Magdalene. In the early church, Easter was a time of welcoming new members, and their preparation included baptism. One of the seeds of this poem was an experience I had of visiting Lourdes in France. There one can be bathed in the water of the sacred spring, which I experienced as a renewal of baptism. On a metaphorical level, I felt that St. Bernadette’s vision of the spring in the garbage dump as healing was a way of saying that God’s love is as abundant and available to us as water. You won’t want to miss Easter Sunday when soprano Megan O’Toole and the Sanctuary Choir sing Director of Music Curtis Heard’s gorgeous setting of the poem.


                        For Elena and John Forrest


After our rabbi was crucified,
we were entombed by grief and fear.
We fled our separate ways
and huddled in the shadows.

Then at dawn, walking in a garden,
I found our teacher once again.
In the sunlight there was hope.
In burgeoning growth, resistance.

I was surrounded by life
and filled with life.
I knew the rabbi who hung on the cross
lived on in me.

I ran to my friends and told them:
Join me in this dance of joy--
God's love comes to us each
through each other.

That radical love can never die.
Let it pulse through our hearts and hands.
Join hands and dance a growing circle,
embracing this whole world with God's love.

Sing out for joy! Love is alive!
God is available now!
Drink in sunlight! Bathe in the water!
Together embody God's love!


Easter Lilies

To contribute toward the lilies that will adorn the sanctuary on Easter Day, please send the information below to the office and then send a check made out to First Congregational Church, or print the info and mail it with your check to First Congregational Church, 241 Cedar Ave., Long Beach, CA  90802. The deadline is noon on Tuesday, March 22.

Daytime phone number:
Number of lilies ______ x $10 per plant = $ ________ enclosed
In memory of:
In honor of:
I will take ______ plant(s) home.
Please take ______ plant(s) to shut-ins.


See's peanut butter eggNational 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 this Sunday, March 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!


UCC General Minister's Podcast

The Rev. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, has a weekly podcast called "Into the Mystic." "I want the art and practice of spiritual reflection to be modeled as a priority and not just a part-time avocation," he says. Rev. Dorhauer hopes to reach listeners by addressing timely, thought-provoking, and relatable topics he says will "invite us all to a renewed sense of awe and wonder at what God's hands have wrought. I want to call us all back into the mystic."

Download the "Into the Mystic" podcast on your favorite podcast app or on iTunes, or stream the audio from the UCC website here. A new podcast is available every Monday.


Pilgrim Pines New 1-2-3 Campaign
By Tracy Halter-Balin

This week I'd like to spot Pilgrim Pines' new 1-2-3 Campaign. What does that mean? Well, people are always asking, "What can I do to help Pilgrim Pines?" So we've come up with three awesome ways that everyone can help out with camp. More info is available on the Pilgrim Pines 1-2-3 Campaign website, so please check it out.

Volunteering is one of the ways people can help with our camp, and this year is no exception. The volunteer application is now online, and you can click on the link above for more info as well. First Church has always been well represented, and I hope this year is no exception. We're aiming to have our campers and adults attend together during the week of July 10 - 16. But don't wait too long because this is the week that fills up first!

As always, thank you to everyone who helps out with our great camp in so many different ways!


Youth News

Ewan Scott (15) just returned from a rugby tournament in Las Vegas last week where his team, the Rhinos, came in first place. He is the only 15-year-old on a team of 18-year-olds. Way to go, Ewan!


March Parents' Night Out Moments
By Tracy Halter-Balin

Our courtyard and classrooms were alive and kickin' Friday night with 10 kids, three youth and seven adults who were having fun together at Parent's Night Out. Huge thanks to Paul and Nancy Boyd-Batstone, Julie and Eillen Badilla-Ford, and Matt and Sean Balin for sharing your energy, time and creativity with our kids!  We made some beautiful creative art, played outside, ate pizza and popcorn, and just had a good time. Also thanks for our helpful youth, Claire Mitchell, Annaliese Guthmann, and Lily Penner for being there ready to play, chase, and hang out.

Our next PNO is on Friday, April 1st - no foolin'! Hope to see you there. Let Tracy know if you'd like to help out.

Parents' Night Out


Drop-In Center News
By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

Sunday, March 6, was “Make a Difference Day.” A team of children, parents and chaperones from Temple Israel came over to the Drop-In-Center at 12:30 pm. They wore colorful tee shirts and smiles. The children were put to work making St. Patrick’s Day cards that will be handed out next week. Some adults stayed with them and some came and set up a couple of tables and helped hand out the clothing that was overflowing in our office.

Chef/Program Manager Roberta Enriquez went over to help at Temple Israel to help them with their “Make a Difference Day” plans. They had committed to making 2,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to be given to Food Finders and One Global Family Foundation for distribution. I hear they almost made their goal, with 1,800 sandwiches made! That’s a feat to do in one day!

Nurse Ann came and provided her marvelous services for our guests. She is so appreciated by all! The roasted chicken Melody Garrett made tasted especially good I am told. New household ware that was picked up on Saturday for a newly housed person was delivered to them to their delight. I interviewed a family I will try to get into First Five for help as they have young children.

I interviewed an ill man, who on top of it all has lost his glasses and can’t see. Know anyone who can provide glasses for him? We are working on getting an etching machine for Lestonnac Free Clinic and then they’ll be able to provide glasses within 15 minutes at a cost of $3.

A returning clinically depressed gentleman was given a motel voucher so he could clean up, and we gave him some clean clothes to put on. He will sign papers to begin receiving SSI directly to his bank today and try to get his life in order. Since our referral for medical care for his foot, it is finally healing. You’d think we had given him the world all shiny and new! In his eyes it is just such a gift. A chance at a new start!

Drop-In Center volunteers


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 Randy Heinrich, Yvonne SaMarion's son, upon the death of his sister Melody; Steven McVicar; the family of David Cosyns, Georgette DeBruyn's cousin, upon his death; John Lashbrook and his mother; Jim Snelling; and Cathy Gruman.

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.




Akiko Dohi

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: