Whoever you are and wherever you are on life's journey, you are welcome here


Whoever you are and wherever you are on life's journey, you are welcome here

Small Group Fellowship Opportunities

Let’s Grow Our Connections with One Another

During 2017, First Congregational Church of Long Beach is delighted to kick off a selection of small group fellowship opportunities for First Church members and their friends. The groups are organized around themes and are designed to help us get to know each other better, forge new friendships and deepen existing connections. Please take a look at the various groups described below, and let us know which interest you. You may email Kirsten Pickus at kpickus@gmail.com with the titles of any groups that look appealing to you. Alternately, you can speak with the group’s leaders whose names are listed at the end of each description. We hope you’ll consider joining us in this special effort to foster a deep sense of community in and around the church that values freedom of thought, the arts, social justice, and an extravagant welcome for all.

First Church Bakers

The Bakers will gather at church on a quarterly basis throughout the year to put on fun and delicious workshops designed to teach a skill, technique or recipe. Possible workshop themes include cookie decorating, making delicious cheesecakes, pies and breads, and sharing recipes. Feel free to participate once or at every workshop, but advance sign-ups will be required, as participants will share ingredient costs to be announced before each workshop. Leaders are John Lockhart and Sam Johnson.

First Church Book Club

The Book Club will meet every other month on Friday evenings to discuss a shared read in a social yet thoughtful environment. Members must be adults (no childcare provided) and willing to commit to regular attendance and active participation to facilitate both depth of discussion and comfort in sharing one’s reading experiences. Potential book themes will be discussed at the first meeting, and next selections will be discussed at the end of each meeting. Members must be willing to rotate hosting in their homes, and gatherings will include potluck food and drinks. The maximum size for the group will be 12 members. Leaders are Barbara de Jong and Jerry Mitchell.

Cooking & Culture

People say that the soul of any culture, historic or modern, is in its food, and it is around food that many traditions evolve. This group will explore the relationship between culture and food, as well as traditions related to food preparation, service and consumption. The Cooking & Culture group will gather several times throughout the year to discuss interesting cultural and historical aspects of food from selected regions and share a cooking experience that explores a local recipe or technique. For example, the group might consider the link between regional variations in water proximity, indigenous varieties of vegetation, and extremes in weather/temperature and traditional foods. Visits to local exhibits highlighting themes/ideas of interest to the group may also be planned. Recipes prepared will be primarily vegetarian and gatherings may take place at First Church or a nearby commercial or home kitchen. Importantly, this group is not just a cooking club; members should share a curiosity about the broader cultural impact of food, be willing to read and share learnings about different cultures of the world, and have the desire to try different foods. Advance sign-ups will be required, as participants will share ingredient costs, and regular participation is strongly encouraged. Group size will be limited to 16 people to ensure that all members can participate fully. Participants must be adults and will be involved in selecting dishes and themes for future gatherings. Leaders are Cara Varnell and Eli Chilintan.

First Church Gaming Group

Game ON! at First Church – Come one, come all on the 3rd Wednesday night of each month from 6 to 9 p.m. We are going to play! Play what? Play ALL the games! Young, old, experienced, novice – we will have something for you! We will have a favorite for the Wii U, Super Smash Brothers, with enough seats for up to 8 players at a time (bring your Nintendo DS and your game cartridge!). If you haven’t seen this game in action, it’s a total crowd pleaser with tons of bright colors, beautiful music and appealing characters. We will also set up Steven Universe Monopoly, Blokus, Othello, GO, Chess, and we are hoping the Mexican Train will make a stop by our tables. We will meet in the Pownall and Koinonia Rooms, so there will be plenty of space for something as simple as a game of cards. Snacks! Friendship! FUN! We hope to see you there. Leaders are Donna and Jim Bell.

First Church Golfing Group

The Golfers meet every Saturday morning at Recreation Park 9 Golf Course, also known as Little Rec, to golf and enjoy each other’s company. This group requires previous golf experience, as it’s not a substitute for lessons, but is welcoming of a variety of skill levels. Participants are asked to commit to golfing with the group on a regular basis, although it need not be weekly. Interested members will receive a weekly email asking for a commitment for the upcoming Saturday (usually around 9:30 a.m.) and will be responsible for paying the course the approximate $15 fee. The leader is Pam Chapin.

First Church Kids Book Club

The First Church Kids Book Club is a monthly group for 4th-6th graders who LOVE to read. The group began meeting in January and reads a monthly book selection that focuses on global issues of social justice. The group is limited to 6 members to facilitate thoughtful discussion and opportunities for reflection. Parents are invited to join in a casual meal after the meeting, and members are actively involved in selecting their next read. This group is currently at capacity. Leaders are Karen Carmean-Mathieu and Kirsten Pickus.

Kindred Spirits

Kindred Spirits will gather every month or so throughout the year for a fabulous potluck event that brings people together to eat, drink and be merry! Gatherings will take place at the church, members’ backyards, condo clubhouses and are geared toward adult members of all orientations and their friends. Feel free to attend every gathering or just drop-in when you feel inspired to wow your fellow church members and their friends with your fancy cooking. Interested participants will be invited to help plan future gatherings. Leaders are Perry and Ron Ellwood.

First Church Movie Group

In collaboration with the Board of Parish Life, the Movie Group will gather to have lunch, see a movie and share some coffee and conversation on the 5th Sundays of 2017. Mark your calendars now for April 30, July 30, October 29, and December 31! The leader is Alison Mitchell.

Museums & Cultural Festivals Group

The Museums & Cultural Festivals Group will gather on a quarterly basis at various museums in and around Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Possible visits include LACMA, the Bowers Museum, and the Getty Center, and participants are welcome to attend every event or only those that are of particular interest. Most visits will include sharing a meal or picnic, and children will be welcome at some events. Advanced sign-ups will be required, and space is limited to facilitate discussion and ease of moving through the exhibits together. Leaders are Miriam and Anil Seneviratne.

Parks & Picnics Group

The Parks & Picnics Group will gather during clement weather at various outdoor events in and around Long Beach. The group will have a regular meeting spot at the Friday night Long Beach Municipal Band concerts in El Dorado Park, in addition to gathering for the band’s concerts at other parks on different weekday evenings. They’re discussing meet-ups for Movies in the Park, Movies at the Beach, Concerts in the Park, Shakespeare at the Aquarium, and a host of other fun, community events. Feel free to participate once or attend every event! The more, the merrier!!! Leaders are Debbie Bond, Doug Emslie and Nancy Boyd-Batstone.

Serendipity Suppers

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 Serendipity Suppers event as a host or guest will need to complete a short survey, and a link to the online survey will be available in upcoming issues of The Pilgrim. We encourage everyone who is able to volunteer as a host (or co-host with a friend) to please consider doing so, as we’d very much like to have enough host homes to accommodate the number of interested guests. Leaders are Bill Peck, Randall Goddard, Sara Schoenfelder and Kirsten Pickus.

Sunday Morning Spirituality & Support

The Sunday Morning Spirituality & Support Group is a weekly, drop-in group for First Church members and their friends who are interested in sharing a devotional, talking about spirituality, and giving and receiving support in community. Meetings will take place in the landing just outside of the Pownall Room on Sunday mornings from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. and will consist of a shared reading of a “These Days” devotional, discussion of the ways in which the reading may inspire one to meet the joys and challenges of a spiritual life, and an opportunity to share concerns and seek support in an atmosphere characterized by respect and compassion. Participants must be adults and able to follow the leaders’ guidance about the importance of creating a space where all who want to may share without any one person dominating the conversation. Leaders are Dale Whitney and Chris Bobo.

Walking Group

The Walking Group is a group for First Church members and friends who like to get out in nature and feel the warm sun and cool breeze on their faces as they get their heart rates up and enjoy each other’s company. This multigenerational group usually gathers the last Saturday of every month (although the day and/or week may occasionally change) for a 2-3 mile walk in a beautiful or fun setting throughout the Greater Southern California area. Previous walks have taken place at locations such as the El Dorado Nature Center, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, George F. Canyon Nature Center, Long Beach Downtown and Shoreline and more. Everyone is welcome. Feel free to participate every month or drop-in when you can. Leaders are Eillen Badilla and Julie Ford.

Relatedly, there is an Electronic Walking Group for members who have a Fitbit and want to connect via the Fitbit application to motivate each other and participate in fun challenges. The coordinator is Julie Ford.

Water 2 Wine

Come hang out if you want to get to know some of the other people who are “of a certain age” at First Church. “Of a certain age” means that maybe you grew up with computers that didn’t have punch cards, or perhaps you played The Oregon Trail in school, or you’ve felt awkward telling people that you go to church. If you can drink legally – not that you have to – let’s skip the small talk (because, who needs it!). Give us your number and we’ll text/FB you the time and location of the next meet-up. It’ll be just like Dumbledore’s Army, except with drinks and food. The current plan is to meet quarterly at various restaurants, bars and pubs in DTLB. Friends are welcome, and RSVPs are helpful. Leaders are Lauren Chambers, Allison King and Tim O’Keefe.

Women’s Group

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. A regular meeting day/time will be established based on the availability of interested participants. Leaders are Kirsten Pickus and Katy Hyman.

Women’s Spirituality Book Group

The Women’s Spirituality Book Group meets monthly in members’ homes in/around Long Beach. Participants must be adult women who are interested in reading a chapter or two of a book each month and have a desire to explore spiritual issues in a small group environment. Moreover, participants should be willing to commit to regular attendance in an effort to foster a sense of community and comfort in sharing one’s experiences. For this reason, group size will be limited to 8-12 women. Members gather for a potluck meal, which is followed by a time of personal sharing, and then a discussion of the book chapters. Meetings are typically held at 6 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month, though the meeting time and day may change depending on members’ availability. The leader is Terry McKiernan.