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

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

Notes from Rev. Elena Larssen

February 9

Dear First Church,

This Sunday will be our Annual Celebration of Ministries and Meeting Luncheon!

All are welcome to stay after service for a salad luncheon in Ramsay Dining Hall with special music by our Music Department, reports and updates from the life of the church, and the presentation of the Ralph Pillsbury Award for special service to the church outside of the spotlight.

The lunch menu includes Greek salad (meat-free) and Greek salad with chicken gyro, rice, pita, and hummus from George’s Greek Deli. There will be a free will offering, and all are invited to dine regardless of whether they make a financial contribution. All ages welcome.

The Annual Report will be available in a limited number of hard copies, with an electronic copy posted in the Member’s Section of our website. Any member who would like one mailed to them in hard or soft copy should contact the Church Office.

Peace and blessings,
Elena Larssen

February 2

Dear First Church,

Our winter series, Coming to Peace, is off and running!

All adults are welcome to come at 9 a.m. for Adult Education in Booth Chapel. This Sunday we will discuss the hit film Knives Out. This Agatha Christie-style murder mystery is pure entertainment. Featuring a powerful cast of actors, the mystery unravels the dynamics of a family in full-blown dysfunction whose patriarch dies unexpectedly, leaving a fortune to the wrong person, and hilarity ensues. Using Bowen Family Systems theory and the genogram, with our scriptures in hand in multiple translations, we will attempt to diagram their convoluted relationships and see where peace could have prevailed instead of witty chaos.

In our service, we will focus on two of the most treasured Hebrew scriptures, Micah 6:8 and Psalm 23, both of which are recipes for peacemaking. Our children will be studying and experiencing Micah 6:8 as their Sunday School theme of the month as well. As is our custom, communion will be served, and all are welcome to the open table.

Peace,
The Rev. Elena Larssen

January 26

Dear Church,

Winter is a wonderful time to reflect. The shorter days and after-holiday hush give us time to consider where we need to grow and what gifts we may have to share with the wider community. It is also one of my favorite seasons: Award Season, when the creative industry crowns its annual achievers in film, television, music, and more. Maybe in SoCal it’s not winter as much as it’s award season…!

Starting this Sunday, the 9 a.m. Adult Education class will focus on the intersection of faith and film. We are examining the structure of families in four current award nominees and seeing how the patterns of family interaction either support or undermine the experience of peace. Then, in worship, we will be reading scriptures from the lectionary with an eye toward their peace-making lessons. All are welcome; spoilers will be discussed.

Peace,
The Rev. Elena Larssen

January 19

Dear First Church,

This Sunday marks a celebration of the life and ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

With thanks to our Worship and Arts Team, we will have a dramatic reading of what was perhaps Dr. King’s most controversial speech. “Beyond Vietnam” was preached at the famously progressive Riverside Church (United Church of Christ, like FCCLB, and American Baptist in its affiliations) in New York City on April 4, 1967. While his words contained detailed policy recommendations on the then-current Vietnam War, our reader’s theatre version will focus on the passages which are both alarmingly and comfortingly relevant to today’s struggles for peace and climate action.

  

       Moss Umezaki                        Martha Duncan

   

      Tina Datsko                            Adreana Langston

I look forward to seeing you all for this special observation. I am almost to the end of a two-week intensive on research methodologies at my seminary, the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA. This is the initial exposure to a Doctor of Ministry program; this kind of advanced praxis program is designed for full-time working professionals who are actively engaged in a ministry setting and who have continuing education requirements to satisfy for their authorization for ministry. While I am still discerning whether this is the right on-going educational program for me, it is a blessing to simply have time in the theological library and in rigorous conversation with other scholar-practitioners. This morning I will lead our opening devotionals by teaching Paul Boyd-Batstone’s ukulele chorus “The Blessings of God upon You!”
And may those blessings be with us all: campers at Pilgrim Pines, marchers in the MLK parade and Women’s March, those who celebrate and serve at 241 Cedar this Sunday, as we seek to keep the flame of Dr. King’s vision of justice alive in our times.

Peace,
The Rev. Elena Larssen

January 12

Dear Friends,

Thank you to those who are reaching out on Facebook to connect with each other in the face of many global concerns. Connection is a key to our well-being, and remember Mary Pipher’s words: action is the antidote to despair. I encourage you to take the next step and meet with friends and family in real life, to talk and even perhaps to share words of prayerful support. I am finding the following blessing deeply meaningful, and find myself reading it again and again. I share it with you now:

Written and prayed by Episcopal priest the Very Rev. Brian Baker as his “gift” at Burning Man 2015

The world now is too dangerous
And too beautiful
For anything but love.

Love is a blessing.
So may your eyes be so blessed that you see God in everyone
Your lips  – so you speak nothing but the truth
Your ears – so that you hear the cry of the poor

May your hands be so blessed that everything you touch becomes a sacrament
Your feet – so that you run to those who need you
And may your heart be so opened
So set on fire
That your love
Your love
Changes everything.
Amen.

Peace,
The Rev. Elena Larssen