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The Pilgrim - January 31, 2016

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

Dear Church, 

One part of church life that reveals generational differences is music. With six generations present at First Church, we are blessed with a wide range of musical experience and musical tastes. As a minister, it is a joy to work with a church that savors diversity, supports excellence, and appreciates the theology in our Sunday morning music.

Cognizant of that, the worship staff (clergy and Music Department) and I aim for variety in the hymns, anthems, and special music features. During Advent and Christmas, for example, we sang and heard traditional carols, modern carols, and contemporary hymns with strong justice themes, show tunes, our children’s pageant with tap dancing sheep, original music by Curtis Heard and Tina Datsko de Sanchez, and classical music … especially Handel. We heard chant, choir, organ, piano, bells, chimes, guitars and mandolins, vocalists, flutes, recorders and – of course – the singing bowl and tingsha bells. I was particularly pleased with the wide catalog of carols we sang … if you have a favorite Christmas carol in the hymnal it’s very likely we sang at least part of it at some point during the whole season.

When it comes to hymns, we try to pick a variety of hymns from our hymnal and beyond. Sometimes we get requests for “the classics” and often times we get good feedback on new hymns. But not every hymn passes the First Church bar for musical excellence and theological progressivism. For example, last weekend I chose “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me,” thinking that the “ages” metaphor and classic reputation of the hymn would make it a great choice for our Gifts of the Generations series. Regretfully, that hymn contains some theological imagery that bothered some of our attenders as being out of step with First Church’s theological base, and I agree with that concern. I see worship planning as a kind of dialogue between pew and chancel; I like hearing what works and what doesn’t, so this is a good moment to share the conversation I will hold with the worship staff: do we retire a hymn? Do we pick and choose the verses that are closest to our theological center? Do we write new verses that are more progressive and contemporary in their language? What do we do with the classics we love when the words make us choke?

Fortunately, we have a talented congregation and a talented worship staff, who understand and appreciate the ever-evolving tradition of sacred music. With the Worship and Arts team, the staff and our wonderful member-musicians, we have been able to use hymns from across the church world by adding verses, rendering into inclusive language, and making our own arrangements. I like to think that we breathe fresh theological life into a beloved tune or meaningful metaphor, adding a First Church voice to the always growing catalog of sacred music and contributing another verse to the tradition of the church.

So … what is your favorite church song? Email me at

With love and blessings,
The Rev. Elena Larssen



In this issue:

Music This Sunday

Christian Education

CCEJ Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast

New Members Orientation Sunday, January 31

Monday Matinees

Pancake Lunch February 7

Women's Retreat March 11-13

Spring Retreat in April

Herrington Pathfinder Award

Update on Rick Mills

Warm Streets Coat Drive

Conference Volunteer Opportunity

True Brass Choir Concert February 6

Drop-In Center News


February Birthdays and Anniversaries

Parish Concerns

For more information ...

The Pilgrim - current and past editions of the newsletter


First Church website

Contact us

Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

In 1982, just as Generation X was coming of age, a band called Survivor released a song called “Eye of the Tiger” which was written for the movie “Rocky III” at the request of Sylvester Stallone. He wanted to use “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen, but was not given the rights, so Survivor ended up with a number one hit that topped the charts for six weeks and was the number two song for all of 1982, just behind “Let’s get Physical” by Olivia Newton-John. The lyrics to “Eye of the Tiger” speak of having to fight to survive, perhaps as a reflection of a highly educated generation entering a challenging economic era. Interestingly, there is a cover version of the song by a Eurodance band called X-Generation. The Sanctuary Choir will sing its own version this Sunday! The soloist this Sunday is Leeav Sofer, who will be singing “In the Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics. See you then!

Curtis Heard, Director of Music


In Sunday School

Pre-K - 5 Topic: Jeremiah's Call
Jr. & Sr. High Topic: Ministry on the Edge

Adult Education
Sundays at 8:30 am in Klar 1, upstairs in Pilgrim Hall
By Bob Kalayjian

I would like to invite anyone interested in discussing Generational Theory and our recent sermon series to come to Adult Education this Sunday morning at 8:30 in the Klar Rooms. Handouts, coffee, fruit and pastry will add to a good discussion.




California Conference for Equality and Justice
25th Annual Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast
Wednesday, February 24

Long Beach Convention Center
Registration and Boutique: 6:45 - 7:30 am
Program and Breakfast: 7:30 - 9 am
Boutique and Book Signing: 9 - 9:30 am

Please join us at the First Church tables! To reserve your space, contact the office at or 562-436-2256 x100. Tickets are $40 - mail in your check (payable to First Congregational Church) or drop it in the plate on Sunday.

The keynote speaker will be Prof. Margaret Burnham, the founder of Northeastern University School of Law's Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, which engages students in legal matters relating to the 1960s U.S. civil rights movement. In 2010, Professor Burnham headed a team of outside counsel and law students in a landmark case that settled a federal lawsuit: Prof. Burnham's team accused Franklin County Mississippi law enforcement officials of assisting Klansmen in the kidnapping, torture and murder of two 19-year-olds, Henry Dee and Charles Eddie Moore.

CCEJ - 25 Years Under One Sky


New Member Orientation - This Sunday after the Service

How long has FCCLB existed? What is a “BOCA”? How can this congregation be part of your life?

Learn more about FCCLB (“First Church”) at 11:30 am this Sunday in Booth Chapel, near the Sanctuary. This session is identical to last week's and will provide introductory information for those interested in joining FCCLB, or who simply want to learn more. New members will join during the service on Sunday, February 21.

Please RSVP to the office ( or 562-436-2256 x100).


Monday Matinees
By Tom Nettifee

Each Monday, starting February 1, we will view one of the movies being featured in discussions led by Elena Larssen. This Monday we will view "The Big Short." The theater and time will be announced Sunday. For an email alert contact Tom Nettifee at ... sign up Sunday morning.


pancakesPancake Lunch Fundraiser for National Youth Event
By Jenny Penner

Need a little extra energy before your board meetings or to fuel up for Super Bowl Sunday? You're in luck! On Sunday, February 7, First Church Café will be run by the youth (and families) who are fundraising for their trip to the UCC's National Youth Event in Florida this summer.

We will have pancakes, fruit, sausage, juice, milk, and coffee or tea. Gluten-free and vegetarian options will be available.  

Donations of any amount will be gladly accepted. In addition, for every lunch purchased, the youth will be donating $1 toward Souper Bowl of Caring - which will go directly to the UCO Drop-In Center.


Annual Women's Retreat March 11-13

You are invited, and here's what you need to know. To assure your reservation, right away please email Deb Moore at Your check needs to be received by February 22, accompanied by the registration form (available here [pdf] or from Ruth in the office). You may place them in a church envelope with "Women's Retreat" in the memo line, or mail it to the church. The weekend cost will be $140. All meals are included in the cost, Friday evening dinner though Sunday morning breakfast. We reserved only housing with regular beds, so no bunkbeds or walking outside to the shower! If you want to room with a specific person, please indicate, but we make no guarantees. Pilgrim Pines is about 1.5 hours from Long Beach. We can coordinate rides. We must limit our group to 27, so it will have to be first come, first served.

I am delighted to say that the Rev. Katy Hyman has agreed to lead the program portion of the weekend. Below are a few words about the theme.

During the retreat we'll be focusing on excerpts from Glennon Doyle Melton's book, Carry On, Warrior. Glennon is an author, speaker, blogger ( - and proud UCC member! She writes a lot on the importance of being kind, of showing up, of telling our stories, even when life is brutiful (a phrase she coined to encompass both the brutality and the beauty of life). Glennon is a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a recovering addict, a recovering bulimic. Whether you are all of these or none of these, I think you will find something of yourself in her writing. She is energetic, funny, honest, and deeply insightful. I hope you will join us as we explore ourselves through the lens of her work.
Hope you can make it!

Deb Moore


Spring Retreat in April
By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

This year the Southern California Nevada Conference is offering a spring retreat for adults on April 8-10. If you are under 30 and would like to attend this camp, we would like to make that possible by paying your way. Please contact Rev. Douglas if you would like to take advantage of this opportunity. Please click here to learn more about this exciting retreat.


Herrington Pathfinder Award
By Tim Mountain, Moderator

On Sunday, January 17, the First Congregational Church of Long Beach presented the Herrington Pathfinder Award to the October Mourning Production Team with gratitude for their path-making ministry of public witness to the values of art and justice. The team’s members are Martha Duncan, Todd Faux, Randall Goddard, Scott Juhl, Megan O’Toole, and Mark Wheeler.

The Herrington Award was established in recognition of Aaron and Maycie Herrington’s pioneering decision in 1951 to become the first African-American members of the First Congregational Church of Long Beach and in recognition of the leadership they provided to this congregation over many years. The award honors those who follow in the Herrington’s’ footsteps, blazing trails into new experiences as they lead this church into creative new paths of ministry and service.

This year we honored a group of people who represent some of the powerhouses of creativity and outreach here at First Church. This creativity and outreach runs the gamut from costumes and choreography to spreading the word about church activities through social media. This group has over the last couple of years made First Church a true gathering place of the community. They have touched the lives of more than 1,000 audience members, integrated the arts and social justice in a way that has enriched the life of this congregation and the wider community, and given poetic voice to the issues of our time.


Update about Rick Mills

Rick would love to receive cards. The address is 4012 Calle Sonora Oeste, 1A, Laguna Woods, CA 92637.

Anyone wanting to visit with Rick should contact Mary Flynn to let her know with a date and David will schedule based on how Rick is doing. Mary's contact information is in the directory on the church website.

Warm Streets Coat Drive

Warm Streets Coat Drive – Update
By Jenny Penner

Thank you all so much for your generous donations to Warm Streets Coat Drive! To date, I have taken five loads of coats from our bin over to the Drop-In Center. They and the people they serve are very grateful.

The last time I dropped off coats, I was able to chat with someone to ask about any other specific needs they have for items to donate. She expressed that they could really use items that are waterproof - jackets with a waterproof outer layer, or ponchos (you can sometimes find these at the dollar stores!), or umbrellas.


Conference Volunteer Opportunity
By Bryn Turner

The SoCal/Nevada Conference’s Annual Gathering is in June at Chapman College.  This year the planning committee needs a couple more people to help out – can you?  If so, please call Keslinn Kohfeld-Stout (661-588-9571) or Matthew Redrich (325-665-0219).


True Brass Choir Concert February 6, 7 pm

True Brass Concert Feb 6 7 pm


Drop-In Center News
By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

A new day dawned Sunday, January 24. A day where you could be glad to be a Californian instead of living on the east coast shoveling mountains of snow! Colleges and universities were just gearing up for a new semester. A few students trickled in to help and left with promises to come back and bring friends.

A wonderful enthusiastic new volunteer found us on and shared her energy and talents with us making our load lighter. She seems like she will be a real asset and is offering to do more. We took her picture with Roberta in the kitchen. She pitched in with many things and talked of working on committees. She is helping look for two refrigerators too. We have people with a need for refrigerators. If you hear of any refrigerators we need them!

The reason we need refrigerators, and also furniture, is that one of our client guests who we had moved into an apartment earlier had her refrigerator conk out. We also have a lady with three children moving into an apartment today, and if I can find a young man I’ve been working with since September, we have an apartment for him! He lost his phone Friday and so I have no means of contacting him. I hope he thinks to call me! I don’t want him to lose the apartment and lose his place in line. He is sick and needs to be indoors and in a stable situation. I think I’ll call his doctor’s office and let them know in case he calls or comes in there.

I’m working with another of our families and their unreasonable apartment owner today. I hope that goes well too. Oh, these apartments are so very important in the lives of our people! As one of our pretty little girls we helped about eight months ago said with delight, “We have a home!” She couldn’t wait to tell everyone!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get some investors together and purchase some buildings! We wouldn’t have to be at the mercy of other people so much. It could be a win-win situation, with interest so low the investors would make money and we would make “homes!”

Have a great week and call me on my cell 562-714-1155 if you know of a refrigerator, furniture, or can help volunteer some of your time.




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.



February Birthdays

1 Miguel Criado, Madeline Sharpe, Mario Coello, Katie Mendez, Evan Nutt
3 Douglas Schading, David Sroka
4 Bill Cooley, Ray Ramos
5 Laverne Joseph
6 Matthew Hartert-Force, Margaret Jones
7 James Woods
8 Ed Allen, Barbara de Jong, Vicki Doolittle, Cathleen Flynn, Jeremy Morales, Diana Perry
9 Charlotte Greenberg, Aaron Palmer, Patrick Wells
10 John F. Callahan
11 John Forrest Douglas
12 Christopher O'Keefe
14 Kelsey Scott
15 Vincent Malatesta, Norman Paredes-Tryan, Bret Witter
18 Nancy Conley, Marjorie McMillin
20 Stephanie Fisher
21 Steve Schatz
23 Katrina Kershaw, Jerry Wulk
24 Claire de Jong, Bruce Russell
25 Clarence J. Dendy
27 Barbara Kingsley, Lily Penner, Linda Silas
28 Raj Advani
29 Lisa Orr



February Anniversaries

4 Glenn Agoncillo and Mike Andrzejewski, 15 years
13 Jerald Stinson and Kay Gault, 29 years
14 Bob Phibbs and Bill Pratt, 28 years
21 Timothy and Juan Anderson, 17 years
21 Randall Goddard and Scott Juhl, 24 years

Parish Concerns

Your thoughts and prayers are requested for Harold Curtis; John Lashbrooks's mother, Ruth; Natalie Snell (Cynthia Snell's mother); the Ludwig family upon the death of Father Gordon (Ruth Keller's uncle); Jim Snelling; and Rick Mills.

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.




Piccolo FlowersPiccolo Flowers

Piccolo Flowers provides the lovely flowers for our sanctuary
every Sunday at a very affordable cost.

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: