A Liberal Church, Welcoming of All, Passionately Committed to Social Justice

The Pilgrim - September 25, 2016

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

Dear Church, 

Sixty years ago, our congregation formally welcomed Temple Israel into our sanctuary for their High Holy Days celebration.

At that time, their temple space was too small to accommodate the enormous crowds of faithful Jewish friends who gathered for the most important services of the Jewish calendar. For generations, this was the case, and many Long Beach-area neighbors grew up experiencing First Congregational and our historic sanctuary as a spiritual home even while being observant of the Jewish faith.

One of my dear friends in ministry is Rabbi Mychal Copeland; we were new young clergy together at Stanford University and taught Bible study together. When I announced online, three years ago, that I would be joining First Congregational as Senior Minister, she was delighted because she grew up at Temple Israel and remembered the beauty of High Holy Days in our sacred space.

But friendship is more than sharing space. Temple Israel is active in volunteerism at the Drop-In-Center, taking responsibility to provide a Christmas Day meal for the homeless every year … and allowing our members to rest comfortably knowing that our unhoused friends are fed while we are observing the holiday.

Do come on Sunday at 4 pm to celebrate this friendship, our shared anniversary, and the ways we might continue to work together as two faithful congregations! Both congregations’ organists will perform and both choirs will sing, Bellissimo will ring, and the Titanic cast will make an appearance. And for the friends who you invite to attend … remind them that this a great event (no cost, free childcare, yummy brownies afterward) for the church-shy to experience religious cooperation and celebration.

I look forward to seeing you for our first Sunday of fall.


The Rev. Elena Larssen


Heard's Words: Music on Sunday

To celebrate is to publicly acknowledge a significant event with a social gathering or enjoyable activity. Last Sunday’s Homecoming service was definitely a celebration, although the truth is, we celebrate every Sunday at First Church with music, inspirational words, and community building. To collaborate is to work with others to create or produce something. The events that we celebrate at First Church are also collaborations. You’ll notice that celebrate and collaborate are similar words – I even looked up the root, hoping that they both were derived from the same one. Both stem from Latin, but not the same word. To me, however, they go hand in hand. Sure, you can celebrate in private, but isn’t it more enjoyable to share celebrations with friends? And yes, you can plan events all on your own, but isn’t it easier and more successful to bring others into your planning?

This Sunday afternoon at 4 pm, First Church will celebrate 60 years of collaboration with Temple Israel by holding a concert featuring our choirs and our organ. The handbells will play, each choir will sing separately, and join together for a couple of combined numbers, and there will be an organ solo by our own Marc Dickey, as well as the organist from Temple Israel, David York. The concert will also feature one of the songs from Titanic. I have enjoyed collaborating with cantor Sara Hass to put this concert together, and I know you will enjoy it as well! Hope to see you there!

Curtis Heard, Director of Music


In this issue

Music This Sunday

Christian Education

Celebration Concert with Temple Israel This Sunday

Children's Chapel

Congregational Care Committee

Confirmation News

Kids' Pool Party This Saturday

First Church Reads One Book

Mental Health First Aid Training

Titanic Is Coming!
Get Your Tickets Now!

Associate Minister Continuing Education

Kayaking Outing a Great Success!


Drop-In Center News


Parish Concerns

For more information

The Pilgrim - current and past editions of the newsletter


First Church website

Contact us


In Sunday School

Theme: Cosmos Sunday
Scripture: Proverbs 8:22-31

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




Celebrate Our History with Temple Israel This Sunday, September 25

Concert with Temple Israel September 25, 4 pm


Children’s Chapel Starts This Sunday
By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

This Sunday marks a very special beginning in the life of our First Church children and youth program. It’s the kick-off of a new program: Children’s Chapel. On the fourth Sunday of each month, instead of going to regular Sunday School classes, children will gather in Booth Chapel after the time with the children for a parallel service designed especially for children. Tracy will lead the kids in music, John Forrest will lead a message, we will pray together, and we’ll share tasty snacks around the communion table. This will be a hands-on and experiential laboratory for children to learn about worship, prayer, and the sacraments.


Join the Congregational Care Committee September 25
By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

Are you interested in making caring visits, sending cards, making phone calls, or praying for members of our congregation? If so, please plan to attend a meeting of the Congregational Care Committee on Sunday, September 25, at 8:30 in the Pownall Room.


Confirmation News
By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

Confirmation Class will begin this Friday night at the church with a lock-in at the church. During this time we will cover the entire Bible in less than 20 hours! It will obviously be a very broad overview!

Confirmation is a practice of the whole congregation. By walking with teens who are considering how faith fits into their lives, we are reminded that the covenant promises of faith and church membership are ever growing, expanding, and changing.

This year, we are inviting members of the congregation to serve as Anonymous Prayer Partners for members of the confirmation class. The prayer partner will hold the confirmand in prayer throughout the year and send notes of encouragement or small gifts to remind the confirmand that there are members of the congregation who care about them and their process of confirmation.

The identity of the Anonymous Prayer Partner will be revealed during the confirmation service on June 4, 2017.

Please contact Rev. Douglas if you would be willing to serve as the Anonymous Prayer Partner for a member of our Confirmation Class.

Even if you do not officially serve as a prayer partner, I hope that you will hold the entire confirmation class, their mentors, leaders, and families in prayer as they walk through this important faith formation experience. Many thanks to Sue Johnson for joining me in the leadership of this group!


pool party graphicPool Party This Saturday
By the Rev. John Forrest Douglas

This Saturday will be the first activity for families with school-age children (that’s up to 5th grade). There will be an awesome pool party at the home of Karen, Cheryl, and Mackie Mathieu. (2038 San Vicente, Long Beach). The party will be from 4:30 to 6 pm (this is a time change from previous announcements). Bring a snack to share and be ready to have lots of fun in the pool! Please contact Tracy Halter-Balin to RSVP by Friday. 


First Church Reads One Book
By Christopher Bobo and the Board of Social Justice

The Board of Social Justice is inviting First Church to read one book during the month of October. That book is The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. From the Amazon listing:

Once in a great while, a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as “brave and bold,” this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a “call to action.”

Called “stunning” by Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David Levering Lewis, “invaluable” by the Daily Kos, “explosive” by Kirkus, and “profoundly necessary” by the Miami Herald, this updated and revised paperback edition of The New Jim Crow, now with a foreword by Cornel West, is a must-read for all people of conscience.

A discussion about the book will be held on October 23, right after church. The book can be obtained from your local library, your local bookstore, and Amazon. Some copies are available for purchase in the church office for $15.


Mental Health First Aid Certificate Course - November 5 & 6
By Vicki Doolittle and Miriam Seneviratne, Social Justice and Outreach Board

As a caring and compassionate congregation, it is important that we have the courage and skills to help others especially in times of crisis. We never know when we will be called upon to help a friend, family member, or even a stranger when something unexpected happens. When we think of first aid, most of the time we think of physical emergencies, such as a heart attack or broken bones. What about those mental and emotional crises that are difficult to talk about and even more difficult to deal with? Or those awkward situations when we see someone behaving strangely and we don't know what to do but feel the need to do something? What about those times when a friend is emotionally distraught and we can’t find words of comfort?

The Social Justice and Outreach Board has considered these questions, and we are pleased to host an eight-hour Mental Health First Aid Training Course to assist adults who are experiencing a mental health crisis or developing mental health problem. The course will be offered in two four-hour sessions on Saturday, November 5, from 9 am to 1 pm and Sunday, November 6, from 1 to 5 pm. Participants will learn the warning signs for a range of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use disorders and a five-step action plan to intervene and help connect the individual with professional care. The sessions are interactive and will be taught by a skilled professional from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.

If you are interested in participating in this unique training opportunity, contact Ruth Warkentin in the church office and she will add your name to the list. There are only 25 slots available, so if you are interested, don’t delay. For those selected, plan to arrive 30 minutes before the workshop begins. Late arrivals will not be admitted.

Please seriously consider attending this life-saving course and being part of a movement to reduce the stigma of mental illnesses in our congregation and our community.




Tickets Now Available for Titanic: The Musical!
By Mark Wheeler

By now you've probably heard someone somewhere around church talking about our upcoming fully-staged production of Titanic: The Musical, coming the second and third weekends of November! This is the latest installment in the event series that started two years ago with October Mourning and continued with Postcards from Paradise. We're stepping it up again as the scale, the professionalism, and the entertainment reaches a whole new level!

Tickets are now available for this exciting event! We're announcing ticket sales to our church family before they go out to the public, so go to the church website, click on the Titanic banner across the top, and follow the directions to buy yours now to get the best seats. Tickets will go on sale to the public next week, so hurry! If financial constraints make affording these tickets difficult for you, please contact Elena or John Forrest to make alternate arrangements. We want our whole church family to enjoy this event!

There are about 50 church members and 20 folks from the Long Beach community involved in the production itself, with more volunteers helping out with backstage and house functions. This is truly a churchwide event you do not want to miss!

The show is compelling, entertaining and powerful, with gorgeous, rich music presented by our own choir members, talented actors from the Long Beach community, a full orchestra under the direction of Curtis Heard, and Marc Dickey on the Mighty Möller. While Titanic may seem a bit unusual to some folks as a First Church production, once you see it, it’ll all make sense. Among other things:

  • This production will bring the Long Beach community into our beautiful historic building to see a show that stars our sanctuary – the beautiful woodwork and mahogany, the stained glass windows, and the sheer mass of the space all echo Titanic’s lush 1912 Edwardian interiors.
  • We will use this opportunity to appeal to the greater community to help us in our quest to restore this important Long Beach landmark via our Capital Campaign.
  • The show has several social justice themes that are relevant to First Church causes today.
  • The music of this show lends itself to our musical talents here at First Church.
  • This is just a really good show!

So make your plans to join us the second and third weekends of November for this huge event. Invite and bring your friends and family – make an event of it! We guarantee that you will be proud and happy that you did!


Upcoming Continuing Education for Our Associate Minister

Dear Church,

As many of you know, I am a part of the Pension Board of the United Church of Christ's Next Generation Leadership Initiative. This program provides participants opportunities for learning and continuing education throughout the year. On September 27-October 1, my NGLI cohort will travel to the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas to participate in their Leadership Institute. I pray that this will be a rich time of learning, spiritual renewal, and conversation. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you when I return. 

John Forrest 


First Youth Outing of the Season
By Tracy Halter-Balin

The junior and senior high youth had a great time last Sunday kayaking around the Naples and Bayshore areas. We were joined by some awesome youth from the Bayshore UCC church and their cool leaders, Susie and Cynthia. After two hours on the water, seeing moon jellies, sea lions, and some beautiful boats up close, we went a few blocks and had a wonderful dinner at the home of Max and Spencer Charles. Thank you so much to Leslie and Charmaine for hosting our first youth event of the year. The food was delicious and the fellowship between these two youth groups was wonderful! We even got to celebrate Annaliese's birthday with cupcakes, cake and ice cream. Doesn't get much better than that! Some of us may have been moving a bit slower on Monday morning after tackling the tide, but we'll for sure do this again next year! Thanks to John Forrest, Jeremy Morales, and Matt Balin for joining us!

Youth kayaking


Homecoming Courtyard Clean Up
By Tracy Halter-Balin

I just want to give a shout out to Moderator Tim Mountain, Keri Rennie, her son Mason, and Sean and Matt Balin for spending their valuable Saturday sprucing up our beautiful courtyard and outside planters. Plants were trimmed and planted, cement areas were power-washed, weeds were pulled, and lots of trash from the outside area was picked up – all for the cost of a few donuts and coffee! We hope it added to the festive Homecoming atmosphere!


Drop-In Center News
By Arlene Mercer, Executive Director

We had so many families who came to us with children this past Sunday. We gave away a record number of toys to bring smiles to the beautiful little faces and somehow brighten their day. Maybe even help make them a brighter future. They were educational toys to help them learn and have something positive to hang onto. I try so very hard with all our partnership agencies and resources available to help the families who come to us, but I just don’t have enough resources to do all I want for them. First and foremost I want to provide a home for them and some stability in their lives. A place to lay their head every night and have a restful sleep. A quiet place to study. People who smile at them and don’t just turn their heads away because it’s too painful to look at them.

We do help some with good child care, school uniforms through a partner agency, resumes, and help with finding jobs. Some families with children five years old and under I’m able to get help with a deposit and a couple months’ rent through a partner agency, but we are still struggling to find an affordable apartment for them in Long Beach. Help with some motel stays and gas or transportation vouchers to get them where they need to go, but I have six families needing a home right now! I’ve been working so hard to help accomplish this, but it’s almost impossible to find an affordable apartment in Long Beach even if you have a section 8 voucher. We’ve been busing many people to other cities and states if they have relatives or a support system somewhere else and are willing to leave Long Beach because of lack of housing here, but this isn’t the answer.

Mayor Garcia has formed an Affordable Housing Study Group and is holding roundtables and resource fairs and community forums to try to come up with some solutions on the housing. I participate and hope they will do some good. We need to generate funding to renovate some older motels and buildings into affordable and workforce housing, incentives and less red tape for developers to build here, and incentives for existing apartment owners to accept section 8 vouchers.

In the meantime we need to do all we can to be supportive of our Long Beach families.

DIC 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 Jan Waggoner; Veronica Wiggins (Yvonne SaMarion’s cousin); Bill Nelson-Simpson (Carol Van Alsten's brother); Barbara Tornberg (Deb Buller's former sister-in-law).

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.




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: office@firstchurchlb.org