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

The Pilgrim - October 30, 2016

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

Meet Our Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Traci deVon Blackmon

The Rev. Dr. Traci BlackmonRev. Traci Blackmon’s life calling is to serve God and the church in ways that encourages us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in fellowship with all believers.

She is grateful to live out this calling as Acting Executive Minister of Justice & Witness Ministries for The United Church of Christ and as Pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, MO.

Initially ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Blackmon served in various ministry capacities for 9 years, prior to becoming the 18th installed and first woman pastor in the 159 year history of Christ The King United Church of Christ. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Birmingham - Southern College (1985), a Master of Divinity degree (2009), and an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary.

As pastor, Rev. Blackmon leads Christ The King in an expanded understanding of church as a sacred launching pad of community engagement and change. This expanded ethos has led to a tripling of both membership and worship attendance over the last six years, expanding membership engagement opportunities, and the establishment of community outreach programs. The outreach programs include a computer lab, tutoring, continuing education classes, summer programming, and a girls' mentoring program all housed in the church.

Regionally, Rev. Blackmon's signature initiatives include Healthy Mind, Body, and Spirit, a faith-based outreach program designed to impact health outcomes in impoverished areas. Sacred Conversations on Solomon’s Porch, quarterly clergy in-services designed to equip local clergy to assess physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health concerns within congregations. Sista SOS Summit, an intergenerational health symposium for women and girls, and Souls to the Polls STL, an ecumenical, multi-faith collaborative that was successful in providing over 2,800 additional rides to the polls during elections.

Rev. Blackmon was appointed to the Ferguson Commission by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and co-chaired the Municipal Governance and Court Reform workgroup. Her work has gained her many audiences inclusive of both the Vatican and the White House. An internationally sought speaker and certified diversity trainer, Rev. Blackmon is a graduate of Leadership St. Louis and has served on several local boards. Current board affiliations include Magdalene House St. Louis, The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Chicago Theological Seminary, and WomanPreach!.

Early and consistent response to racial tensions exposed after the killing of Michael Brown, Jr. in Ferguson, MO, earned Rev. Blackmon several awards and recognitions, inclusive of:

  • The White House President’s Volunteer Service Award
  • The St. Louis American Stellar Award
  • 2015 Ebony Magazine Power 100
  • St. Louis University - Community Leader of the Year
  • The Coalition of Black Trade Unionist - Drum Major Award
  • NAACP - Rosa Parks Award
  • The Urban League of St. Louis Woman in Leadership Award
  •  National Planned Parenthood Faith Leader Award
  • The United Church of Christ - Antoinette Brown Award

Rev. Blackmon has been featured by many regional, national, and international media and print publications. She currently resides in both St. Louis, MO and Cleveland, OH and is the proud mother of three adult children: Kortni Devon; Harold II; and Tyler Wayne Blackmon.


In this issue

Music This Sunday

Christian Education

Children: Wear Halloween Costumes This Sunday

All Saints Sunday November 6

Preserving Our Legacy

Mental Health First Aid Course Update

Preservation Project Update

Childcare for Titanic at Sunday Performances

Mission Moment: Theatre Ministry

"Undies for Everyone!"

CROPWalk Results

Pilgrim Pines Mortgage Burned

Senior Minister at Meetings Next Week

Thanks, First Church!

Memorial Service for Janet Waggoner


November 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

The traditional spiritual “Steal Away” (“Steal Away to Jesus”) has a literal meaning: to follow the teachings of Jesus. But like “Wade in the Water”, and “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” there is a hidden meaning: a call to slaves to gather in a secret place to learn to read, or to plan an escape via the underground railroad. Forbidden to learn how to read or write, slaves used songs to communicate. (Another example of the extraordinary power of music.) The choir will be singing “Steal Away” this week to honor the struggles of the past as well as the struggles that continue to challenge us today. We will also hear from our new bass soloist this Sunday, Carver Cossey!

Curtis Heard, Director of Music


In Sunday School

Theme: A Voice for Justice
Scripture: Luke 19:1-10

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




Kids, Put on Your Costumes a Day Early!

This Sunday, all children are invited to wear their Halloween costumes to service. During the time with the children we will have a parade around the church on our way to Sunday School.


All Saints Sunday to Be Observed on November 6
By the Rev. Elena Larssen

It is a common custom within Christianity to call out the names of the faithful who have died since the last All Saint’s Day. At First Church, we will read the names of those members and friends who have passed since November 1, 2015, but would also be honored to include close friends and relatives of our community, as well. Simply email office@firstchurchlb.org with the name and date of death, and it will be included on November 6.


Preserving Our Legacy
By Ruth Keller, for the Capital Campaign Committee

First Church members, you are making it happen! By now every church member should have received a personalized Preserving Our Legacy Capital Campaign packet. Campaign packets/letters have come into your hands in a variety of ways, but most of you should receive it this week through the mail. The Capital Campaign Committee wants to personally meet and greet all who received their letters in the mail to extend the invitation for you to “Save the Rose Windows” by contributing to the funds being raised to pay for restoring and preserving the beautiful rose windows and repairing the facades of terra cotta and brick.

Beginning Sunday, November 6 and continuing every Sunday in November, Commitment Team members will be available after church to provide you with your Letter of Intent, and answer any questions. The team asks you to stop by, pick up your Letter of Intent, complete it (whether you are giving or not), and deposit it in a box we will provide! If you want to talk about your plans, members of the Capital Campaign Committee will be available to meet with you. If you want to take the letter home, you are welcome to drop it off during our meet and greets in the month of November or mail it in. After December 5, we will start calling members from whom we have not received a Letter of Intent.

The locations of our alphabetical distribution of the letter will be announced each Commitment Sunday!


Mental Health First Aid Workshop Update
By Miriam Seneviratne

The Mental Health First Aid workshop will be held on November 5 and 6 at First Church, in Klar Rooms 1 and 2. The workshop times are:

Saturday, November 5, 9 am - 1 pm. Registration starts at 8:30 am on Saturday. The instructor has let us know that latecomers will be asked to attend a different workshop. The workshop starts on time, because of the amount of material to be covered.

Sunday, November 6, 1 -5 pm


Preservation Project Update
By Allison King

Work begins on a small portion of the interior window frames and as always the first step in conservation is documentation. Keep an eye out for more on an upcoming investigation searching for hidden metal in the terracotta. Keep reading at 3rdandcedar.com.


Childcare during Titanic on Sundays

Nursery childcare will be available for members and friends of First Church during the Sunday evening performances of Titanic.


Mission Moment from Sunday, October 23: A Theatre Ministry at First Church
By Mark Wheeler

It all started with a little seed of an idea from Curtis Heard and Lesléa Newman that grew into a concert performance of a little thing called October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard. Then came our church building’s centennial and the very successful Postcards from Paradise, a Love Letter to Long Beach. That was then followed by a theatrical production of October Mourning. And now we’re busy tackling the Broadway musical Titanic, and as we all work hard to create something really amazing for you next month, it’s looking like something more may be happening here, too: it seems we may be building a theatre ministry here at First Church!

So now, what exactly is a theatre ministry? Well, I’m not exactly sure, but to me it seems to shake out into three big ideas. 

First, it’s a way for members of our congregation and new friends from the community to join together in creative fellowship and friendship, working and playing together to build this magical thing of beauty, this show. This show, Titanic, will utilize 50 talented performers, a live orchestra, the Mighty Möller, and this amazing space to transport you onto the Largest Moving Object on the World, a floating palace at sea, to experience the hopes, the dreams, the greed, and hubris of a microcosm of society not so different from ours today. 

Second, this ministry allows us to create and present live entertainment for our church and the Long Beach community – entertainment with a progressive voice reflecting our priorities and calling here at First Church. 

Finally, when we perform this show another purpose of this theatre ministry comes to the forefront. It starts with a thought that Elena shared with me not long ago: “You can't share a vision of social justice, compassion and community if no one comes through the door.”

Many people who might be called to a progressive church like ours may also have a lot of baggage when it comes to things traditionally Christian or “churchy” and for them just coming into a church could be a complete nonstarter. Or they have a preconceived notion of what First Church is like. Or they feel called to something, but don't realize that what they're being called to is a progressive church like ours!

That’s where the shows of this theatre ministry can come into play – they can be portals through which people from all walks of life in the greater Long Beach community can come and have a First Church experience in a welcoming, non-threatening environment. They can revel in the beauty of our sanctuary and the mighty Möller; they can see a show whose themes reflect our progressive sensibilities of diversity, compassion and social justice; they can glory in beautiful, soaring music, thanks to the talent that resides here. And, of course, they get to meet all of you charming folks!

So here’s how you can become a part of this theatre ministry: you’ve gotten your tickets for Titanic – that’s tremendous! Now think about your family and friends and co-workers. Maybe you’ve wanted to invite them to First Church, but you never quite felt comfortable doing it. Invite them to the show! Grab dinner before or coffee after and make an evening of it! Or organize a group from work or the neighborhood or the bridge club and go!

Your friends and family can get to know First Church in an easy and approachable way, and it may even spur some of those conversations about First Church that you’ve always wanted to share with them but never quite found the right time to do it!

So that’s some of what we hope this new theatre ministry may be able to accomplish for us. 

Tickets are being sold each Sunday during the coffee hour, but why wait til then? Just go online here to buy your tickets. And thank you for helping bring First Church to the community!



"Undies for Everyone" in October Undies for Everyone
By Alison Morales, Urban Community Outreach

Greetings, Church! UCO is so grateful for the new underwear and diapers you’ve been donating this month for our weekly guests at the Drop-In Center. We are collecting and distributing these items every Sunday in October. We are most in need of men’s/women’s/children’s underwear, baby diapers of any size, and XL adult diapers. You’ll easily spot a UCO box in the Donation Center on the Third Street landing. Please refrain from donating other items in this box, as we aren’t set up for storage. We really appreciate your help. Together, we can help our beloved community feel fresher and happier!


CROP Walk a Success!
By the Rev. Dale Whitney, 2016 Walk Chair

Congratulations to everyone who participated in this year’s 40th Anniversary Long Beach Area CROP Hunger Walk! It was a nice cool day for a walk of just 5K, and 125 walkers turned out to take advantage of the nice weather and the great walk route beginning and ending at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Willow! We gained a total of at least $11,276 for the day, with more still coming in. Benefitted agencies in addition to Church World Service (75%) include six local charities (about 25%): Catholic Charities, We Care of Los Alamitos, Christian Outreach in Action (COA), Su Casa Family Crisis & Support Center, Lutheran Social Services, and Urban Community Outreach (UCO), which runs the Drop-In Center at First Church on Sunday afternoons. The date for next year’s walk has not been set yet, but it will probably be once again some time in October.

CROP Walk Participants

The FCCLB CROP Walkers


Pilgrim Pines Once Again Debt-Free
By Rudolph van Graan, Associate Conference Minister: Volunteer Ministries
Submitted by Tracy Halter-Balin

Thanks to the hard work of the Outdoor Ministries Team (OMT) and generous donations from churches in our Conference, the mortgage on Pilgrim Pines Camp and Conference Center is burned, quite literally! On Saturday, October 8, during Pilgrim Pines Fun For All Family Camp and Apple Pie Day we all gathered around the fire pit for a short celebration when we put (a copy of) the mortgage in the fire. Close to 200 people were present and over 14 churches represented.

We recognized the three churches that donated generously to the mortgage, Crossroads UCC, Hollywood Independent and Pilgrim UCC, and presented each with a plaque that will be placed on the Vesper Point Bell. Our gratitude goes to these churches that, in their time of transitioning and closure, allowed other ministries to thrive and live on. The Conference also recognized the outstanding contributions of four volunteers, and presented certificates of appreciation to Mr. Tom Mason, the Chair of Facilities Team; Mr. James Box, site manager at Pilgrim Pines; Ms. Tracy Halter-Balin, Director of Summer Camp; and Rev. Petra Malleis-Sternberg, Chair of OMT. There was cheering as many people threw crumpled pages of the mortgage in the flames!

Campers who have been coming to Pilgrim Pines know that “The Mountains Shall Bring Peace To the People.” This new development opens the door for a new vision for outdoor ministry in the Conference.

The Youth and Young Adult Ministry in our Conference is evolving to where we offer youth events throughout the year. Many churches face the challenge of limited resources and small youth groups. In a new approach we will try to cluster churches with more resources together with those with fewer resources. A group of youth directors and youth pastors gathered in September to develop new strategies and plan a generic youth calendar as far out as winter 2019. We are in the process of hiring a camp registrar who will also facilitate the communication between the various role-players in this ministry. I hope this update gives you a birds-eye view of all that is happening in youth ministry in the Conference, which I believe, is steadily going in the right direction.

As for First Church, we were well represented for the celebration! Participants included the Morales Family, Pearce Family, Whitesell Family, Penner Family, Boyd/Guthmann Family, O’Keefe Family, Watson Family and the Malatesta Family. We hope you can join us next year!

Rev. Rudolph van Graan is the Associate Conference Minister: Volunteer Ministries, for the Southern California Nevada Conference of the UCC. He is based in Glendale, CA and a keen participant in the summer camp ministry at Pilgrim Pines.

Mortgage burning  Mortgage burning


Senior Minister at UCC Meetings Next Week

Rev. Larssen will be out of the office starting Tuesday the 1st of November and returning for Sunday services. She will be attending two meetings in Naples, Florida: first, a meeting of Senior Ministers with the United Church of Christ General Minister and President, the Rev. John Dorhauer, and second, the annual fall meeting of the Board for Ministerial Assistance where she serves as Vice President of the Board: https://ext.pbucc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=298&Itemid=341.


Thank You, First Church!

A big thank you to my friends who dedicated last Sunday’s flowers to me for recently passing my exam to become a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist. It has been an 11-year journey to achieve this milestone, beginning in 2004 to finish my undergraduate degree in sociology, then in a graduate program for a Masters in Science in Counseling from 2007-2010. I have spent the last six years doing a 3,000-hour internship, then studying for and passing two exams. Along the way I had to have two surgeries to resolve a health issue. I am now just waiting to receive my license number from the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. Whew! I was not able to participate in choir or even come to services for long periods of time. Yet when I was able to come to church, people were so welcoming and encouraging. I was amazed people didn’t forget who I was! Throughout the years in my undergraduate and graduate programs I applied for and received scholarships from the Caskey Scholarship Fund. It would have been a hardship for me without those funds. I love the work I am doing – it is meaningful and enriching. My plan is to take a breather until the first of the year and then begin the process of starting a local private practice … and in some measure give back what has been given to me. I am so very grateful to everyone at First Church who have supported and cheered me on … thank you, thank you, thank you!

Amy Peer


Memorial Service for Janet Waggoner

The memorial service for Janet Waggoner will be Sunday, November 6 at 1 pm in the sanctuary, followed by a cookie reception in the Koinonia Room.


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.



November Birthdays

1 Ron Nelson, Harold Curtis, Bill Kuehl, Loren Solem-Kuehl
2 David Cavanaugh, Joseph Askin
3 Veronica L. Bloomfield
4 Gail Schwandner, Cheryl Doorbar
5 Tanu Ah You
7 Rick Travis Bourassa
8 Claire Watts, Francisco Mendez
10 Noah Gardner-Orr
11 Tony Abrahano
12 Jackie Grover
14 Donna Bell
16 Eddie Nazarro
17 Barbara Trnka, Mikayla Williams
18 Cynthia King
19 Nancy Himel, Sasha Advani, Susan Jaeckel
20 Brad Wells, Ronda Holman
21 Mary Martin, Darryl Heath
22 Tom Larson, Jerry Stinson
26 Mara Rhoads
28 Chuck Fowler, Michelle Williams, Allison King
29 Yvonne SaMarion, Mary Granger, David McMillin

November Anniversaries

1  Donna and James T. Bell, 15 years 
3  Janet and Bill Cooley, 26 years
4  Christine and Mara Rhoads, 11 years 
7  Kirsten and Christie Pearce, 7 years
15  Tracy Halter-Balin and Matt Balin, 8 years
16  Brad Wells and Nancy Valencia, 31 years 
16  Katrina Kershaw and Debbi Lauderback, 16 years 
20  Clive Graham and Dorianne Campbell-Graham, 24 years
21  Tom and Susan Dorsey, 29 years
22  James and Cindy Loeffler, 27 years
22  Richard Berryman and Ivan Whatley, 8 years
22  Leslie and Charmaine Charles, 21 years
26  Gordon and Lane Shepherd, 57 years


Parish Concerns

Your thoughts and prayers are requested for Bill Simpson (Carol Van Alsten's brother); Alan & Sarah Sayce (Chuck and George deBruyn's nephew and his wife); Barbara Smith upon the death of her wife, Jan Waggoner; Suzanne Cole (Karen Miller's cousin); Patrick Malone (Larelle Hendon's brother).

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