Friday, September 15, 2023 Newsletter
9:00 a.m.: Holy Ground Contemporary Worship Service
in Fellowship Hall (in person only)

11:00 a.m.: Traditional Worship Service in the Sanctuary
(in person and livestreamed on Facebook and our website)

Kate Bowler is a professor of the history of North American Christianity at Duke Divinity School, having studied at both Duke and Yale University first. She is a person, in other words, of considerable accomplishment, and her academic work is highly regarded in the circles of the academy.

However, she is actually much better known for her public vulnerability in receiving a stage IV cancer diagnosis at age 35 when her career was just taking off and she was also the mother of a young son. She wrote the book, Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved) to reflect personally and theologically on her struggle to come to terms with all. 

In addition to having one of the best book titles I’ve ever encountered, her honesty, insight, and humor struck a deep chord with people well outside of academic circles, so much so that she stayed on the New York Times’ bestseller list for five weeks, which is very unusual for a religion scholar!
Since then, she has hosted a very popular podcast called “Everything Happens,” in which she interviews faith leaders and other public figures about what they’ve learned about themselves and life in going through difficult circumstances, and gave an extremely popular Ted Talk, which I strongly commend to you if you don’t have the time or energy to read her whole book (you can find it at this link). 

More recently, she compiled a set of blessings for navigating the imperfections of life into a book called Good Enough, which is certainly a concept that many of us struggle with! 
The titles of the blessings vary from the seemingly familiar (e.g., “a blessing for courage”) to the pointedly honest (“a blessing for 2021 after a dumpster fire of a year”).

As I was thinking about our ongoing sermon series, “An Off-Road Faith,” I suspected that Kate would have a blessing that might be particularly well suited to this season in our life as a congregation. And I was right.

There were several, actually, but I thought for this week, as we prepare to consider “The Riskiest Thing We Can Do” in the sermon this Sunday, perhaps her “Blessing for the In-Between” might be a good one to sit with for a moment.

So many of us find ourselves in an in-between of one kind or another in our lives: moving away from a familiar reality into a new one that we do not fully comprehend yet. Certainly that is true of us as a congregation as we chart and move towards a new strategic vision together. So I encourage you to find a few minutes to sit with this in quiet; to “take a deep, cleansing breath” as Pastor Lindsey so helpfully reminds us to do so often before prayer, and to both pray and receive this “Blessing for the In-Between”:

Blessed are we, somewhere unnameable, fully present to our reality.

Tracking it, with all its subtle gradations and colors and contrasts, the sweetness and the struggle, the stuck and not-quite-fitting.

Authentic to it, mapping the full strangeness of the new emergent landscape.
Blessed are we, dear ones, not calling it too soon.

Not settling for the neat and buttoned-up, the too-tied-up, the not-quite-true.

Bless all of it, the way we might widen our gaze to encompass it and embrace it.

And bless you, moving into the unknown, waiting, daring to hope. 

I hope you will join us for worship on Sunday, whether in person or online, as we continue to dare to hope!

Grace and Peace,
The conversation continues:
We will have a recording of last Sunday’s Mission Strategy
discussion available for you next week.
Thanks for your interest!

  • This week’s sermon: An Off-Road Faith: The Riskiest Thing You Can Do by the Rev. J.C. Austin
  • We post the video of each week’s services and sermon text on our website:
TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT on 8.5" x 11" paper for Sunday


  • Child care will be available from 8:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. this Sunday morning; please ask an usher for directions.

  • Your children are a joy in our worship services, and should the need arise, “kid bags” are available for their use. They are in the Narthex.

  • We offer nametags for folks to wear – these are for everyone! You can pick up as you enter the worship space; please clearly PRINT your first name.

The Hearts N Minds adult education class starts this Sunday. This group – which is open to all - meets in the Parlor on the second floor of the South wing. We gather at 9:45 a.m. and end at 10:40 a.m. (if you attend the 9 a.m. Holy Ground service, you are welcome to leave early to attend this class.)
Our first book is the brand new HEAR US OUT: Six Questions on Belonging and Belief, authored by Sue Pizor Yoder and Co.Lab.Inq.

For the next two months we will explore the phenomenon of the reluctance of younger people to become affiliated with organized churches. We will examine the terms: spiritual, look into the search for ‘community’, list where younger people go to find community, and decipher what is causing the overwhelming sense of ‘loneliness’ many in the US feel today.

You do not have to read the book to participate. If you would like to, please read the Introduction through Chapter One (pp. 1-35).
Page 14 zeroes in on the questions – the bones – of the individual dialogues. Please take some care to get a handle on pages 14-15, and read page 35.

Let’s read the book together and tell each other our own stories. Questions? Contact Judy Smullen or Linda Robertson at

We will soon be soliciting nominations for our leadership positions: Elder, Deacon, Trustee, and Nominating Committee.
So please be thinking about who you might nominate –
or if you’d like to be considered yourself!
We’ll provide you with the instructions about how to nominate,
in next week’s newsletter.
David Macbeth, Director of Music Ministries, has put out an invitation for singers to join the Chancel Choir. They will meet on Thursdays beginning at
7 p.m.; meet in the Sanctuary.

New members are welcome! You are invited to join us to see if this vocal group interests you. All parts needed, especially
tenor and bass.
The Choir sings most Sundays during our Traditional service at 11 a.m., and at occasional other services and concerts. For more information, contact David at
Plans are in full swing for this fall’s session of Hi Neighbors, our popular speakers program!

The organizers have planned a full calendar of ten exciting programs highlighting travel, entertainment, history and a host of other topics of general interest. These programs are free and open to all; they are all listed on our website (
The sessions will begin this Monday, September 18. We’ll meet in Fellowship Hall, beginning at 9:30 a.m. for a social time. The one-hour programs begin at 10 a.m. (although sometimes we go longer if there are a lot of questions for our speakers!).

First up: popular presenter Tom Repasch offers “Banned in Berlin: The Story of the Last Great Performers in Nazi Germany”. Comedian harmonists were one of the most successful musical groups in Europe before World War II – an all-male German close-harmony ensemble that performed from 1928-34. Fun fact: In November a new musical comes to Broadway about this group and its fate in Nazi Germany, with music by Barry Manilow.

We’ve also scheduled a “field trip” for Monday, October 9, so watch for those details as well, in case you’d like to register to ride the provided bus. 

It’s fall (almost), and that means that the CROP Hunger Walk is coming up on Sunday, October 8, in Bethlehem and hundreds of other places around the US. During the COVID epidemic, many walks, like other public events, had to be canceled or scaled back; but this year, we plan to be out in force, and we invite you to join us. 
As always, proceeds from the walk will be used for hunger relief and agricultural development locally and worldwide, with 25% being designated for use by agencies in our own community.

With food insecurity a pressing issue both in the US and globally, it’s time to hit the pavement!
This year we’ll be joined by our new friends at the Gate Community Church, starting with a simple lunch at noon in Fellowship Hall following worship. Then we’ll gather at Sand Island, with registration starting at 1:00 p.m. and the official “step off” at 1:30 p.m. This is a family-friendly event, and kids, bikes, and dogs are definitely encouraged!

To make this event a success, we need both walkers and sponsors, and we invite you to participate in whatever way works for you. It’s not too early to make a donation! We’ll be accepting cash or checks after worship over the next several weeks, or you can donate directly through the link below. However you choose to be a part of this year’s CROP Hunger Walk, thanks!

All are welcome on Tuesday, September 26 when we gather with Preschool families for a fun community event!
The Preschool families will kick things off with activities and games.

FPCB folks are welcome to come at 5:30 p.m. for pizza; please drop us a note at (or call 610-867-5865) if you plan to eat, or can help with set-up and serving.

At about 7-7:15 p.m. the swifts should make their appearance - we should be able to witness their arrival to the building’s chimneys and rooftops.
These birds make a beautiful spectacle which will be a privilege to view!
Thursday, September 28
Water Street Park in Hellertown
All are welcome to join! Bring your lunch and enjoy!
The Lehigh Presbytery Helping Hands Care Team is reaching out to the church congregations that partner with them for their mission trips to share Christ's love in disaster areas. 
The group will be traveling again to New Bern, N.C. at the Neuse Forest Presbyterian Church. This trip will be Nov. 4-11 (Saturday – Saturday). 
They are thankful for their loyal volunteers and always welcome new folks. All levels and types of skills and experience are welcome – these trips primarily focus on cleaning up/repairing homes damaged by storms.

Questions? Contact Carol Bennicoff at
If you ordered mums from the Preschool sale: pick-up starts Wednesday, September 20. You will be contacted to know when and where to pick them up.
Thanks for supporting our Preschool!
An important community forum - all are welcome. The Rev. Lindsey Altvater Clifton will participate in the discussion...
If you are hospitalized, please tell the hospital our church code is 724. Also, please call the church office at 610-867-5865 to let us know as the hospitals do not always collect this information.  After hours, leave a message or call our answering service at 610-778-7003.

Send any prayer requests to or call 610-867-5865 and leave a message.
Send us your news and photos to share:
**Deadline for the next week's newsletter:
WEDNESDAY at noon**
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  • Visit our Facebook page and look for the post with our live feed
  • If you don’t have a Facebook account, go to our website to view the service - click on the "Watch the Service" button
  • Please check in with a comment so we know you’ve joined us!
  • Captions will now be available on our livestream, for those who would like to use that feature
To watch a video – available after the services have aired: Visit our website archives

  • 8:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.: Child Care (ask ushers to direct you)
  • 9:00 a.m.: Holy Ground Contemporary Worship service, in-person in Fellowship Hall
  • 9:45 a.m.: Hearts N Minds adult ed class, in the Parlor - all are welcome
  • 11:00 a.m.: Traditional Worship service, in-person in the Sanctuary and livestreamed on Facebook and on our website

WEDNESDAYS: 7 p.m. - Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group weekly meeting, via (NEW! meeting #: 868 2214 2960; passcode: OO-Beth)

THURSDAYS: 7 p.m. – Chancel Choir rehearsal, Sanctuary / Choir Room – all are welcome to join in!


Regular office hours are Monday - Thursday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Many of the office staff are working remotely for some of the time, so please make an appointment if you need to see someone specific. The answering service (610-778-7003) can take your urgent pastoral concerns, 24 hours a day. 


IN CASE OF BAD WEATHER: Look for updates on our website (, Facebook page, and WFMZ (channel 69 and We will also put the info on our church phone message, 610-867-5865.
First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, 2344 Center Street, Bethlehem, PA 18017 610-867-5865 |

The Rev. J.C. Austin, Pastor/Head of Staff: ext. 213,

The Rev. Lindsey Altvater Clifton, Associate Pastor for Justice and Community Impact;

The Rev. Suzanne Trump, Pastoral Associate for Formation and Compassion;

David Macbeth, Director of Music Ministries: ext. 202;

Kevin Konczyk, Facilities Manager;

Carol Burns, Communications Manager: ext. 238;

Tracy Leszcynski, Preschool Director; phone: 610-867-2956;

Marianne Zarillo, Finance (interim); ext.

Cindy Matthews, Bookkeeper; ext. 211;