Friday, August 28, 2020 Newsletter



(also available on our website and via phone)


People have asked me from time to time what’s the hardest part about digital worship, and for me, the answer is very clear: I’m preaching to a camera instead of to people in the room.

I don’t mean it’s hard technically. I’ve had media training and feel comfortable talking to a camera, and I have a pretty vivid imagination so I can actually visualize all of you on the other side of that lens, making eye contact with different people through the service and the sermon the way I normally do in person.
Which is also why it’s hard; the challenge isn’t one of technique, but of energy. I’m at least twice as tired at the end of the second service on Sundays as I would be after in-person services, because I’m having to do all that visualization as well as the normal things. So while I am 100% in agreement with the Session’s decision not to worship inside the building anytime soon, I am VERY excited about seeing at least some of you “in the flesh” during our special outdoor combined worship service this Sunday at 10 a.m.!

For this to be safe and successful, though, it’s going to be absolutely crucial that we abide by the protocols that the Worship Committee has established for us to gather outdoors. So I want to walk you through what will be necessary this Sunday so there is no confusion. 
First, if you have not already done so, please send in an RSVP (via this online form) so we have both a sense of how many people will be there and a head start on gathering contact information for all attendees (see below). If you have previously told us you were coming but will not be, please let us know so we can plan accordingly.

Please remember that the CDC, and therefore the Session, continues to recommend that people with one or more conditions that make you a high risk for contracting COVID-19 not attend large gatherings (please check it here). This is why we will continue to offer the livestream on Facebook Live this Sunday as we have for months for anyone who needs to stay at home or simply prefers to do so.

And just a note that we are watching the weather, and will make a decision on Saturday if we need to postpone the outdoor service. That information will be on our website, Facebook page, church phone message, and sent via email to our newsletter mailing list.

As you make your plans for Sunday – deciding whether you will attend in person or watch from home – please note that everyone needs to bring their own chair(s) and be able to carry them and set them up yourselves; we will not have any chairs available from the church, nor will volunteers (or bystanders) be able to assist you because of physical distancing protocols.
Similarly, if you have physical limitations and need assistance, you will need to arrange for anyone providing assistance to come with you; it is unsafe for both you and our volunteers for them to help you physically. We will have disability parking reserved in the South Lot closest to the worship area for anyone who needs it (please let us know at

When you arrive on Sunday morning for the 10 a.m. service, plan to come a little earlier than you normally do, because it will take longer for you to get settled. When you drive in, volunteers will direct you to a parking space, ensuring that there are empty spaces between cars to provide distancing. 
Volunteers will be wearing yellow safety vests for easy visibility. Once you are parked, everyone should remain in your car with their masks on until a volunteer approaches you; those masks must stay on at all times until you are back in your car and ready to leave.

The volunteer will check you off the RSVP list and/or ensure we have your contact information; this is required for contact tracing purposes in case any attendee tests positive for COVID-19 within the next two weeks. The volunteer will then give you a card assigning your household to your own personal “pod” (seating area) and a worship bulletin. FYI, both the cards and bulletins were copied three days earlier and set aside in a secure area until Sunday morning, and volunteers handing them out on Sunday will be gloved, so virus transmission risk is at an absolute minimum there.

In addition to your chair(s), you may also bring your own water, umbrella, bug spray, sunscreen, etc. into your pod. You will need to remain in your pod at all times until you are dismissed at the end of the service (see below); please do not “mingle” with others. If you have any trash for whatever reason, you are asked to take it out and dispose of it at home; there will not be trash cans available.

Restrooms are available in the North Link and near the South Entrance, should you need them. A volunteer can direct you if you are unsure where to go, but please remember to maintain 6 feet of physical distance in talking to them and/or waiting in line for the restroom.

During the service itself, you will continue to wear a mask at all times; worship leaders will do so as well except when they are actively speaking or singing. As for singing, only the worship leader will sing; it will be tempting to sing along in a low voice, but please do not give into temptation! Singing is one of the most dangerous activities possible in the COVID era, so sing with your heart and spirit but not with your voice. We will pray the Lord’s Prayer together aloud, but please do so softly, as even normal conversation levels bear a degree of risk.

At the end of the service, volunteers will dismiss you by pod number to ensure physical distancing on the way out. This will obviously take a little longer than a pre-pandemic exit, so our musicians have a short postlude to conclude the service, and then will continue to play as pods are dismissed.

Again, I am delighted we are moving forward with this experiment in outdoor, physically distanced worship. If you have comments or feedback after the service, please send them to and the Worship Committee will review them as they consider future plans.

See you on Sunday!!!

Grace and peace,

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·   This week's sermon: A Dazzle of Wheelbarrows by Rev. J.C. Austin

·     We post each week’s sermon
(audio and text) on our website:
TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT on 8.5" x 11" paper
(if you attend worship in person, copies will be provided)

The 10 a.m. Combined Service will be “Live” on Facebook 

To watch “live”- as it happens:
  • 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
  • Please check in with a comment so we know you’ve joined us!
  • NEW: 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:

We will offer the COMBINED SERVICE (at 10 a.m. this Sunday) with an ‘audio-only’ option so you can listen to it on your phone. 

Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 955 325 387 followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.
SUNDAY SCHOOL for this week

Both our ‘live’ and pre-recorded Sunday School experiences are taking a two-week hiatus, so will not be offered this Sunday (Aug. 30) or the following Sunday, Sept. 6.
We’ll be back on Sunday, Sept. 13 with an exciting new curriculum in both live and pre-recorded options.
(If this Sunday’s outdoor worship is postponed due to weather, it will be offered on Sunday, Sept. 13 so the first Sunday School session would be on Sept. 20.) Watch for all the details!

Sunday, Aug. 30: Combined Worship Service at 10 a.m., offered both outside in front of the church building and via Facebook Live (NOTE: If postponed due to weather, a Combined Worship Service will be held on Sunday, Sept. 13)

Sunday, Aug. 30 and Sunday, Sept. 6: Sunday School (live and pre-recorded sessions) is on hiatus; will return on Sunday, Sept. 13 (NOTE: If there is a Combined service on Sept. 13 at 10 a.m., Sunday School will return on Sept. 20)

Wednesday, Sept. 2: Mask Force ministry drop-off/pick-up for those interested in sewing fabric masks; front of church building between 1-3 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 6: Contemporary service at 9 a.m., and Traditional service at 11 a.m. – livestreamed via Facebook only. This is Communion Sunday.

Monday, Sept. 7: Labor Day holiday; staff will not be working

Sunday, Sept. 13: Sunday School and Hearts N Minds adult education begin their fall sessions (see Hearts N Minds article below)

Sunday, Sept. 13: Bethlehem Interfaith Group (BIG) “Abundance of Prayer” hour of prayer via YouTube Live, beginning at 7 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 21: Hi Neighbors speakers bureau will offer a special Zoom presentation by Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure, and the county’s Registrar, Amy Cozze, on mail-in ballots. More details to come.

If you are interested in lively discussion about social justice, what the Bible says to us, and thoughtful, meditative readings, then the adult education group Hearts N Minds might be for you.

Over the years, the group has studied many different writers and subjects and we will continue on that path of respectful exploration starting Sunday, September 13. We will be gathering via Zoom until further notice.
Discussion leaders throw out questions to discuss as a whole or in breakout groups. Our first book is Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans (Nelson Books, 2018; ISBN - 978-0-7180-2231-0). It is available new in paperback for $17 or there are plenty of used copies to buy.

Evans was a newspaper columnist (and best-selling author) who challenged conservative Christianity and gave voice to a generation of wandering evangelicals wrestling with their faith, before she died last year at a tragically young age.
Our book choice headed the best seller list for many months. Evans’ colleague wrote, “... (Rachel) proclaimed a more just and expansive vision of God’s love, to encourage others, and to amplify voices that are typically marginalized in the Church and in the world.”

We will then pick up Peter Enns's The Bible Tells Me So (Harper One, 2014; ISBN 978-0-06-227202-7). There are used hardback (preferred) and paperback copies available. 
From the dustjacket: “Christians have had it drilled into them that their job is to defend the bible against any challenge. But is this really God’s plan? What if God wants us to debate and wrestle with what we read in scripture? (In this book) you will find a revolutionary guide that will liberate Christians so they can truly engage with God’s Word.”

Both books examine the authors’ spiritual journeys. We are all on a spiritual journey and our hope is that these books can act as guideposts.

You may remember the work of "Mask Force 2000", a community group that has been coordinating volunteer sewers and materials to supply masks in the Lehigh Valley.
First Pres will once again serve as a pick-up materials/drop-off masks location. It will be open:

Wednesday, Sept. 2
1-3 p.m.

The efforts will focus on making masks with a clear vinyl insert that are easier for folks with communication challenges.
If you are interested in picking up kits to sew the masks, come to the front of church to come inside and pick up. If you have questions or concerns please direct them to
We would like to know when our members are entering the hospital. Please tell the hospital that your church ID is 724 and they will contact us. You can also contact Phil
Fair at to keep us up to date.

Send any prayer requests to or call 610-867-5865 and leave a message.
Send us your news and photos to share:
**Deadline for next week's newsletter: Wednesday at noon**
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Your likes / comments / shares help us spread the word about First Pres!

THIS SUNDAY (print bulletin, above)

10:00 a.m.: Combined Worship Service – join us “in person” for an outdoor service (see Pastor Austin’s message on page 1 for details) OR join us on our Facebook page or website for the live service; you can also listen in via phone (see instructions in the blue and yellow boxes on page 3)

ALL OTHER PUBLIC EVENTS AND GATHERINGS ARE CANCELLED AT THIS TIME unless offered online (see listings on our Facebook page under “Events”)

CHURCH OFFICE AND BUILDING INFO: The office staff is working remotely and checking email and voicemail daily. The answering service (610-778-7003) can take your urgent pastoral concerns, 24 hours a day. The staff will not be working on Monday, Sept. 7 in recognition of Labor Day.
CARE CONCERNS AND HOSPITAL VISITS: If members of the FPCB congregation are hospitalized and would welcome pastoral and hospital ministrant visitors and/or prayers, please contact: Phil Fair, Prayer Ministrant (

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. Sue Bennetch, Pastoral Associate: ext. 209;

David Macbeth, Music Director: ext. 202;

Cristy Mette, Administrative Operations Manager: ext. 228;

Rebecca Angione, Facilities Manager: ext. 210;

Marianne Zarillo, Business Manager: email:

Cindy Matthews, Bookkeeper: email:
Carol Burns, Communications Manager; ext. 238;

Andrea Barbehenn, Preschool Director; phone: 610-867-2956;