Friday, January 14, 2022 Newsletter



(also available on our website and *via phone)

Earlier this week I saw an article online that bore the rather startling headline, “Every Parent I Know Wants to Walk Into the Sea Right Now.” That’s obviously an emotional rather than a factual assessment, but the emotions are real.

The sudden onslaught of the omicron virus has overwhelmed almost everything with the startling speed and extent of its spread in just a few short weeks, but perhaps nowhere has it made a bigger impact than in schools and, by extension, children and their families.
The article in question was reacting specifically to the specter of a return to online-only learning for young children, which is happening or being actively considered in many places because of the number of both children and teachers who are contracting the virus. And in those contexts, parents are faced with the seemingly impossible choice of whether to support going to online learning to protect their children from the virus, or to support them going to in-person school in the midst of this surge because of how difficult and isolating online learning is for younger children, in particular. 
And this comes after almost two solid years of dealing with such stress and trauma, both of which are cumulative over time. And the truth is, while that headline is overstated, almost all of us can relate in some way to the sense of overwhelm, anxiety, frustration, and bone-deep exhaustion with all of this, though we all hold and express that in different ways.

I’ve said more than once in this pandemic that, if nothing else, it has given me a much more profound insight and appreciation into the themes of Advent: of waiting in both hope and expectation for deliverance and salvation from God, as well as lament for the present circumstances and challenges that we continue to endure. Liturgically, we have passed through that season already recently, along with Christmas and Epiphany, yet we still find ourselves in the midst of Advent waiting in many ways.

As you also may have heard me say, one of the best places to turn in difficult times is to the Psalms in the Bible, which are some of Scripture’s greatest gifts in terms of the tenacity of their faith and hope, and the honesty of their reflections on what it means to suffer.

This week, the Psalm that has spoken the most to me has been Psalm 130. As we are all looking and waiting for signs that the omicron wave may be starting to recede even as it continues to crash around us, the central stanza is particularly powerful:

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits,
And in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning
more than those who watch for the morning

If you have ever stayed up through the night, watching for signs of danger while waiting anxiously for the first signs of the light of day, you know the power of that repeated image in the text. But metaphorically, I think almost any of us can relate to that in some sense right now: watching and listening for signs of danger in a new sniffle or cough in the night, all while waiting for signs that this difficult night is fading away in the light of a new day.

Like us the Psalmist does not wait placidly for the Lord, but rather like those who watch for the morning: with their whole being eagerly alert for the first signs of deliverance. But the Psalmist does wait in confidence and hope that, just as no night has ever failed to give way to day, the Lord will not fail to honor that confidence and hope.

This Sunday, we will be thinking about the dynamics of faith, hope, and waiting in a different way as we consider one of my favorite stories in the Bible: the wedding at Cana, in which Jesus turns water into wine as the first of his miraculous signs. I hope that this Psalm may be strengthening to you, wherever this newsletter may find you, and to see you, online or in person, as we too gather once more in worship this Sunday with confidence and hope in Christ coming to us. 

Grace and Peace,

PS: Note the information below about the online Covid Prayer Vigil that the Bethlehem Interfaith Group has scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Scripture lesson
Click the link to read the verses
- This week’s sermon: Wait for It by
The Rev. J.C. Austin

- We post the video of each week’s
services and sermon text and audio
on our website:
TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT on 8.5" x 11" paper for Sunday


  • Everyone over the age of 2 is required to properly wear a mask covering the nose and mouth; double masks or N95 are recommended.
  • Everyone eligible is expected to be fully vaccinated, which now means the initial course of vaccination plus a booster, if you are attending any in-person events at the church.
  • Please maintain a minimum of a 6 foot distance between household groups/pods.
  • Child care will be available from 8:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.; please ask an usher for directions to that space.
  • We will offer nametags for folks to wear – these are for everyone! You can pick up as you enter the worship space; please clearly write your first name.
The Building Re-Opening Task Force has decided to suspend our volunteer receptionists staffing the office, for the time being. Please contact the staff person you need to speak with, to set up an appointment – staff are working remotely as much as possible. If you don’t know who to contact, email us at or leave a message at 610-867-5865.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Due to Covid restrictions the building's South entrance is only open for Sunday morning worship; it is locked at all other times. You will need to enter the building using the Kirk Center/Preschool (northeast) entrance (or the person you are meeting with can let you in the South entrance).

Our Fellowship & Formation Hour will include an in-person gathering only of Hearts N Minds, our adult ed class. They will meet in Fellowship Hall; there will be no Zoom option for this week. The class is open to all; the children’s class is not scheduled to meet.

The group is beginning discussion of the book, The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential, by N.T. Wright (2013, Harper One Imprint, ISBN 978-0-06-223050-8).

You are asked to read Chapter One: pages 1-12 and the “Afterword”, pages 171-196. Please come with a story of a psalm that meant a lot to you/’spoke’ to you at a time when you needed support or comfort.

Join in the Bethlehem Interfaith Group's "Community Covid Prayer Vigil" this Sunday, January 16 from 4:00-5:00 p.m. via Zoom:

Meeting ID: 817 9864 2607.

All are warmly welcome to join with people of diverse faiths and pray for healing and hope.
LOOKING FOR STAFF: Help us spread the word

We are currently seeking additional staff and can use your help to spread the word about this opportunity:
The Facilities Associate II provides care and maintenance of church facilities, equipment and grounds. Cleans building areas, configures facility for events and assists event participants when needed. Opens and closes the facility as required. Maintains grounds and performs routine mechanical maintenance. Reports breakdowns or major problems. Average hours per week: 25. Pay rate: $25 per hour
Interested candidates should contact us at

Should we need to close the building and/or cancel events or office hours, we will make those announcements on our website (, Facebook page, and WFMZ (both on and on their TV announcements). Messages will also be placed on the church phone, 610-867-5865.
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 is
WEDNESDAY at noon**
* * *
And follow us on Facebook: @FirstPresBethlehem
Your likes / comments / shares help us spread the word about First Pres!
  • 8:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.: Child Care (ask ushers to direct you)
  • 9 a.m.: Contemporary Worship, in-person in the Kirk Center AND livestream on Facebook Live and our website
  • 10 a.m.: Fellowship & Formation Hour – see details above for Hearts N Minds - in-person ONLY in Fellowship Hall (Kids Formation Class will not meet)
  • NEW TIME! 11:15 a.m.: Traditional Worship Service, in-person in the Sanctuary AND livestream on Facebook Live and our website; see below, to join us online or via phone 

  • 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
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE INTERNET ACCESS: You can participate on your phone to listen to the Traditional service

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 848 4170 9518, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – press the # key again.
WEDNESDAYS: 7 p.m. - Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group weekly meeting, via Zoom (Meeting # 380 435 9056 / Password: overcomer)

CHURCH OFFICE AND BUILDING INFO: Regular office hours are Monday-Thursday,
9 a.m. - 4 p.m. The office is not currently staffed with a receptionist. The building's South entrance is locked during the week so you will need to use the Kirk Center (northeast) entrance (or the person you are meeting with can let you in the South entrance).

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. 

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. Lindsey Altvater Clifton, Associate Pastor of Formation and Justice;

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

Cristy Mette, Administrative Operations Manager: ext. 228;

Kevin Konczyk, Facilities Maintenance Manager;

Oscar Mendoza, Director of Business Administration: ext. 210;

Cindy Matthews, Bookkeeper: email:

Carol Burns, Communications Manager;

Laura Hawk, Preschool Director; phone: 610-867-2956;