Friday, March 6, 2020 Newsletter

SUNDAY SERVICES: 9:00 a.m. Contemporary ∙ 10:30 a.m. Traditional

Children's Sunday School at 9:00 a.m. and 10:30

Join us for Hospitality in Fellowship Hall after each of our services!
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7)

I’m starting this pastoral message with that verse because I want to talk about our preparations for and responses to the spread of the coronavirus here at First Presbyterian through that theological lens.

As Christians, we are called and empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to live in response to the challenges and dangers of this world with power, love, and self-discipline, and not fear. Therefore, our responses to this set of challenges and dangers will be characterized by those fruits of the spirit. Let me address each of those fruits in light of this issue in turn, albeit in a different order.
A Spirit of Self-Discipline
Our general approach can be summed up in the watchwords that I gave in the worship services last Sunday: “keep calm and wash your hands.” The most contagious disease in the world is fear, and a spirit of self-discipline is one of the most powerful protections against it. So let us all be disciplined about what information we spread, particularly online, where it can be hard to determine how grounded in truth an article or story may be, and where there is a particular incentive to incite fear in order to prompt clicks on stories. 
The current advice from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to be that the general threat level is low, but that it is prudent and helpful for individuals and organizations to take precautions against spreading the virus, especially out of concern for those who are particularly vulnerable: those who are in poor general health, and those who have compromised immune systems or respiratory conditions. If that changes, so will our advice and response, but until then, we are basing our response on this direction.

In addition to the CDC, we have consulted the advice of various Christian denominational entities, the leaders of other congregations across the country, and leaders in the fields of virology and public health who are members of First Presbyterian to determine what our practices of self-discipline should be now as a church, and that they are wise and prudent without succumbing to fear. These may go through iterations, but they include the following:

1)       Please stay home if you have any symptoms of illness, especially fever or persistent coughing/sneezing . This is the most important practice of self-discipline that there is, and not just related to church activities, but also work, school, public events, social gatherings, etc. Washing hands is a very helpful protection, but as both flu and coronavirus are primarily spread through respiration, the biggest risk is proximity exposure, and the best defense is self-isolation of people with any symptoms. 
2)      We will continue the protocols we implemented in worship last Sunday regarding Passing of the Peace, the Sacrament of Communion, and greeting at the door, which basically boil down to not shaking hands and limiting contact of communion elements to the preparers and servers as much as possible, who have taken extra precautions in terms of hand-washing, sterilizer, and gloves. Our next communion service will be Palm Sunday; if there are any further changes to our practices for that service, we will notify you.
3)       For Lenten Suppers, the Hospitality Hours on Sunday, and any other food being served at church functions, we are now asking people to sterilize their hands before taking any food, and to take similar precautions with any food that they prepare to bring in. However, you are more than welcome to “brown bag” your own dinner for the Lenten Suppers if you prefer, and obviously to abstain from food if you have any concerns.
4)       All of these are subject to change based on new developments and further information; we will update you through the newsletter, Facebook, and in worship services if such changes do occur, so please monitor those sources.

A Spirit of Love
Here I want to hold up two dimensions for our response. The first is compassion and care. Self-isolation, either because you are ill or because you are concerned about exposure, is by definition isolating.

So this week, we are beginning to livestream our Traditional worship service on Facebook Live; you can go to our Facebook page and find a link to watch the service remotely as it is happening. If for some reason you cannot join at that time, a link to the recording of the service will be on the church website on Monday.

That way you can be part of the church in worship remotely; the Spirit can move through the Internet as well as in person! We will be looking at other possibilities to care for people who are avoiding going out, as well, both in our congregation and beyond. If coronavirus does spread widely and begin to impact everyday life, then we will have both the opportunity and the responsibility to consider how it is affecting the most vulnerable people in our community and how we may be able to serve them better.

The second dimension for our response is justice and solidarity. The fact that the coronavirus began in China has been seized upon by white supremacists as an opportunity for anti-Asian agitation in this country, and there has also been an upswing in general racist behavior towards Asian-Americans as well, with many Asian-Americans reporting virus-themed bullying in school and insults on the street and online, as well as notable declines in patronage of Asian restaurants.

Such behavior is all rooted in a spirit of fear, and we are called to reject and resist it. If you witness such behavior, online or in person, please take the opportunity to “speak the truth in love” by declaring support for those being mistreated and by rejecting division, ignorance, and hate in favor of expressing a spirit of love and solidarity.
A Spirit of Power
As Christians, we believe that we live in the power of God’s gracious love through Jesus Christ, and that nothing “…in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). So no matter how powerful fear may be, God’s love is more powerful. In fact, Scripture goes further and tells us that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

So as we journey through these days together, let us work to cast out fear in ourselves and others through the power of love, the power of God’s love that is more powerful than anything that seeks to oppose it. Let us trust in the power of love and practice it as we love God, and one another, and our neighbors as ourselves, as God has called us to do.

Grace and Peace,

Genesis 12:1-4a
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
·     This week's sermon:   Blessed to be a Blessing by Rev. J.C. Austin             

·       We post each week’s sermon
(audio and text) on our website:
STARTING THIS SUNDAY: Traditional Service “Live” on Facebook
Beginning this Sunday we will be live-streaming our Traditional service, starting at 10:30 a.m.
To watch “live”- as it happens:
  • Visit our Facebook page and look for the post with our live feed (you do not need your own Facebook account – if you don’t have one, go to our website and click “Facebook” in upper right corner)
To watch a video – available on Monday:
  • Visit our website and look for the link on the homepage
RECAP: “Constructive Conversations: Engaging Our Faith in Public Life”
Fifty people gathered in the Kirk Center on Saturday to hear from Rev. Austin on this timely topic. Starting with directives from Scripture on how to engage in public life, he shared techniques for conversations about topics involving the common good. 
Said Gail Watts, chair of the Discipleship Committee (which sponsored this event): “Having many more attend than signed up tells me there is a lot of interest in working for the common good, being involved citizens, and changing divisive discourse to true dialogue that respects the ‘other’.”
COMING: This series continues with a three-part series, Constructive Conversation in Difficult Situations”, running Wednesday evenings on April 15, 22 and 29. The series will be facilitated by Mary Lou Hatcher, who brings a background in community mediation, mediation training and spiritual direction to her concern for faith supported relationships, conversations and community relations. She is a member of Lehigh Valley Quaker Meeting in Bethlehem. More details coming soon!
Last session: Thursday, March 12
1:00 – 2:00 p.m. – Room 416
Did you know that David is mentioned more than any other figure in the Old Testament? Do you want to learn more about him?
Whether you attended the first two sessions or not, you are welcome to join the discussion led by John Dudding.
There is no text book to buy; participants will be reading selected bible passages from 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel.

Join us as we dig deeper to consider whether David can be considered 'Everyman'.
YOU'RE INVITED: Journey to Rwanda - An Information Session
This Sunday from 1-2 p.m.
Join friends of TEACH Rwanda, as they explore one of Africa's most fascinating, friendly, and still-developing countries.

To learn more about how you can join their next exciting adventure, come to this information session. These items will be discussed: itinerary, funding, traveler's insurance, and important traveling tips.

The session is open to all and will be held in Room 178. If you cannot come in person, you can join remotely via 'Google Meet'. For more information contact Clare Smith at 610-248-9027.
Wednesdays, March 11 – April 1 from 6-7:30 p.m.:
Community Lenten Suppers (see article, below)
Sunday, April 5: Palm Sunday (Communion Sunday)
Thursday, April 9: Maundy Thursday
(plans for this evening’s worship will be announced soon)
Friday, April 10 at 8 p.m.: Tenebrae service
Saturday, April 11 at 7 p.m.: Compline - contemplative, candlelit service
Sunday, April 12: Easter Sunday
(Contemporary service at 9:30 a.m.; Traditional service at 10:30 a.m.)

As we did last year, we are offering a Community Lenten Supper series on Wednesdays, running through April 1. We’ll gather at 6 p.m. for a simple meal. This will be followed by a brief reflection, led by Rev. Steve Simmons, focusing weekly on “the mind of Christ” (see article below) .

We will be offering a general Lenten devotional for an individual or family if they wish, which will be distributed around the church (Narthex, Fellowship Hall, rotunda) beginning on Ash Wednesday. This is a different topic than the Lenten supper material.

Help us spread the word about these Lenten events – we will have Lenten season postcards available with details that you can share with friends and family. They will be located around the church for you to pick up.
March 11, 18, 25, and April 1 (Wednesdays)
6:00- 7:30 p.m.
Fellowship Hall

“Having the Mind of Christ”
At First Presbyterian, our first Core Value states that we are a Christ-centered congregation: “In everything we do, we strive to follow Jesus Christ faithfully through the authority and insight of God’s Word and Spirit, to imitate Christ in how we treat others.” The Apostle Paul is even bolder, asserting that the church is the body of Christ, and even that we “have the mind of Christ.”
On five Wednesday evenings in Lent, we’ll explore what this all means, considering who Jesus was and is (Word/Wisdom of God, Savior, prophet, teacher, reformer, healer…), what he has done for us (what, after all, do we mean by “atonement”?), and what he asks of us as an expression of his continuing presence in the world.

We had a very good turnout at our first gathering on Wednesday, and would like to see even more of you join us! We’ll offer a simple potluck meal – use this online form to let us know you’re coming. You can also sign up to bring a salad or dessert to share, or if you are willing to help with set-up or clean-up; use this simple sign-up for that info.

You can also call the Main Office at 610-867-5865 with your information; be sure to specify the date(s). 
Hearts N Minds is now studying The Last Week by Marcus Borg and John D. Crosson - a commentary about the last seven days of Jesus in Jerusalem. Judy Smullen will lead this Sunday’s discussion of chapter three, "Tuesday" (page 55).

The class will then return to Sister Joan Chittister’s book, For Everything a Season , on April 18.

All are welcome, whether you have read the books or not, or attended any of the previous sessions.
If you are a resting elder (someone who has previously served as an elder, but is not currently), we ask you to consider this opportunity to serve our congregation.

Because of the size of our congregation, First Pres has three Commissioners (representatives) to the quarterly Lehigh Presbytery meetings, which are held at different churches around the Presbytery. Along with Elders Rich Hjorth and Joanne Kelhart, you would attend the meetings and vote on behalf of our congregation on the various issues that are raised.

This is a great way to volunteer without a huge time commitment. If you are interested, please contact Sue Farber by Monday, March 9.

It’s that time of year… for spring cleaning! Let’s help get our beautiful building ready for spring and Easter.

Our Congregational Life Committee is sponsoring a spring cleaning session on Saturday, March 21 from 9 a.m.-noon. We’ll provide a pizza lunch after a morning of work.
Please let us know you’re coming by contacting us at or calling 610-867-5865.
Hi Neighbors returns on Monday

‘Hi Neighbors’ is a social-sounding name for a popular learning opportunity here at First Pres!

On Monday mornings through mid-May you will find adults from all over the Lehigh Valley gathering in Fellowship Hall. A coffee time begins at 9:15 a.m., followed by presentations by local presenters. 

The programs might be armchair travels, an in-depth look at local history, health and wellness info, or details about local government and community initiatives. They’re guaranteed to be interesting!
Last fall, world traveler Ron Yoshida took us to Japan (right) , and on Monday he presents “Walking in Kashmir and in the Footsteps of Buddha”.

He’ll help us experience Delhi, India’s vibrant and bustling capital; show us stunning views on a flight over the Himalayas; and share his trek through the Kashmiri Mountains.
Everyone is welcome, so please share this information with family and friends! Details are on the First Pres website and our Facebook page, under “Events”. There is no cost or pre-registration required.
We’re still collecting!
·         Gently used shoes (men’s, women’s, kids and toddlers)

·         Plastic bags and film, bubble wrap, bread bags, dry cleaning plastic, cereal liners, etc. – clean and dry, please!

Look for donation bins in Fellowship Hall and the Rotunda
CALLING ALL HANDS… no skills or experience required!

 The Helping Hands Care Team of Lehigh Presbytery has scheduled its fourth mission work trip to Fayetteville, NC. You will need to sign up by next Thursday, March 12.
The trip will take place between Saturday, March 28 – Saturday, April 4.
Volunteers are needed to assist with the recovery efforts after heavy rains and flooding caused extensive damage to the churches and homes in that area. It takes years for areas to recover from these storms and every helping hand makes a difference in the lives of people who lost so much.
There are no specific skills or experience required , other than to be flexible and provide whatever help is needed. There are jobs for every skill level and we have experienced volunteers to help train you. We do, of course, welcome those with plumbing, electrical, roofing, and dry wall installation skills.

The cost is $200. 00 per person and participants must register by Thursday, March 12. Contact the Lehigh Presbytery office at 610-391-9020 or for more information.  
First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem
Sunday, March 15 at 4 p.m.

Satori's March concert features chamber music with classical guitar, flute, strings and piano - music of Carulli and Molino, plus Mozart Kegelstatt Trio, and Turina Piano Quartet. 
Guitarist John Arnold joins Nora Suggs, flute; Rebecca Brown, violin; Agnes Maurer, viola; David Moulton, cello; and Martha Schrempel, piano. Free will offering collected at door; there is a $15 suggested donation.
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 Melody Engel at 484-695-4905 or to keep us up to date.
Send us your news and photos to share:
**Deadline for next week's newsletter: Wedneday at noon**
* * *
And follow us on Facebook : @FirstPresBethlehem
Your likes / comments / shares help us spread the word about First Pres!

  • After each service: Hospitality in Fellowship Hall – join us for fellowship and light refreshments
  • 9:00 a.m. - Contemporary Service, Kirk Center
  • 9:00 a.m. - Adult Education, Hearts N Minds, Room 400
  • 9:00 a.m. - Sunday School, Pre-K through Grade 5, Room A4
  • 10:30 a.m. - Traditional Service, Sanctuary
  • 10:30 a.m. - Sunday School, Pre-K through Grade 5 (Children attend first part of worship service), Room E3-4
  • Noon – Youth Group gathering in Main Kitchen (middle- and high school age), for pizza and planning
  • Noon – Bereavement Support Group, Room 206 (bring a lunch if you’d like)
  • Childcare for Infants and Toddlers, 8:30 a.m. to noon, Room A3

MONDAYS: “It’s a Start” Fitness Class, 9:30 a.m., Middle School Step Room
TUESDAYS: Crafters, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Room 408;   Optimism 101 (formerly Depression Support Group), noon - 2 p .m. , Room 206; Handbell rehearsal, 5 p.m., Middle School Step Room
WEDNESDAY: Overcomers Outreach , 7 p.m., Room 420
THURSDAY: Chancel Choir rehearsal , 7 p.m., Sanctuary; Al-Anon Family Group ,
7 p.m., Room 212

FIRST SUNDAYS (next: April 5): Blood Pressure Screenings, between services,
North Link
SECOND SUNDAYS ( next: March 8 ) : Bereavement Group gathering, 11:30 a.m. in Room 206; bring your lunch if you like
FIRST AND THIRD TUESDAYS (next: March 17): Successful Aging, 10:30 a.m.,
Room 412
FIRST THURSDAY (next: April 2): Presbyterian Womens Circle , 1:00-3:00 p.m.,
Room 206 (PW Room)
THIRD WEDNESDAY (next: March 18):  Dementia Caregiver Support Group, 1 p.m.,
Room 206 (PW Room)
NEW DAY! THIRD WEDNESDAY (next: March 18): Prayers & Squares, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Room 408 (bring your lunch and join us to create quilts and prayer shawls - no experience needed)

CHURCH OFFICE HOURS: We are open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. As always, you can leave a voicemail message with the church any time at 610-867-5865 or contact us at . I f you have an urgent pastoral need, please call our answering service at 610-778-7003.

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:
    Melody Engel, Hospital Ministrants, phone: 484-695-4905 or email 
    Phil Fair, Prayer Ministrants : 610-737-4074  or email   

BAPTISMS, WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS : If members of the FPCB congregation would like to schedule weddings, baptisms or funerals, please contact The Rev. Sue Bennetch at 610-867-5865, ext. 209.
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;

Carol Burns, Communications Manager; ext. 238;

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