Friday, April 10, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

NEW TIME! 11:00 a.m. Traditional
(also available to hear it via phone - see below)

A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Completing the Lenten journey

In our Mid-Week Update , I explained something of what Maundy Thursday and Good Friday would look like this year during Holy Week observances with First Pres this year. Today, I want to talk about what will happen on Holy Saturday, Easter, and beyond.

Holy Saturday is often the forgotten day of the Triduum, the ancient Christian name for the three days of observances before Easter. We have Maundy Thursday, in which we recall the Last Supper and the institution of the Lord’s Supper and Christ’s “new commandment” that we love one another just as Christ has loved us.

We have Good Friday, in which we remember Christ’s arrest, trial, crucifixion, death, and burial. And then there is Holy Saturday, in which…well, not a lot happens. That makes a certain degree of sense, theologically; even the Gospel accounts go past it with barely a mention, because on Saturday, Jesus is dead and buried, so by definition nothing is happening in the story.
But Holy Saturday is actually the oldest part of Christian Holy Week observances, going back to the early observances of the ancient church, and before the Middle Ages it was the best-attended service of the year! It was actually a vigil that began Saturday evening, went all night with prayer, and then ended at dawn with a celebration of Communion on Easter morning.
Well, even with the extra time many of us have during this pandemic, we’re not going that far, but perhaps this is a good year to experience our own gesture to this ancient practice with a Holy Saturday Compline Service, that preserves the spirit of those vigils with a service of contemplative and sung prayer on Saturday evening. It’s less than an hour long, so don’t worry about that!

But it is a wonderful way of spiritually “keeping watch” between Good Friday and Easter morning that I encourage you to experience online this year; the Facebook Live link will be available at 7 p.m. on Saturday, and you can play it any time after that on your own (either from our Facebook page or our website "Important Updates" box).

Easter, of course, will be celebrated via Facebook Live on Sunday with our contemporary service at 9 a.m. and our traditional service at 11 a.m., as we have been doing since March 15. As has been the case with Palm Sunday and our other Holy Week services, that will no doubt bring some sense of loss and grief as we are unable to gather in person for this greatest celebration and service of the Christian year. Yet I think it will also help us to hear the Easter story in some new and powerful ways, so I hope you will join one of the livestreams as we give thanks to God that “Christ is risen; he is risen indeed!”

On Monday, April 13, the church pastors and staff will be taking a day of rest after a particularly demanding Lenten season and Holy Week (in case of an urgent pastoral concern, call the main church office at 610-867-5865 and follow the instructions for reaching the on-call pastor).

But starting Tuesday, April 14, in addition to our other ministry programs, we will be holding Zoom gatherings at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays, hosted by one of the pastors, that will include a brief meditation or Bible study and a time to request prayer and pray together as a digital community. There will be links on the homepage of our website, as well as call-in information so you can join by phone if you do not have access to WiFi or adequate computer hardware. So if you are feeling isolated, in need of prayer, or are looking for a way to be of service to others, I encourage you to join this new online ministry.

In any case, I look forward to completing our journey through Lent and Holy Week and to celebrating Christ’s resurrection with you on Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Scripture lesson:
Matthew 28:1-10

·     This week's sermon:   He is Not Here 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

FOR THIS SUNDAY: Both Services “Live” on Facebook
SERVICES : We invite you to join either (or both!) of our services via Facebook to watch “live”:
  • 9:00 a.m. – Contemporary service
  • NEW TIME! 11:00 a.m. – Traditional service

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 for a link to view the service
  • Please check in with a comment so we know you’ve joined us!

To watch a video – available on Monday:
  • Visit our website and look for the link on the homepage

Neither of these will meet this Sunday.

We will offer the TRADITIONAL SERVICE (at 11 a.m. on 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

We have had a number of inquiries about donating to the church at this time. We appreciate you continuing to give!

  • You can mail in your pledges (if you do not have pledge envelopes, please be sure to include your name and the fund it goes to – for example, general pledges, proportional giving, etc. – do not send cash).

We are also finalizing details to offer you a secure, online option to make your payments, whenever you would like, by credit card or debit card. We hope to share that information in next week's newsletter.

Friday, April 10 at 8 p.m. : Tenebrae service via Facebook Live and phone (call 929-205-6099 and enter this Meeting ID when prompted: 705 807 724)

Saturday, April 11 at 7 p.m.: Compline - contemplative, candlelit service via Facebook Live and phone (call 929-205-6099 and enter this Meeting ID when prompted: 835-037-433)

Sunday, April 12: Easter Sunday (Contemporary and Traditional services)

  • 11 a.m.: Traditional Service via Facebook Live and phone (call 929-205-6099 and enter this Meeting ID when prompted: 955 325 387)

  • Noon: Join us for an Easter Hospitality Time via Zoom (details below)
"Share your Easter traditions!":  Beginning at 3 p.m. this Saturday - come to our Facebook page to post photos and/or descriptions of your family's Easter traditions.

Do you decorate Easter eggs? Bake a bunny cake? Display vintage Easter decorations? Whatever you do to help make the cele-bration special, we'd like to see it - who knows, you may inspire someone to adopt your idea!
Join us after the Traditional Service on Sunday: We'll use Zoom to connect in a virtual Hospitality Hour, beginning at noon:

Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 893 340 582

You can also join by phone by calling 929-205-6099 and entering the Meeting ID when prompted.

We can't wait to see everyone!
COMING NEXT WEEK! More Learning Opportunities
The Discipleship Committee is continuing our popular "Constructive Conversations" series with another presentation by Bob Costello, and a three-part series by Mary Lou Hatcher, beginning next week on Zoom.

Working to find optimism in this new normal
Melody leads our Optimism 101 support group and is our Hospital Ministrant; contact her at

 So here we are now. A month into the weird world of self-quarantine, sometimes from the outside, sometimes from our own family in the same house and we long for the good old days. Remember when we were so busy running around, going to stores, buying things, working and interacting with others? Seems like ages ago. 

I believe this is a time for serious self-reflection. Certainly, this increased level of uncertainty, fear and lack of knowledge of what comes next is trying for us all. Every time we have to leave the house, we face those unusual questions: Do I really need to do this? Is this mask enough? What can I do to protect myself and others in the wake of ongoing needs like food, medicine for ourselves and others we are caring for? Everyone who is truly paying attention is feeling the same way. 
Share your concerns and almost more importantly, your insights. Many creative and inspiring ideas such as social gatherings via technology, drive-by parties, etc. have grown from the necessity to remain connected. Don’t miss that opportunity!
Call, email, text, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and handwritten letters are all lovely ways to share your moments, good and bad, with others.
I suggest this week we all contact someone who would least expect it and report the results. You can call me at 484-695-4905 or email the results and I’d like to report the responses in another newsletter.

I believe your faith in God will be multiplied by doing for others in this uncertain world. Remember to stay safe, and soon (maybe not soon enough for most of us) we will all be engaged in the old normal. Is that a good thing?

Rev. Sue Bennetch shares this “scriptaquote” – a spin on the classic “cryotaquote” word puzzles that so many folks enjoy. One letter simply stands for another – the answer is below, right under the link to the Prayer List.

There is no class on Easter Sunday, April 12. The class will then return to Sister Joan Chittister’s book, For Everything a Season, on April 19. We'll have sign-in info for you next week, and page assignments.
Member Bette Maiatico shared this lovely photo of the Easter lily she bought in memory of her loved ones. She suggested that everyone who also did this, send in the names so we can share them.
We are glad to do this! Please send to – be sure to include your own name, and the person(s) in whose memory – or honor – you purchased them for.  

And please consider following us on Facebook so you don't miss any news or fun - it's not just for Sunday morning services!

Here's a link to a coloring page (for all ages!) of a beautiful "Christ is Risen" design that you can print on an 8.5 x 11 page. Use it to decorate your own space, put in a window for walkers to enjoy, or consider mailing it to someone who could use a lift!
And if you're more ambitious, you can print out the same design on six 'tiles' that will make a larger design. Let us know if you do it - better yet, share a photo!


I give you a new command: Love one another
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 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!


  • 9:00 a.m. - Contemporary Service – join us on our Facebook page for the live service
  • NEW TIME! 11:00 a.m. - Traditional Service - see instructions in blue box, above, to join us online, and in the yellow box to join us via phone
  • Noon - Easter Hospitality Time, via Zoom (see instructions above)

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.
NOTE NEW CONTACT INFO: 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 ( ) or Phil Fair, Prayer Ministrants ( ).

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;