Friday, October 9, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

11:00 a.m. Traditional (also available on our website and via phone)

For the last three years, we’ve identified as an “experimental church.” If you play out the metaphor of the scientific method there, you have a sense of how we approach ministry. In a scientific experiment, you start with a question, usually some version of “What would happen if…” Then you do background research, checking out what is already known about your question. Based on that work, you form a hypothesis, which is your best prediction of the answer to your question based on what you already know or can deduce. 
Then you’re ready to do an experiment, in which you test the hypothesis by actually trying something to demonstrate your hypothesis. The experiment produces data, which you evaluate and then determine whether it proves your hypothesis. Which means that every good experiment “succeeds,” whether your hypothesis is correct or not, because no matter what happens, you learn something important that you can apply to future hypotheses and experiments. 
Here at First Pres, we have conducted countless experiments to help us determine the most faithful and effective ways we can be accomplishing our congregational mission to “explore how God’s gracious love gives meaning to our lives and inspires us to address the needs of the world.” Those experiments have sharpened the impact and understanding of everything from our worship services, to youth ministry, to what kind of staff we need, to how Session operates.

Our most recent big experiment has been the School Age Virtual Learning Center. In August, when the Bethlehem Area School District announced its hybrid plan for school children in light of the pandemic, many families and caregivers found themselves in a very difficult situation: how do you work a full-time job when your children are learning from home three days a week? Seeing this crisis developing, we began asking the question, “What would happen if we met that need by creating a place where families could drop off their kids to do their remote learning under adult supervision?

Our background research helped us quickly create a hypothesis of what a safe and effective learning environment along these lines would require, that this would fulfill our congregational mission well, and that there were more than enough families who needed such a resource and would respond to this opportunity to make it financially viable. Our experiment, then, was to design and market a small version of a program that fulfilled those we could conceive that would let us test the hypothesis.

What we learned was that we were right about the first two elements of the hypothesis, but incorrect about the third: despite what our background research indicated about professed need for such a program, including a massive wait-list for the school district’s own program along these lines, we did not get enough interest from families to make the program viable, even with several “sub-experiments” to generate alternative revenue and allow the program to build over time. So, last Monday the Session reluctantly made the decision not to launch the full program.

I want to thank all those who worked so hard on this important experiment, especially the Session’s Preschool Task Force under the leadership of Becky Gorton and Elizabeth Conard, and our Preschool Director Andie Barbehenn. This was a very successful experiment that will inform our ongoing and future ministry with children and to the community in important ways, even if it was not the results we wanted.

And I am excited about all the other experiments in our church that are in the works or already bubbling in our church life. The Worship Committee is developing multiple experiments for digital and outdoor in-person worship as autumn progresses and winter arrives. Congregational Life and Discipleship are doing the same for our ministries of fellowship and education. The Deacons continue to develop new ways of providing pastoral presence and care during a pandemic. And so on.

So, if you have a good question, a strong hypothesis, or an interesting experiment that you want to suggest and help develop for our congregation’s mission and ministry, let us hear about it! See you in the lab…

Grace and peace,

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·   This week's sermon: When You Can't Pray Anything Nice 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

SERVICESWe invite you to join either (or both!) of our services via Facebook to watch “live”:
  • 9:00 a.m. – Contemporary service
  • 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 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: Visit our website

You can call in at 10 a.m. to listen to the Congregational Meeting, and then stay on the line to hear the Traditional Service.

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.

The Congregational Nominating Committee is seeking nominations for Elders, Trustees, Deacons, and Nominating Committee members.

You can use this easy online form to submit your nominations or send us an email ( They are due by Sunday, October 25.  

You may nominate yourself or someone else for any of these important leadership positions. Thank you for participating in this vital aspect of the life of our congregation. 
Elders comprise the Session of the Presbyterian Church which is, in essence, the decision-making body of the church. They recommend and approve all program and policy implementation and modifications in the church. Elders serve a three year term and the Session meets monthly; Elders generally serve on one or more committees, which also usually meet on a monthly basis.
Trustees oversee all financial and property matters in the church including the budget, building renovations and repairs, planned giving, and investment funds. Trustees meet monthly and members also serve on one additional committee, such as the property or finance committee, which also generally meet monthly. The term for Trustees is three years.

The Deacons are the caregivers of the church. They minister to the individual members through home communion and visits, hospital and prayer ministries, and providing support to those in difficult situations. Deacons serve a three year term and typically meet monthly.

The Nominating Committee members are charged with identifying candidates for Elders, Deacons, Trustees, and the Nominating Committee itself. This committee usually meets three or four times each year; the term of service is one year, and a member may serve no more than two consecutive terms.
Wednesdays at 11 a.m. – noon
Via Zoom

Join Rev. Austin for a casual, drop-in-anytime-during-the-hour time for coffee and conversation (or your beverage of choice).

To join the Zoom Meeting online:
Meeting ID: 8403 994 5735
To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 840 3994 5735 followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.

The word is getting out about our exciting new Sunday School program! There are two options: to attend a Sunday morning Zoom gathering from 10:15-10:45 a.m. Each week we also provide a prerecorded series of videos and related resources that you can access when convenient.
This week’s focus is on 1 John 1:9.

JoAnne Turcotte, one of our teachers writes, “Sunday School isn't just a Sunday morning activity. Families: Please use the provided videos and resources to enrich any day's worship time. Since family worship time is so important, our curriculum also includes family enrichment and discussion cues that we share each week.”
Consider joining us for the Sunday morning Zoom session; to access the prerecorded videos look for the Sunday School logo on the church's homepage.

To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.:
Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116

“That was the most delightful, uplifting, inspiring, exciting, wonderful hour that I have spent, maybe ever. I love you guys.” – Hearts N Minds
attendee on last Sunday’s class

Our adult ed class, Hearts N Minds, has begun its weekly discussion about social justice, what the Bible says to us, and thoughtful, meditative readings. Everyone is welcome and you can join at any time. We meet every Sunday at 9 a.m. via Zoom. The first book is Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans.
Reading for this week: “The Well” and the chapter titled “Deliverance Stories”, pages 29-57. Start by reading the final four paragraphs (pages 56-57): “If you are looking for Bible verses to support slavery, you will find them.”

Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.
Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: Freedom in Community
Wednesdays: October 14, 21, and 28
7:00 to 8:00 p.m. 
Via Zoom
Presenter: The Rev. Dr. Steve Simmons

As we close in on what is surely one of the most important and contentious elections in our lifetime, let’s take a deep breath, step back from the immediate moment, and talk about some of the “fundamentals” of our life together as Christians, and as citizens. 
On three evenings in October, we’ll dig into Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which speaks to an early church in conflict and tackles some very timely (then and now) questions: What does freedom in community mean? What is the difference between the good news of the Gospel and “fake news”, and how can we distinguish the one from the other? What does responsible citizenship mean when one is called to be in, but not “of,” this world?  
Join us for some spirited (and, we hope, enlightening) discussions on these critically important issues in Paul’s time, and in ours. 

Meeting ID: 848 1406 8806

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 848 1406 8806, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.

This year’s CROP Hunger Walk will be done a new way – and read further about our Halloween Parade Videotaping Event, which can give you an opportunity to do the walking part of the CROP Walk annual fund raiser. Both are this Sunday, October 11.

This year’s CROP Hunger Walk will be done a new way – and read below about our Halloween Parade Videotaping Event, which can give you an opportunity to do the walking part of this annual fund raiser.
Partner congregations are encouraged to “go virtual,” promoting, contributing to, and registering for the event online.
Among other things, this means that if people can’t participate on Sunday, October 11, they can do so at a time they find more convenient. It’s up to individual teams to determine how, and how far, they wish to walk.

If you are interested in walking – or just making a donation – please do so online through our team link. To contribute by check, make it out to the church with “CWS/CROP” in the memo line, and mail or drop off your checks to: FPCB, Attn: CROP Walk, 2344 Center Street, Bethlehem, PA 18017.

With the challenges of the pandemic, assistance to address hunger issues are more timely than ever, and your support is appreciated. If you have any questions about how to do a “virtual” walk, please contact us at or leave a message at 610-867-5865
A new way to participate in Bethlehem’s annual Halloween event

It's that time to think about parades and fall celebrations. This year the City of Bethlehem is keeping the tradition of the Halloween Parade going by having a virtual parade. Any group participating will be part of the Sunday, October 25, telecast on RCN and Service Electric TV as well as on YouTube Live. With the enthusiastic leadership of our Congregational Life team, we are going to participate too. 

All are welcome to join us on Sunday, October 11 at 1:30 p.m. when we will videotape our participation. We will parade on our church property (meet in the front of the building), and our video will be included with other groups’ to make the entire city parade telecast.
Wear a costume (and a mask), but no political costumes or anything demeaning to others.

We will keep physical distance between households.
If you don't want to be in the parade, come and cheer on our participants! While you’re on the church campus, you are welcome to do your walking for the CROP Walk (see article above) and we’ll also have a bucket to accept donations for that fund raiser. Questions? Contact us at or 610-867-5865.
If you missed our initial Hi Neighbors presentation via Zoom, “Voting in 2020: A Guidebook”, you can view it here.
Our Monday, October 19 presentation will continue the voting theme, with a look at the history of the 19th Amendment by retired history teacher and author, Alicia Iacono.

You will use the same login information for this 10 a.m. session:
Meeting ID: 889 4647 5793

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 889 4647 5793, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.
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**
* * *
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 or website for the live service
  • 9:00 a.m.: Hearts N Minds adult education class (see more information above)
  • 10:15 a.m.: Sunday School for K-5, via Zoom (see more information above)
  • 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 


  • 11:00 a.m.-noon: Pastor’s Coffee Hour via Zoom (see above for details)
  • 7 p.m.: Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group weekly meeting, via Zoom (Meeting # 380 435 9056 / Password: overcomer)

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.
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. 248;

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