Friday, December 6, 2019 Newsletter

9:00 a.m. Contemporary in the Kirk Center
10:30 a.m. Traditional in the Sanctuary

Children’s Sunday School during both services

Join us for Hospitality in Fellowship Hall after each of our services!

This Sunday we will be receiving new members at both the Contemporary and Traditional services. It’s always a wonderful and special service when we welcome new members into the life and ministry of this congregation, and I hope you will all make a point of greeting them after the service and expressing your own joy and gratitude to them personally, in addition to our congregational welcome in the services.
“Membership” in anything, not just churches, is a relatively unusual concept these days, though. About 20 years ago, a social scientist named Robert Putnam wrote a landmark book called Bowling Alone , in which he noted that while participation in bowling had increased over the last two decades of the 20th century, membership in bowling leagues had decreased significantly.
People, in other words, were no longer joining social communities to bowl, but were bowling alone. And he used that as a metaphor to describe a much larger trend of social disengagement from member-based organizations in the U.S., everything from museum membership to parent-teacher associations to fraternal and service organizations to religious congregations. In the two decades since then, those trends have not changed.

The problem is less with membership itself, though, and more with what we as a society have allowed it to become. In general, to be a member of something in American society means to have your name on the rolls of an organization and to pay some kind of annual fee to maintain your membership and receive the benefits that come with it (20% off at the gift shop!).

But the word “member” has a much deeper and more powerful meaning than that in the church. The Apostle Paul explains the power of membership better than anyone: " For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it" (1 Corinthians 12:12, 26-27).

To be a member of Christ’s body, the church, is not just to be associated with it, or to receive benefits from it as an organization; it is to be deeply and spiritually connected to one another: sharing each other’s joys and sorrows as our own, and working together to accomplish for God what we could never do on our own.
So, on Sunday, as we welcome and celebrate these new members, we do so not because we as an organization are growing in size, but because we as the Body of Christ in this place and time are growing in our strength to fulfill God’s mission for us, and our members are growing in strength as we do so. And thanks be to God for that!

Grace and Peace,

Isaiah 11:1-10  
Matthew 3:1-12
·      This week’s sermon: Jesus' Opening Act by Rev. J.C. Austin        

·       We post each week’s sermon
(audio and text) on our website:
FOR SUNDAY: The Bereavement Support Group will meet in the Narthex after the Traditional Service, to travel to Kirkland Village for a lunch meeting. All are welcome.
Last Wednesday evening, as I worshipped at our Thanksgiving Eve Service, my gratitude swelled, and a week later I continue to reflect on the privilege, the gift, the familiarity and the blessing that I abundantly receive from the ever present God among us at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem.  
The music was glorious, and the words we heard through gospel and testimony filled me with awe. The Litany, so simple and so rich, invited me to praise and thank our God for all that I have been given. It ended by praising and thanking God for all blessings which inspire us to reach out to those with less, to be of service to any in need, to keep company with the unwanted and marginalized, to make friends of enemies, and to seek justice, reconciliation and peace. May it be so!

Our witnesses that evening were Beth and Blaine, who with grace and dignity gave their testimonies. As they spoke, I reflected on their vulnerability and trust as they openly and honestly shared the times that were good for them, as well as those times that were not so good. God’s healing presence restored their faith, hope and love and they touched many lives that evening.

As we entered the service, we were handed a blank card on which to list things we are grateful for. Then as we came together for the Lord’s Supper, we were invited to place the completed cards in a basket as we approached the table for communion. Again I reflected on our blessed Lord and the gift of gratitude. I saw on the face of those coming forward, peace and contentment as they dropped their card in the basket. Sometimes putting our gratitude on paper gives us just what we needed. Perhaps we should do it more often.
Despite the weather forecast, Mother Nature held off and we were able to celebrate the beginning of Advent with a joyful Combined Worship service this past Sunday. That was followed by a festive gathering in Fellowship Hall, where we enjoyed a hearty luncheon, including Christmas cookies from the talented bakers in our midst! 
And those who were interested, used their artistic skills on a variety of crafts (above) .

Many thanks to the Congregational Life Committee for organizing this gathering for food, friends, fellowship and fun!
We are looking for a few volunteers to help with the Christmas decorating around our building.

We will meet on Tuesday, Dec. 10 starting at
10 a.m. It should take no more than 2-3 hours; please feel free to come as you can. All levels of experience are welcome.
Please let us know if you can help by using this easy online sign-up form, or contacting the Main Office at 610-867-5865 or
The second annual Giving Tree is now in place through through Tuesday, Dec. 24 in Fellowship Hall. As last year, you can purchase everything from a family of chickens to water systems for people around the world, where they are needed.
Choose your ornament(s), get your gift card and return all payments (made out to PCUSA) to Fellowship Hall or the Main Office no later than Dec. 24 (you can also drop in the collection plate). 

This is a thoughtful way to honor a family member or friend during the holiday season, while helping our neighbors around the globe.
ALSO FOR ADVENT… pick up in the Narthex and Rotunda

  • You are encouraged to pick up an Advent Devotional publication: Straw for the Manger: Creating a Matthew 25 Advent season. One per household, please.

  • We also have postcards available with our December events and services – these are available to share with friends and family. If you mail it, please affix first class postage. Thanks for helping to share the good news about First Pres!

  • Poinsettia orders: Special envelopes are available in the pews, Rotunda and brochure racks, to return by Monday. Dec. 16. Make any donation and take home a poinsettia after the Christmas Eve service you attend; this is a lovely way to honor a loved one.
During the Advent and Christmas season, the church’s response to God’s generosity takes on the very character of our savior, who pointed to God through love and justice, peace and compassion, forgiveness and humility. The Presbyterian Church USA reflects God’s gift to us, through the Christmas Joy Offering, with gifts supporting church leaders, retired, present and future.

Envelopes are at the end of each pew, in the Rotunda, and in the racks around the church. This offering will be taken each Sunday through Dec. 22.
Jan Bickford has begun an Advent Meditation series that will continue through Sunday, Dec. 22. Everyone is welcome to attend (Room 400 on Sundays at 9 a.m.) it offers a quiet time of contemplation in a hectic holiday season, and you do not need to attend every session.
We looked at Henry Ossawa Tanner’s oil painting of The Annunciation , showing Mary in her chamber sitting quite still and gazing at a dazzling column of light (see the painting right – note the top of the column of light forms a cross). Dan Watts was on hand to remind us to look at art with both our hearts and our heads.
Jan asks us to read the following text daily until we meet again Sunday:   Luke 1: 26-38. Small journals were also distributed to each class participant to record their thoughts during this Advent journey.
The Children’s Christmas Choir, which sang in our Combined Worship service for the first time last Sunday, will resume rehearsing from 9:45 to 10:15 a.m. in Room E-3. They are preparing to sing in the Christmas Joy Concert at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 22 and also for the 5 p.m. worship service on Christmas Eve. 
OPTIMISM 101: Positive outlooks for the new year
Our church has been blessed with a faithful, diverse, kind, caring and supportive group of people dealing with depression in a number of roles. Some members are dealing with individual depression, some are supporting family members experiencing new trauma or situational depression and some are dealing with long-term issues arising from physical and emotional turmoil. 
This group – formerly known as the Depression Support Group - has worked hard and has moved on to a new level of support for each other. We will focus on strength-based approaches that emphasize optimism, growth, short-term problem solving along with continued unconditional support.
Please join us Tuesdays at noon as we explore the healing effects of optimism while addressing ongoing challenges (no meetings on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31). Our group is now known as the Optimism 101 group.

For more information, contact Melody Engel at
The generous contributions through our recent “Donation Station” have been delivered. 

One partner, Northeast Community Center, reports that its food bank recipients are grateful for the supplies they cannot get with food stamps. Outreach Depot, another partner, has filled all of its appointments and are accepting no more at present because there is such a great need for the furniture, sheets, towels and blankets.  
Your White Elephant contributions to the Lemon Tree bazaar were much appreciated. And the Lehigh Valley Council of Churches gratefully received your baby clothing and supplies. The Mission Committee of First Pres thanks you for your generosity to the community!
East Hills Moravian Church will host a Moravian Dinner Night , a fund raiser to support Bethlehem Emergency Sheltering. It will be held at the church (1830 Butztown Rd., Bethlehem) on Tuesday, Dec. 10 from 5-7 p.m.

For more information and ticket information contact East Hills’ office at 610-868-6481.

Wednesday, December 18 at 6:30 p.m.: Longest Night service – for those who are experiencing any kind of loss during this holiday season

Sunday, December 22 at 4 p.m.: Christmas Joy Concert , featuring FPCB’s Chancel Choir and Chancel Ringers Handbell Choir, Children’s Christmas Choir, Charter Arts High School Touring Choir, and Elysium String Quartet

Tuesday, December 24 – Christmas Eve services:
  • 5 p.m.: Intergenerational Service (designed for all ages with elements of both traditional and contemporary music, including music by the Children’s Christmas Choir and Chancel Ringers Handbell Choir); child care available
  • 7:30 p.m.: Traditional Candlelight Service (featuring music by the FPCB Chancel Choir and Hill-to-Hill Brass Quartet); child care available
  • 11 p.m.: Candlelight Service with communion for those who wish to participate.
Two opportunities for you:

  • Doing your grocery shopping at Giant? Register your Giant Bonus Card with our Preschool code, and a portion of your purchase will go to them. Easy instructions are here.

  • Shop at the Preschool's Book Fair at Barnes & Noble (Southmont location) on Wednesday, Dec. 11 - special activities from 5-7 p.m. but you can shop all day. Can't make it? Shop online between Dec. 11-16. All the details here.
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: Wednesday at noon
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And follow us on Facebook : @FirstPresBethlehem
Your likes / comments / shares help us spread the word about First Pres!

  • After each service: Hospitality Hour; join us in Fellowship Hall for light refreshments and fellowship
  • 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
  •  9:45-10:15 a.m. - Children’s Christmas Choir rehearsal; gather in Children's Library
  • 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
  • Childcare for Infants and Toddlers, 8:30 a.m. to noon, Room A3

MONDAYS: “It’s a Start” Fitness Class, 10 a.m., Middle School Step Room
TUESDAYS:   Optimism 101 (formerly Depression Support Group, see article above) ,
12:30-2:30 p.m., Room 206
WEDNESDAY: Overcomers Outreach, 7 p.m., Room 420
THURSDAY: Al-Anon Family Group , 7 p.m., Room 212

FIRST SUNDAYS (next: Jan. 5): Blood Pressure Screenings, before Combined Service,
North Link
SECOND SUNDAYS ( next: this Sunday, Dec. 8 ) : Bereavement Group gathering; meet
after 10:30 a.m. service to travel to Kirkland Village
FIRST AND THIRD TUESDAYS (next: Dec. 17): Successful Aging, 10:30 a.m.,
Room 412
THIRD WEDNESDAY ( no meeting in December; next: Jan. 15 ):  Dementia Caregiver
Support Group, 1 p.m., Room 206 (PW Room
THIRD THURSDAY ( no meeting in December; next: Jan. 16): Prayers & Squares,
10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Room 408 (bring your lunch and join us to create quilts and prayer

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 ( note new phone): 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 Care 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;