Friday, January 29, 2021


10:00 a.m. Combined Worship Service*

11:00 a.m. Annual Congregational Meeting via Zoom

12:00 p.m. Hospitality Time via Zoom

* also available on our website and via phone
A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Preparing for Ash Wednesday
Friends, it may be hard to believe, but we’re only a few weeks away from the start of Lent! Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is Wednesday, February 17. We are going to observe Ash Wednesday this year digitally, as we have done everything else for nearly a year now.

To do so, you will need two things in your own home: first, bread and juice / wine / water for Communion, and ashes to use in the Imposition of Ashes ritual. Please read further to hear about why we do this and your options for participating this year.

Ash Wednesday, as you may know, is an ancient observance in the Western Christian church, dating well back before the Protestant Reformation. The imposition, or placing, of ashes on one’s forehead has a few different layers of important Christian symbolism. 
First, it symbolizes our mortality; this is why the person imposing ashes traditionally says, “remember you are from dust, and to dust you shall return” from Genesis 3:19 to the person receiving them. And this is an important reminder because it means that our choices and decisions and commitments really matter, because we do not have infinite time to draw upon in the way we live our lives. 
Second, ashes symbolize grief; throughout Scripture, ashes are a sign of grieving, whether that is grieving someone’s death or grieving a misdeed that one has done (or not done). It is the emotional companion of the act of repentance, which is the third meaning of ashes. Thus, they symbolize both regret for what has already taken place, and a desire and commitment to turn in a new direction of faithfulness in the time to come.

On Ash Wednesday, then, those ashes symbolize all three layers, and the season of Lent then becomes an opportunity to live into that repentance: turning and following in a new direction of deeper and more intentional faithfulness.

Ash Wednesday this year is also the last significant Christian holy day that we have not lived through during the pandemic. Traditionally, you come forward to receive ashes from another person, who puts them on your forehead in the sign of a cross. Like so many other things, this is neither a safe nor a wise practice during the Covid-19 pandemic.

So, we will gather digitally at 7 p.m. on February 17 for our Ash Wednesday Service using Zoom; we will share log-in information for that service in next week’s newsletter. We will have a service of worship livestreamed from the Sanctuary that will include prayers, music, Scripture, a brief homily, Communion, and a time for silent reflection.

But we will break out into small groups in Zoom for two moments: the first will be for the Imposition of Ashes, in which we will “self-impose” while someone else in the group tells us the traditional words, and the second for Communion, in which we will pray together (using a prepared set of prayers) and digitally “serve” each other the bread and cup.

It will be very important to have both communion elements and ashes at hand for your participation in this service. To get ashes, you have two options. First, you can notify the church that you would like to order prepared ashes (and for how many people), which will be available for pick-up the week before Ash Wednesday at different times, including Sunday afternoon, or delivery if going outside is unsafe or unwise for you in terms of mobility issues or simply the pandemic.

Please send a request for prepared ashes to no later than Sunday, February 7 at 12:30 p.m. Be sure to let us know if you will pick up or if you will need delivery.

The second option is to prepare them yourself. Traditionally, ashes are prepared using the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday, but that will obviously not be an option for you. So our best suggestion is to burn a small amount of charcoal a few days beforehand, collect the ashes, and then mix them with a small amount of olive oil (or similar oil) until they form a kind of paste; you can then use that in the service.

There are alternative ways to create ashes, such as paper; those are unlikely to work quite as well, but what matters in this service is authenticity of heart and spirit, so do the best you can if you don’t want to order prepared ashes and can’t use charcoal, and we will all worship together!  

Grace and peace,

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read the verses
·   This week's sermon: The One That Got Away 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 Sunday


There is no Sunday School via Zoom; please check the prerecorded videos available on our website.
9 a.m.: Hearts N Minds adult education class (see details on page 5)


To join us via Zoom:

To join via phone (audio only): 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.

10 a.m.: Combined Worship Service via Facebook Live (Zoom link is for phone [audio] only)

11 a.m.: Annual Meeting of the Congregation and Corporation via Zoom

12 p.m.: Hospitality Time via Zoom

On Sunday, January 31, we will gather as a community for a 10 a.m. Combined Worship Service livestreamed on Facebook Live, followed by our Annual Meeting of the Congregation and Corporation, via Zoom. It will be followed by a Hospitality Time, also on Zoom (see log-in details, above).

All members are encouraged to attend this important meeting, at which we will address business of the congregation and corporation, including nominations.

Last Friday you should have received a separate email with the list of nominees and their short biographies, along with a copy of the 2020 Annual Report.

Please be prepared to participate in the election of new Elders, Trustees, Deacons, and members of the Nominating Committee. These are the responsibilities of each:

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.

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.

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 will also serve on one additional committee, such as the property or finance committee, which also generally meets monthly. The term for Trustees is three years. 
In case you missed it, the Discipleship three-part series of “Living Spiritually in a Material World” is available to view here:

This series considered what the Bible says about wealth (and poverty), how we can we best use our material resources to live faithfully as disciples of Christ, and even how we can make “decluttering” our lives a spiritual discipline.
  • January 13: “Biblical Economics”
  • January 20: “Effective Christian Responses to Poverty”; guest presenter: Abby Goldfarb, executive director of the Lehigh Conference of Churches
  • January 27: “Decluttering as a Spiritual Discipline”

Thank you to the Rev. Dr. Steve Simmons for leading this opportunity!

Thank you for the generous contributions we collected in December for our Community Giving Tree – as the needs continue, we are now asking for your donations to support Bethlehem Emergency Sheltering.
BES provides services for homeless men and women, through the cold winter months. Through a consortium of faith communities, volunteers, grants and donations support the small staff.

We are asking for donations of small fruit cups, nutrigrain/granola bars, and paperback books (especially those geared towards a male audience). You can deposit in the tub outside the South entrance; if you cannot travel to the church building please contact us at or 610-867-5865 and we will arrange for pick up.
The Hearts N Minds adult ed class will complete its discussion this Sunday of Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans.

Readings for Sunday’s class from Inspired: "The Letter" and "Church Stories", pages 191-214. and a quick look back at the 'Epilogue'. Please also read Colossians 3 and 4; and 1 Corinthians 13.

Beginning on Sunday, February 7, we will be exploring The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending the Bible Has Made us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns.
To join via
Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099when 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.
Due to this Sunday’s special schedule, we will not offer our ‘Zoom’ Sunday School option this week. You can, however, do our “anytime” Sunday School with the prerecorded series of videos on our website. 

This week's focus is on “Using Our Words Wisely”.
Dear God,

Help us show others what You are like by saying words that build up and help the people around us. And when we make mistakes with our words, please help us be quick to say, ‘I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?

This week's lesson is from the Book of Ephesians 4:29 - Paul's letter to the Church of Ephesus.
Hi Neighbors is FPCB’s popular speaker series where adult learners of all ages hear presentations on a wide variety of interesting topics, to watch or listen to via Zoom.

On Monday, February 8 world travelers Bob Brown and Madeline Brown will take us on an armchair trip to central Europe with Slovenia, Closest Thing to Heaven with Lake Bled”.
To join Zoom online:
Meeting ID: 880 1333 6329
To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 880 1333 6329 followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – press the # key again.

The Barry Brandt Memorial Scholarship Fund was established to provide income for scholarship assistance to Protestant students, preferably First Presbyterians, who have financial need and demonstrated scholastic ability.

If you are currently enrolled in an accredited college or university or if you have been accepted for the fall semester and anticipate financial need, consider completing an application to the Fund.

For questions about the scholarship assistance, please contact Fund Committee Chair, Lisa Titus, at

Covid Vaccine Clinic is relocating

The Bethlehem Health Bureau has decided to change the location of the Covid Vaccine Clinic it had scheduled to hold at our church building. It will relocate to Wind Creek Casino in Bethlehem.

It is our understanding that if you had an appointment already scheduled, you will receive an email from the Health Bureau to confirm your appointment.

If you have questions about previously scheduled appointments or any other inquiries, you need to contact the Health Bureau directly at 610-865-7083. Please do not contact the church; we do not have any information about the clinics. Thank you!
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.: Hearts N Minds – see more information above
  • 10:00 a.m.: Combined Worship Service - see instructions in blue box, below, to join us online, and in the yellow box to join us via phone
  • 11:00 a.m.: Annual Meeting of the Congregation and Corporation via Zoom – see the instructions to join Zoom online above; instructions are in yellow box below to join with your phone (audio only)
  • Stay on Zoom to join us for a Hospitality Time after the meeting is concluded  
FOR THIS SUNDAY: : Worship with us “Live” on Facebook
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!
  • 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 participate on your phone (audio only)
10 a.m. Combined Worship - 11 a.m. Annual Meeting followed by Hospitality Time

To join via phone (audio only): 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.
  • 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; phone 610-428-9649;

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