Wednesday, November 24, 2021 Newsletter


10:00 a.m. Combined Worship Service
in the Kirk Center*

 (* also available on our website and via phone)

This weekend is not only Thanksgiving weekend, but it is the beginning of both the season of Advent and a new church year. So I want to talk a little about why we celebrate Advent, how we will be doing it this year, and the particular opportunities this Sunday. 
Advent, as you may already know, is the Christian season before Christmas. The main theme of Advent can be summed up as “active waiting.” But Advent is not, as it is sometimes thought, really about waiting for Christmas to come. Advent is much more about waiting for what is often called the “Second Coming” of Christ rather than the “First Coming,” which would be Christmas. Advent directs our attention forward towards the celebration of Christmas, but also well beyond it to the full and final establishment of Christ’s reign over the earth, a reign of unobstructed grace, love, justice, mercy, and peace.
The Christian year, therefore, begins at the end in a sense: reminding us that the world as we experience it is not the world as God intends it, and God will not stop until the world has been made right. When we get to Christmas, then, we are celebrating the first major event in that overarching story of redemption through Christ’s reign by celebrating Christ’s incarnation and birth. 

This year, our Advent theme here at First Pres will be “Close to Home.” Advent reminds us that the “Home” that God promises for us in Christ’s reign is not yet here on earth, and so in a sense we are not fully at home here as Christians. But at the same time, Advent reminds us that God has promised a home of love and peace for us that Christ is already building in the world, and thus it is not something that is imaginary or even impossibly far away from us, but something that we can experience in part here and now and actually help in building; that’s the “active” part of actively waiting for the full reign of Christ.

So each week of Advent, you will encounter a different facet of that theme reflected in the Scriptures, prayers, sermons, and music of the worship services. All of that begins this Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, which is also traditionally associated with the theme of Hope. And so the service and the sermon, entitled “Longing for Home,” will be exploring those intersections.

To help focus our attention on Advent, the Session has called for a single combined service of worship this Sunday at 10 a.m. in the Kirk Center. In part, that is to bring us all together for worship, but it is also so that we can all come together for what happens after worship. The Congregational Life Committee, in collaboration with other volunteers and staff, has been hard at work planning an Advent Festival in Fellowship Hall for us to begin the season.

At the Advent Festival there will be different craft activities for people of all ages to engage in that will help you in your own celebration of both Advent and Christmas. In addition, you can join in decorating the church itself for Advent and Christmas, which will be both fun and helpful in getting us ready for the season.

We are also taking a new step in terms of how we gather during the pandemic. As you know, we have not been serving group meals or gathering for Hospitality Hour indoors during the pandemic, because those activities bring too many people too close together for too much time without masks on. However, the Building Reopening Task Force feels that, with some appropriate precautions, we can serve refreshments at something like the Advent Festival, and so we will have pastries, coffee and tea, and other beverages available to fuel the fun at the Advent Festival.

However, it will be very important for everyone to follow the guidelines that allow us to safely do so. Those guidelines are fairly simple. Except for when you are actively eating/drinking, we will continue to wear masks over our mouths and noses at all times. When you decide you do want to have some refreshments, though, you can go to one of the refreshment stations, where you will be served. You can then take that to one of the designated seating areas for refreshment with anyone in your “pod” (which we’re defining as anyone in your household or with whom you have regular contact).

Once you are seated, you can remove your mask and consume your refreshments. When you are done, you can replace your mask and get up again to socialize or do an activity. Essentially, this allows us to serve food and drink in a manner not unlike restaurants: masking in common areas, and only removing your mask when you are seated with your own pod to eat and drink. You will not be permitted to take your food or drink and wander around Fellowship Hall while consuming it and talking with others, as we traditionally do for Hospitality Hour. It is important that everyone understand and follow these practices so that we can safely gather together for this celebration, and do so without going hungry!

I hope all of you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I look forward to being with you in worship and at the festival on Sunday!

Grace and Peace,

Scripture lesson
Click the link to read the verses
-This week’s sermon: Longing for Home by The Rev. J.C. Austin

-We post the video of each week’s
services and sermon text and audio
on our website:
TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT on 8.5" x 11" paper for Sunday


  • Everyone over the age of 2 is required to properly wear a mask covering the nose and mouth.
  • Please maintain a minimum of a 3 foot distance between household groups/pods.
  • Child care will be available from 9:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.; please ask an usher for directions to that space.
  • We will offer nametags for folks to wear – you can pick up as you enter the worship space; please write your first name.
Tonight at 7 p.m. in the Sanctuary: please join us for this special Thanksgiving Eve Service. We will hear two special gratitude testimonials and enjoy a selection from the Chancel Choir.

We will also celebrate communion (if you are at home, please prepare your elements in advance: a bread or bread-like item, like a cracker, bagel or pita, and grape juice, wine or water).

We look forward to worshipping with you, either in person in our Sanctuary or livestreamed on Facebook or on our website (

If you are worshipping from home: print the 5-page bulletin:

Plans have been announced for a memorial service for Rev. Keith Brown. It is scheduled for Saturday, April 9 at 11 a.m. in the First Presbyterian Church’s Sanctuary. More details will be shared closer to that date.

Combined Worship Service at 10 a.m. in the Kirk Center
followed by
Advent Festival & Hanging of the Greens at 11 a.m.

Join us for a festive kick-off to the Advent season. We’ll gather first for a combined service in the Kirk Center, and afterwards meet in Fellowship Hall for special activities, including cookie decorating and crafts for all ages as well as decorating the church.
Light refreshments will be served; please follow the announced protocols.

Bethlehem Luminaria Night – beginning at dark
Indoor Advent Walk from 5-7 p.m. in the Kirk Center

Against the backdrop of our city’s annual Luminaria Walk, we offer five stations that call up reflections on specific homecomings, dedicated to the themes of our ancestors, communities, personal guides, earth, silence, and self. These remembrances of past connections, wisdom texts, and supports remind us of those guides that have supported our own call to birth Christ in the world.

The Longest Night Service
6:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary
Also livestreamed on Facebook and on our website

This service provides space for those who are grieving a loss in their lives (whether a person, a job, an experience, a dream) to engage the deep truths of Advent and Christmas without feeling forced into experiences of cheer that they are not feeling.

Christmas Joy Concert
4:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary
Also livestreamed on Facebook and on our website

Join us for a selection of Christmas choral and handbell music to prepare your spirit for the coming of Christmas! Our guest ensembles this year include the Choir of St. Tikhon's Russian Orthodox Monastery and the Touring Choir of the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts, who will join our Chancel Choir and Chancel Ringers. A love offering will be collected with a suggested donation.

Christmas Eve Services
In person and livestreamed on Facebook and on our website
4:00 p.m.: Intergenerational Family Service
7:00 p.m.: Traditional Service
11:00 p.m.: Communion Service

Special envelopes are available in the pews, Narthex and Rotunda, to return by Sunday, December 19. 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. If you need an envelope call us at 610-867-5865.
Many thanks to those who have come forward with a pledge to support the church’s ministries for 2022. We had a wonderful response, for which we are very grateful.

If you have made your pledge you will receive an acknowledgement in the mail, and if you ordered envelopes the first packet will be mailed to you next month.

It’s not too late to make your pledge! You can pick up a pledge form at Sunday worship (on the table in the Rotunda outside the Kirk Center, or in the Narthex) or print one on the website.
You can also elect to give through an Electronic Funds Transfer (automatic withdrawal from your account) – this can also be done on our website. This way helps us with cash flow over the year, so if it is an option for you, we will appreciate you considering it.

Our Fellowship & Formation Hour is typically offered between our two Sunday morning services, at 10 a.m. It will not be held this Sunday because of our revised schedule, and will resume on Sunday, December 5.

Hearts N Minds, our adult ed class, meets both in person and via Zoom (video as well as audio-only option).

There will be special programs on the Sundays in Advent. Beginning on Sunday, January 9, the class will read the book, The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential, by N.T. Wright (2013, Harper One Imprint, ISBN 978-0-06-223050-8).

The Rev. Cynthia Simmons and Kate Arrington host kid-friendly faith formation on Zoom at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays. They will use the Family Story Bible to create interactive lessons about New Testament stories. To join online, use this Zoom link.

NEW DATE: We need a few extra hands to support our Preschool’s Poinsettia and Wreath fundraiser! The plants and wreaths will arrive on Tuesday, November 30, and we need some folks to help us organize the orders. This work will begin at 9 a.m. If you’re available and interested in helping, please contact us at or call 610-867-5865.

If you ordered poinsettias: You can come pick them up in Fellowship Hall, beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, December 1.


The Activity Department at Kirkland Village is currently understaffed and looking for volunteer helpers for our neighbors. Some of the available opportunities include: running bingo, supervising craft activities (materials supplied), musical performers (including leading hymn sings), visiting with your pet, and providing basic tech help (setting up email, Facebook, etc.).

These could be a one-time thing or more regular (weekly or monthly). If you are interested, contact Jen Laury at or 610-691-4543 to discuss how you can help.


Thank you to those who have answered the call to help staff the receptionist desk in our Church Office. We have one shift still available: Tuesday morning from 9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. If you are interested please contact Cristy Mette.
On two recent Saturdays, 26 scouts, three younger siblings, and 25 adults from our Boy Scout Troop 302 participated in the annual Scouting for Food project. They worked with Cub Scout Pack 368 from Hanover Township.

Altogether they filled 175 boxes with over 4600 pounds of food for our church partner, New Bethany Ministries. Many thanks to all who supported this project!

Masks will be properly worn for all in-person activities, events, and meetings, by everyone over the age of 2. There is no eating or drinking in any gatherings within the building, except for specially-announced occasions. Outdoor eating and drinking are permitted.

Vaccinations are required for those attending in-person meetings, not including worship, and a virtual option should be provided, if needed. For programs (e.g. Hearts N Minds, Hi Neighbors, Boy Scouts), we require masks and no eating food or drink indoors, unless specifically-announced. 

Please maintain a 3-foot distance where possible. Vaccinations are not required but are strongly encouraged and we recommend that individuals who are not vaccinated take advantage of the virtual options that are provided.

For events by outside groups held inside the church, vaccinations are required along with masks and no food or drink.
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**
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Your likes / comments / shares help us spread the word about First Pres!


  • 9:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.: Child Care (ask ushers for directions)
  • 10 a.m: Combined Worship Service, in-person in the Sanctuary AND livestreamed - see instructions in blue box, below, to join us online, and in the yellow box to join us via phone
  • 11 a.m.: Advent Festival & Hanging of the Greens, based in Fellowship Hall

  • 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 - click on the "Watch the Service" button
  • 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 archives
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE INTERNET ACCESS: You can participate on your phone to listen to the Thanksgiving Eve service and 10 a.m. Combined service on Sunday

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 848 4170 9518, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – press the # key again.
TUESDAYS: 6 p.m. - Handbell rehearsal, Sanctuary
WEDNESDAYS: 7 p.m. - Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group weekly meeting, via Zoom (Meeting # 380 435 9056 / Password: overcomer)
THURSDAYS: 7 p.m. – Chancel Choir rehearsal, Sanctuary

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 church office is open Monday –Thursday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Many of the office staff are working remotely for some of the time, so please make an appointment if you need to see someone specific. 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. Lindsey Altvater Clifton, Associate Pastor of Formation and Justice;

David Macbeth, Director of Music Ministries: ext. 202;

Cristy Mette, Administrative Operations Manager: ext. 228;

Rebecca Angione, Facilities Director: ext. 210;

Kevin Konczyk, Facilities Maintenance Manager;

Oscar Mendoza, Director of Business Administration: ext. 210;

Cindy Matthews, Bookkeeper: email:

Carol Burns, Communications Manager;

Laura Hawk, Preschool Director; phone: 610-867-2956;