Friday, May 29, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

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

Bound together by the power of the Holy Spirit

It has become a cliché of this quarantine period of the pandemic that it is difficult to keep track of time: telling the day of the week is hard; things that feel like they happened just last week were more than a month ago; and things that happened just three months ago feel like years in the past.

But this Sunday is a helpful marker for us, because it is Pentecost, one of the major holidays of the Christian year. The word Pentecost literally means “fiftieth” in Greek, and it is observed fifty days after Easter (which, to me, definitely feels like longer than fifty days ago!). That’s because Pentecost isn’t originally a Christian holiday; in Judaism, it is known more often by its Hebrew name, Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, because it comes seven weeks and one day after the Feast of Unleavened Bread at Passover. It began in Judaism as a harvest festival, but evolved into a celebration of the gift of the Torah, the covenantal Law, to Moses on Mount Sinai. 
For Christians, Pentecost celebrates not the gift of the Law but the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus, who had spent the previous fifty days mostly hiding in Jerusalem from the enemies who wanted to finish destroying Jesus’ legacy. So this Sunday, we will tell the dramatic story again of how the Spirit suddenly descended on the small band of disciples and changed everything for both the church and the world. 
Typically, we encourage people to wear something red to worship on Pentecost, to symbolize the flames of the Spirit, which Scripture describes as alighting on the disciples like tongues of fire. This year, of course, we will not be gathering together physically for worship.

But one of the themes for us throughout this quarantine period has been that while we may not be able to gather physically, we are being gathered and bound together by the power of the Holy Spirit in our worship and fellowship and service. So Pentecost, in many ways, seems all the more important for us this year.

Therefore, I want to encourage you to wear something red for worship this Sunday and take a selfie in church! Yes, you read that right: take a selfie as you gather for worship wearing your red for Pentecost, whether that’s a red shirt or scarf or pajamas or whatever you’re wearing for worship.

And then either post it in the comments section of the Facebook livestream when you join the service or, if that feels daunting, email it to , so we can create a Pentecost photo album of First Presbyterian gathered in the Spirit for Pentecost! I look forward to being in worship with you on Sunday.

Grace and peace,

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·     This week's sermon: What Do We Do Now? 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
  • 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 after the services have aired:
  • Visit our website and look for the link on the homepage

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 followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.
SUNDAY SCHOOL for this week

Stories! Songs! Friends!  This week’s Sunday School experience will be a combination of a live Zoom gathering on Sunday morning from 10:15-10:45 a.m. AND pre-recorded videos that you can access at your convenience.

The videos are on the church website ; scroll to the bottom of the homepage.
To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.: / Meeting ID: 859 8632 3119
A FUN SERVICE PROJECT – for all ages!
Our Sunday School kids have been encouraged to find rocks and paint thoughtful messages on them. They’ve been asked to put
them on the porch/in the yard of a friend or neighbor, or maybe along a walking trail - the idea is to brighten a little corner of the world with a random act of kindness.

This is a great idea to share with your kids, grandkids and young friends as well. Or maybe to do yourself!
Please send us photos of your completed rocks and where/with whom you shared them: . Thanks to the Benway kids for sharing their creations!

Our Choice of Words:
A continuation of our series on Constructive Conversations
Wednesday, June 3
7-8:30 p.m. on Zoom
Led by Jim and Janet Stahl

Some of us may be feeling like the guidelines for social distancing and the entreaty for us to stay at home are like being incarcerated, though we choose to live with the restrictions for the good of our society. Paul was incarcerated for the ‘cause of Jesus Christ’. In his message to Philemon, Paul implored his friend to ‘do the right thing’ to welcome his runaway slave, Onesimus, back as a Christian brother. But ‘the right thing’ according to whom? And what would the consequences potentially be? 

READ MORE HERE - you can also get links to our previous presentations

The Lackawanna, Lehigh, and Northumberland Presbyteries will jointly offer a series of important Zoom workshops on topics of concern for churches in the COVID-19 era: re-opening our buildings, the financial impact of remote worship, and the format(s) of our worship and other ministries as we move forward.
These workshops are open to everyone: church members, elders, and ministers. They will begin with a presentation highlighting the major issues, followed by an opportunity for Q & A and conver-sation. The workshops will be recorded and posted on our websites. Register:
Wednesday, June 3: 2:00-3:30 p.m.
Theological, Ecclesiastical, and Practical Issues Related to Re-opening Church Buildings. Current PC(USA) Co-Moderator Rev. Cindy Kohlmann will help us explore the complexities of returning to our sanctuaries in the midst of the current pandemic. What is the church’s faithful response in red, yellow, and green regions of Pennsylvania? 
Wednesday, June 10: 1:00-2:30 p.m.
Generosity in Uncertain Times. Ministry Relations Officer Rev. Ellie Johns-Kelley and Vice-President for Planned Giving Resources Karl Mattison, both from the Presbyterian Foundation, will help us address the effects COVID-19 has on stewardship and giving—now and in the future.
Tuesday, June 16 :  1:00-3:00 p.m. (Synod-wide)
The Expanded Table: Ideas for a Hybridized Worship Experience Between People on Zoom and People in Person. Former PC(USA) Moderator Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow will lead us in a conversation about how churches’ new ways of worshiping can be combined with pre-COVID-19 worship as a both/and rather than an either/or.
After a brief hiatus, our Optimism 101 group is back on Wednesdays at noon, via Zoom.

As we work our way through these changing and challenging times, we all struggle from time to time with feelings of isolation, loneliness and the loss of personal connection. 
In response to this ongoing issue, the Optimism 101 group will be changing the focus of weekly meetings to address the current issues related to the sudden loss of our familiar patterns, our social/in person connections and the ways we can support each other as our neighborhoods open up. This loosening of restrictions is fraught with concerns for ourselves and others and yet, so welcomed and needed by many.

We urge you and welcome you to join us for these free flowing and supportive conversations. There is no need to have been part of the group previously and there is no expectation that you need to attend weekly. We are encouraging anyone struggling with any issue related to being sequestered to drop in for a chat and support. We hope to hear from you soon. 

To join the Zoom meeting: / Meeting ID: 881 8442 8633

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

Questions? Please contact us at

Keep saving those plastic grocery bags, dry cleaner plastic,
bubble wrap, newspaper sleeves and bread wrappers –
when our building opens we will start up our collection again.

If you have a very large quantity that you can’t store,
contact us at or 610-867-5865
and we’ll arrange a pick-up for 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 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!

THIS SUNDAY (print bulletins, above)

  • 9:00 a.m.: Contemporary Service – join us on our Facebook page for the live service
  • 10:15-10:45 a.m.: Sunday School via Zoom (see details, 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

*NOTE: There will also be an online, pre-recorded video Sunday School lesson available on our website beginning on Saturday.
  • 12:00 – 12:30 p.m.: Midday Reflection (led by one of our pastors – a short time of reflection and prayer via Zoom: /Meeting ID: 335 481 050; via phone: call 929-205-6099 and enter the Meeting ID when prompted, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again)
  • noon - 1 p.m.: Optimism 101 support group via Zoom (see details 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.
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;

Carol Burns, Communications Manager; ext. 238;

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