Friday, March 27, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 
NEW TIME! 11:00 a.m. Traditional
A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Connecting in all kinds of ways

Dear Friends,

Last week, one of our Elders wrote me a note responding to all the shifts we were making to take church activities and meetings online through the Zoom videoconferencing platform.

“It’s kind of amazing and I think everyone is connecting on a deeper level. I was worried about the spirit of people being diminished solely on the online platform and have been proven wrong in worship, work, and friendship. Hoping it doesn’t need to continue but not sad about some of the opportunities and connections it has brought forward.”

T hat’s been the experience of many of us, I think, over the past week. Some of us have been using such technology for a while; others are completely new to it. Yet it has been amazing how Zoom has allowed us to come closer together as a congregation, even in some ways that we weren’t when we had the option of gathering in person. And it has been a true blessing to be able to connect “face-to-face,” even remotely, during this time. 
One of the most helpful parts about Zoom, though, is that if you simply don’t have the hardware or the internet connection to be able to join by video, you can still call into the Zoom meeting using any telephone and participate by voice-only. While not ideal, it ensures that those who, for whatever reason, can’t join by video-conference can still connect in the life of the church. 
I say this because this week, we’re going to be using Zoom in two new and very important ways, and if you are not online with us, you can still participate by phone.

We will continue to livestream both worship services via Facebook Live, but this week we are also going to attempt an audio “simulcast” using Zoom for the Traditional worship service at 11 a.m. You should be able to call 929-205-6099 at 11 a.m. and hear the entire worship service on your phone. I say “should” because we haven’t done this before, so we ask for your patience if it doesn’t go smoothly the first time, but we think it will work. (See calling instructions in the yellow box, below.)

Second, you can call that same number (or simply stay on the line) just after noon and participate in the special Congregational Meeting that will take place via Zoom this Sunday, after the Traditional worship service concludes.
The Session called this meeting to elect the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee to search for our new Associate Pastor (see article below) , and to act on recommended changes to the bylaws of the Congregation and Corporation. In all transparency, we may need to postpone action on the latter until we can meet in person if the conversation gets too detailed, but we are going to see what we can accomplish.

If you have an internet connection and adequate equipment, we strongly urge you to participate by video rather than audio (see instructions in blue box, below, to join us online) ; this will allow for a more authentic experience of a congregational meeting. I also need to point out that there is a limit of 100 participants in terms of the technology, but we need at least 52 people for a quorum, so please plan to participate one way or another. So: I hope to see and/or hear you at the meeting on Sunday!

Grace and Peace,
PS – We are also rolling out a new option for a children’s Sunday School experience. The Sunday School teachers have pre-recorded several short videos of greeting, music, stories and lessons that you can view. There are also printable activity sheets – you can find  a link to these resources on the homepage of our website (look for this picture). Since they are videos (not live), you can do them when convenient or on Sunday morning.

Scripture lesson:
John 15:1-17

·     This week's sermon:   Abide in Place 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 FOLLOWED BY Our Congregational Meeting on “Zoom”
SERVICES : We invite you to join either (or both!) of our services via Facebook to watch “live”:
  • 9:00 a.m. – Contemporary service
  • NEW TIME! 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 on Monday:
·          Visit our website and look for the link on the homepage

CONGREGATIONAL MEETING: We will gather via ZOOM video-conferencing at noon on Sunday. Here is the link to join the meeting:z

To join the ZOOM meeting: / Meeting ID : 289 981 944

The Sunday School teachers have put together some resources so your children can enjoy a Sunday School experience. Visit our website homepage and click for the Children’s Sunday School page, to watch some pre-recorded videos featuring music, stories, and greetings from the teachers. There are also activity pages to download and print.

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: 289 981 944

You can also listen to the CONGREGATIONAL MEETING – just stay on the line after the service is over, and the meeting will start at noon. There may be a pause (no sound) so don’t hang up!
The business at Sunday’s Congregational meeting will include approving the nominations of seven members to the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee. This group will be charged with nominating a new Associate Pastor, who will have responsibilities in several key ministries.

The nominees are Kristen Benway, Rich Gorton, George Mauntz, Don Robertson, Blaine Sheppard, Froy Thompson and Gail Watts. Read their biographies here .

We have had a number of inquiries about donating to the church at this time. We appreciate you continuing to give!

  • You can mail in your pledges (if you do not have pledge envelopes, please be sure to include your name and the fund it goes to – for example, general pledges, proportional giving, etc. – do not send cash).
  • Consider signing up to have regular payments deducted from your account; the instructions are here

We are also finalizing details to offer you a secure, online option to make your payments, whenever you would like, by credit card or debit card. We hope to share that information in next week's newsletter.
Stay tuned for more information as we plan for
digital services and gatherings

Wednesday, April 1 from 6:30-7:30 p.m.: Lenten Conversations (see article, below)
Sunday, April 5: Palm Sunday (Communion Sunday)
Thursday, April 9: Maundy Thursday
Friday, April 10 at 8 p.m.: Tenebrae service
Saturday, April 11 at 7 p.m.: Compline - contemplative, candlelit service
Sunday, April 12: Easter Sunday (Contemporary and Traditional services)
We have been really impressed with how everyone has embraced our ‘new normal’ of getting online – for many, these are brand new ways of doing things and include learning new skills. Some of our community members are willing but don’t have the equipment.
So if you might have an iPad/tablet or laptop/computer you are not using, perhaps consider making it available as a loan to someone who can benefit. If you do – or need equipment or know someone who does - please drop us a note at and we’ll “connect” you! 

We’re using Facebook to bring you current information – church-related and some ‘just for fun’, while we stay-at-home. This includes doing both of our Sunday services on “Facebook Live” - so we hope you’re connected (although you don’t need a Facebook account to watch our services – visit our website at to get the link).

We’re also creating “Facebook Events” for other opportunities to connect, so check those too.

A couple of reminders:
  • Many of us are hunkered down with others, but there are plenty of folks who are ‘home alone’. Please help us expand this way of communicating via Facebook by participating as much as you can.

  • To make sure you see all of our posts, you can set our Facebook page to be ‘seen first’ in your feed (so every time you go in, you’ll see us!). Go to our page and look for “Following” – click on the down arrow to this drop-down menu and click “See First”. (NOTE: You are limited to 30 pages that you can ‘see first’.)

  • You can help our posts go to more followers by hitting “Like / Comment / Share”. Making a comment is better than liking, but sharing is best. And when you share, add a short comment (even the word “Sharing…”) – that will push it out even further. Let’s get more folks involved!

  • Facebook isn’t just for our news and announcements. If you have something to share (an uplifting story, appropriate photos or cartoons, your own reflection, kids’ artwork, other online resources, etc.) please send to us at with a note to share it on Facebook.

Those of you who are involved in our various ministries, please consider how you can use Facebook (and/or ZOOM) to engage our congregation. If you have an idea or just want to brainstorm, contact us at .

First Presbyterian Church is all about building community, and this is another way we can do that!

Consider inviting your ‘online’ friends to join us for these new options
in worship and learning!

Use these Facebook Event invitations (under the cover photo, click "Share"
then "Invite friends" - you can choose who you'd like)

Several of our members are involved with a new initiative that has come up in response to the shortage of masks for healthcare workers, and others on the ‘front line’ of this health crisis.

“Masks for the Lehigh Valley” began as a Facebook group to connect sewers and those who have materials to donate. It has since grown to a website ( ) with many people and organizations involved.
First Pres is serving as a drop-off/pick-up location – check the website for specific details (please do not come to the church building except during their designated times).

Member Judy Smullen crafted these masks for EMT’s working in Whitehall and Washington, NJ, as shown by Greg Church, boyfriend of staffer Cristy Mette. Another ministry opportunity for those able to assist!

Rev. Sue Bennetch shares this “scriptaquote” – a spin on the classic “cryotaquote” word puzzles that so many folks enjoy. One letter simply stands for another – the answer is below, right under the link to the Prayer List.
Lenten Conversations: “Having the Mind of Christ”
Wednesday, April 1 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

A dedicated group has been meeting online to continue our Lenten Conversation series, led by Rev. Steve Simmons. We’ll send details for next Wednesday’s topic, and links to the handouts, in next week’s “Mid-Week Update”.
We’ll include the instructions on how to connect to the meeting using your computer, tablet or phone (landline too). This information will also be available on our website.

You are welcome to join this learning opportunity, even if you have not participated before.

Hearts N Minds is continuing their weekly discussions using the ZOOM tool to connect. You can go here for information about how to connect to that virtual gathering.
They are now studying The Last Week by Marcus Borg and
John D. Crosson - a commentary about the last seven days of Jesus in Jerusalem. The reading assignment is pages 121 through just the top of 126 (Thursday); the scripture reference is Mark 14:26-52.

The class will then return to Sister Joan Chittister’s book, For Everything a Season , on April 19.

All are welcome, whether you have read the books or not, or attended any of the previous sessions.
We’re still collecting!

clean out your closets and cupboards while you're at home

·         Gently used shoes (men’s, women’s, kids and toddlers)

·         Plastic bags and film, bubble wrap, bread bags, dry cleaning plastic, cereal liners, etc. – clean and dry, please!

Hang on to your donations for when we return to church!

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 to keep us up to date.
Send us your news and photos to share:
**Deadline for next week's newsletter: Wedneday 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 for the live service
  • 9:00 a.m. - Adult Education, Hearts N Minds (see article above, for connecting)
  • NEW TIME! 11:00 a.m. - Traditional Service -  see instructions in blue box, above, to join us online; for phone - use the yelllow box
  • Noon – Congregational Meeting - see instructions in blue box, above, to join us; for phone - use the yelllow box
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.
NOTE NEW CONTACT INFO: 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 ( ) or Phil Fair, Prayer Ministrants ( ).

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;