Friday, April 24, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

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

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

We are now in the season of Easter for the church year. In the Lectionary, the schedule of Scripture readings that covers most of the Bible in a three-year cycle, the season of Easter unsurprisingly focuses on stories of encountering Jesus after his resurrection each year. These are wonderful and powerful stories of reassurance about Christ’s victory over death, his continuing presence among his disciples, and his sending them into the world to make other disciples. 
Yet as I was doing some sermon planning last week, I couldn’t help but think that the lectionary readings this year felt a bit like “business as usual” in a very unusual time for us as congregation, as a country, and even as the human race.

Aside from the ongoing dangers of the pandemic itself and the challenges of remaining in quarantine, I have been watching with mounting concern in the last week or so as the national dialogue has devolved from raising legitimate questions and concerns about the economic fallout of stay-at-home orders, to holding public gatherings that have not simply been protests of conscience, but have included refusing to practice social distancing in the gatherings themselves, harassing frontline healthcare workers in their own protests, and even blocking traffic to keep ambulances from hospitals.
While we can differ in good conscience on many questions and methods regarding when and how to “re-open the economy,” and we can and should be debating them, there is no excuse or defense for such actions.
For Christians, this is particularly clear, given that Jesus himself summarized all the Law and the Prophets by tying love for God inextricably to love for our neighbors, and Jesus’ last words to his disciples before the events we just remembered during Holy Week was that we should love one another just as he has loved us (right: our new banner on Center Street).
And so that, in turn, led me to the idea that in this season of Easter, when we are celebrating God’s greatest gift of love in Christ’s death and resurrection and recalling him calling his disciples to follow him into the world to live into his commandments, and when we are in a season of mounting division and conflict in our society, perhaps we should dig more deeply into what it really means to have Christ-like love, something that we often talk about but rarely explore in depth.

So for the next five weeks of Easter, I am going to be offering a sermon series I am calling “Love in the Time of Coronavirus,” playing off the title of the famous novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera . That novel is all about the different dimensions and expressions of romantic love; we will be considering some of the dimensions and expressions of Christian love.

The most famous Scriptural meditation on Christian love is I Corinthians 13:1-13 , which I commend to you to re-read, since you are likely familiar with it from attending weddings if nothing else! It references many of the theological themes of love that we will be exploring in the coming weeks: hope and perseverance, grief, gratitude, vulnerability, liberty, community, compassion.

This Sunday we will start with a sermon entitled, “Groans of Hope,” as the issue of hope and perseverance seems like a particularly good place for us to start! I look forward to exploring these questions with you, and to being with you in worship on Sunday.

Grace and peace,

Scripture lesson: Romans 8:22-27

Click the link to read online
·     This week's sermon: Groans of Hope 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
  • 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 after the services have aired:
  • Visit our website and look for the link on the homepage

Hearts N Minds will meet via Zoom today (see article below); look for a pre-recorded Sunday School video lesson on our website , available on Saturday.

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

Thank you! Last week we announced a new way to securely make your donations online to FPCB, and many of you took advantage of this option.

You can now visit our website at . Look for the “Donate” button to make a one-time or recurring payment. NOTE: Please use the “notes” box on the online donation form to indicate which fund it should go to (e.g. annual pledge [note your envelope number if you have one], One Great Hour of Sharing, Per Capita Giving, etc.).

You can also continue to mail in your pledges or drop them in the mail slot of the South Entrance door (if you do not have pledge envelopes, please be sure to include your name and the fund it goes to – do not send cash). Thank you for continuing to support our church during this unsettling time.
ONE GREAT HOUR OF SHARING: Addressing hunger near and far

Even though Easter is over and our special collection for One Great Hour of Sharing has officially ended, as the Hunger Program of the Presbyterian Church, it is very timely. Now more than ever, people are in need of food. Food pantries are stressed by the overwhelming need that has been caused by the Covid-19 virus. 

You can give in several ways: You can go online (as described above) ; be sure to put “One Great Hour of Sharing” in the “notes” box. You can also send a check, made out to First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem and in the memo write “One Great Hour of Sharing” – you do not need the special envelope. You can mail it or put it in the mail slot of the South Entrance door. Please help the hungry here and in the world.
Join an FPCB pastor as they share a meditation or scripture, followed by a time of prayer and reflection. We will gather via Zoom videoconferencing; also available via phone (audio only). Every Tuesday and Thursday at noon; they last approximately 30 minutes.
To send prayer requests: or call 610-867-5865, ext. 209
Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 335 481 050
Via phone: call 929-205-6099 and enter the Meeting ID when prompted.
Our dedicated group of Deacons – and friends – have been offering a meal and shopping ministry for anyone who would like it. Some receive assistance weekly, and others only 'as needed'. No request is too large or too small!

To make arrangements, please contact Sue Bennetch
at or 610-867-5865, ext. 209.

This is open to all, so consider it for friends, family or neighbors – they are glad to help!
Tuesday, May 12 from 1-2:30 p.m. on Zoom
Login info to come

Our session together, facilitated by FPCB member Anne Taylor, will explore selected poems from Mary Oliver’s book,  Devotions .

Mary Oliver is a Pulitzer Prize winner and one of America's best selling poets.  Our focus will be on Mary’s spiritual journey. We’ll talk about important events in her life, her central themes, and any personal resonance the poems have for your own experience.

Mary uses the lens of nature to ask some of life’s big questions. What are our gifts? How are we to use them? What is prayer? Do we ever know the mind of God, to name just a few? Big stuff, for sure! 

We're sharing the list of poems to discuss so you have time to secure and read them. The purchase of the book is not mandatory - you can do an online search for any of these:
  • The Summer Day
  • The Journey
  • Wild Geese
  • Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches
  • I Worried
  • Don’t Hesitate
  • I Go to the Shore
  • Invitation
  • When I am Among the Trees
  • Snow Geese
  • The Gift
  • In Blackwater Woods
  • When Deaths Comes
  • Prayer
Our facilitator:

Anne Taylor is an FPCB member and resident of Bethlehem. She is the retired Director of Grants and Foundation Relations at Northampton Community College. Her life’s work spans various careers including high school English teacher, public health HIV/AIDS work, non-profit management, community coalition and advocacy development, school dropout prevention, and fund raising. Anne is a mother, grandmother and budding author of a developing book of poems titled Summoning the Muse.
Hearts N Minds Adult Education
The class will meet this Sunday at 9 a.m. via Zoom to discuss Sister Joan Chittister’s book, For Everything a Season . For this Sunday, the chapter is entitled
"A Time to Refrain from Embracing".

Meeting ID: 831 165 912

Or you can join via phone (audio only): 929-205-6099 and enter the Meeting ID
For the past two Wednesdays, Mary Lou Hatcher has led presentations on “Constructive Conversations in Difficult Situations”. If you missed them, you can still join the next one, next Wednesday at 7 p.m.:
Session Three (April 29): “Staying in the Game in Difficult Circumstances”
This session will explore skills to use when under attack by a less skillful person. We will explore an extended prayer practice and practice the communication skills of leaning back, going to the balcony for perspective, and reframing hostile remarks.
Mary Lou brings a background in community mediation, mediation training and spiritual direction to her concern for faith supported relationships, conversations and community relations.

Join Zoom Meeting: / Meeting ID: 741 622 333.

To listen by phone only: call 929-205-6099 and enter Meeting ID when prompted.

NOTE: Mary Lou’s second session, and Bob Costello’s presentation on April 13 are available to view on our website.

The Barry Brandt Memorial Scholarship Fund was established by the late Dr. Allen D. and Ella Brandt to remember their son Barry who died in 1961 when his plane, carrying new Army recruits, crashed en route to basic training.

This named fund, a part of our church's permanent endowment, provides income for scholarship assistance to Protestant students, preferably members of First Presbyterian, who have financial need and demonstrated scholastic ability. Students planning on entering college or furthering their college education this year are invited
to complete the application (this is a four-page document).

Inquiries can be directed to Lisa Dippre-Titus, chair of the Fund Committee.

The St. Andrew’s Fund of FPCB was established many years ago to alleviate human needs within the community. During the Covid-19 pandemic, our community needs more support than ever!

Bethlehem Emergency Sheltering (BES), a ministry partner of FPCB, provides homeless guests with a warm bed, dinner and breakfast every day from late fall through March 31. Many church groups and other organizations volunteer at BES to cook and serve meals and a number of FPCB members volunteer at the shelter.

Covid-19 caused the shelter to close abruptly in mid-March leaving many without these necessities. Thanks to a generous grant from the St. Andrew’s Fund and an anonymous donor, an idea came to our church to help feed our homeless neighbors at this time, while also supporting our local small restaurants. 
Seventy five meal vouchers for $15 each (totaling $1,125) were purchased at several local restaurants. BES has distributed these to the guests along with cold bag lunches during the shut-down period. Each voucher typically provides two hot meals.  

The restaurant owners appreciate the support (many also provide for our neighbors in need on a regular basis) and our homeless neighbors appreciate the hot meals.
The St. Andrew’s Fund welcomes additions at any time to help alleviate human suffering within our community. Now more than ever, suffering continues, but your help can be a bright spot in an otherwise dark time.

This week we used Facebook to give a shout out to our awesome Preschool teachers!
We're so proud of the teachers at our Preschool - they have really embraced staying connected "online" with their children and their families! From videos with activities to reading stories together, to sharing photos of each other, and to encouraging families that whatever they're doing at this time is just fine - they are really going above and beyond. You might like to follow them on Facebook or Instagram .  

Click on the photo of Mrs. Kraihanzel, our 4/5 Day 4’s teacher for her "How to Draw a Bunny" video.
Have any other ideas for how we can connect via Facebook? Let us know by dropping an email to – we are open to your ideas!

And we encourage you to follow us on our Facebook page for news, updates, reminders and timely information - and sometimes, just-for-fun items!
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
  • 9:00 a.m.: Hearts N Minds adult education (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: An online, pre-recorded video Sunday School lesson will be 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; 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;