Friday, September 11, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

11:00 a.m. Traditional
(also available on our website and via phone - see below
Before I left for a short vacation in August, I told you that the Session would be calling a Special Congregational Meeting in the early fall to recommend some changes to you about the “terms of call” for me as your pastor.

I am pleased to say that the meeting has been called for Sunday, September 20, at 10 a.m. via Zoom. More detailed information on how to join the meeting will be provided in next week’s newsletter, but you will be able to participate whether you have a computer, a smartphone or tablet, or even just a rotary telephone!

This is important, because the congregation has an inalienable right in Presbyterian governance to select and call its own leadership, and we want to make sure that right is protected even amidst the challenges of the pandemic. 
I want to explain briefly why this particular meeting is important, though, and what we will be doing. First, the Congregational Nominating Committee will be making a report with a recommendation for filling unexpired terms on Session that are open. More detailed information on that will be provided in next week’s newsletter, but this is about openings on the current Session, not the new class that we will nominate as usual at the Annual Congregational Meeting early in the new year. 
Second, the Session is recommending some changes to my terms of call, which is also not the usual question of, say, a cost-of-living salary increase that is typically handled at the Annual Meeting.

As you may or may not know/remember, you called me as your pastor beginning on November 27, 2017. The date is significant because while I am the installed pastor of this congregation, I was called for a set term of three years rather than the typical “indefinite” term of an installed pastor. In Presby-speak, this is known as being a Designated Pastor, because you are installed for a designated period of time, usually at least two years and no more than four at a time, though the term can be either renewed or converted to an indefinite/“permanent” call by the congregation.

This decision to make the position a designated one was due to the congregation still being in schism at the time, and it was felt that we could be in all kinds of different configurations with different needs within a three-year timeframe, and so the pastoral leadership might need to shift accordingly to ensure a person with the right gifts was in the position.

Happily, three years later, our congregation is on a thriving course and the Session is recommending that I remain as pastor, which is my strong desire and sense of call, as well. So, if the congregation agrees, we need to change the terms of my call so that it doesn’t expire in two months! There will also be a few small recommendations related to leave time which will be explained more fully.

I hope you will make a special effort to be part of this important meeting. I do not expect that it will be particularly long or complicated, but it is a crucial moment in the life of any congregation when it is voting on its pastoral leadership.

I continue to be almost indescribably grateful for our journey together as pastor and congregation these past (almost) three years, and I am eager for the opportunity to continue that ministry with you into the future!           

Grace and peace,

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·   This week's sermon: Keeping Our Enemies Close 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

SERVICESWe 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 to view the service
  • Please check in with a comment so we know you’ve joined us!
  • NEW: 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

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, Sept. 13: Bethlehem Interfaith Group (BIG) “Abundance of Prayer” hour of prayer via YouTube Live, beginning at 7 p.m. You are invited to set aside this time to pause and reflect. To watch:

Tuesday, Sept. 15: “Holy Imagination + Race: How the Church Can Be a Healing Force in America’s Racial Divide”, a webinar presented by Presbyterian Outlook at 2 p.m. For more information and to register:

Sunday, Sept. 20: Congregational meeting at 10 a.m. via Zoom, between the two livestreamed worship services at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Information on how to join that meeting will be in our next newsletter.

Sunday, Sept. 27: Combined Worship service at 11 a.m.; offered both outdoors in front of the church building (weather permitting) and livestreamed on Facebook.

SAVE THE DATE: Sunday, Oct.11: CROP Hunger Walk; you can walk that day or another day of your choice. More details to come!
Our Sunday School teachers are excited to announce a new curriculum for our Kindergarten – grade 5 children!
We are back this Sunday after a short hiatus, offering two Sunday School experiences for our families: a Zoom gathering every Sunday from 10:15-
10:45 a.m., and prerecorded videos that you can access at any time on our website (they will be posted every Saturday).
This week’s session will focus on Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12: all about friendship and how ‘two are stronger than one’.

There’s a lot of great effort going into creating these experiences. Many churches do not have these kinds of resources so please help us spread the word by sharing with family and friends!

To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.:

Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116
A special offering
Sometimes it feels like the world is coming at us so quickly that we don’t know which way to turn, where to look, what to do next. In a chaotic world, we find strength in knowing that God is always near. Paul’s prayer asks God to grant us peace at all times, in all ways. Peace. For our world, our family, our community, our church and ourselves.
The third Special Offering of the Presbyterian Church, Peace and Global Witness, starts this Sunday, September 13, and ends on World Communion Sunday, October 4.

Half of this offering goes to initiatives such as field work in 200 congregations and villages, and 1500 schools in Malawi. Some of you may have been there when our church members went in 2010.
Another 25% goes to our mid-council to support efforts such as an example in Washington state, at the Women’s Correctional Center. Where despite the concrete and barbed wire, God is not separated from the women. There Hagar’s Community Church is named for the story of Hagar in Genesis, who survives despite the harshest conditions.

Finally, as with the Pentecost offering, our congregation keeps 25% for the work of peace and reconciliation here. For instance, it could support the antiracist work we have undertaken recently.

You can mail your special offering to the church office (Business Office, 2344 Center St., Bethlehem, PA 18017). Please put “Peace offering” in the memo line on your check. If you make your donation online, please use the ‘notes’ box to say that this is for the “Peace offering”.

Thank you for considering a donation to this special offering.
Midway Down the Road: Building Spiritual Resilience in Difficult Times

Wednesday, Sept. 16
7 p.m.
Facilitated by Jan Bickford and Anne Taylor

Via Zoom: Registration is appreciated but not required on this online form

A recent article in Christian Century magazine suggests that the pandemic has made people into “unintentional monastics”. It likens the shelter-in-place to the monastic life of solitude and self- examination.  These last six months have presented many struggles. They may also have offered unexpected graces.

A reasonable question to ask: “Is it possible to both flourish, and simultaneously experience a roller coaster ride including intermittent loss of control/purpose, grief, anger, vulnerability and disconnection?” Like Jacob, we wrestle with going beyond acceptance of, to meaning in this difficult time.

Using both scripture and the two articles listed below, we invite you to reflect on the development of spiritual resilience in 2020.  Participants will share their unique personal stories that capture those moments of struggle and grace. Join others in the FPCB faith community who seek to give voice this season to the growth of spiritual wisdom and resilience that has informed both our sense of self and our relationship with God.

Suggested readings (click on any of these links to read):

To join the Zoom gathering online: (Meeting ID: 825 9431 2931)

To join via phone (audio only): call 929-205-6099; when prompted, enter the Meeting ID (825 9431 2931), followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.

We’re excited to share that Hi Neighbors, our popular speakers bureau, will return for the new semester in a new format – we’ll be going virtual!
Everyone is welcome to join us on Monday, Sept. 21 via Zoom for:

Voting in 2020: A Guidebook
A presentation by Lamont McClure, Northampton Community Executive and
Amy Cozze, County Registrar 
This is a timely topic and we look forward to our speakers sharing up-to-date information about registering and the options for voting (mail-in, drop off, and in-person). Our Monday, Oct. 19 presentation will continue the voting theme, with a look at the history of the 19th Amendment.

For Monday, Sept. 21 at 10 a.m.:
Meeting ID: 889 4647 5793

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 889 4647 5793, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.

If you are interested in lively discussion about social justice, what the Bible says to us, and thoughtful, meditative readings, then the adult education group Hearts N Minds might be for you.

Over the years, the group has studied many different writers and subjects and we will continue on that path of respectful exploration starting Sunday, September 13. We will be gathering via Zoom until further notice.
Discussion leaders throw out questions to discuss as a whole or in breakout groups. Our first book is Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans (Nelson Books, 2018; ISBN - 978-0-7180-2231-0). It is available new in paperback for $17 or there are plenty of used copies to buy.

Evans was a newspaper columnist (and best-selling author) who challenged conservative Christianity and gave voice to a generation of wandering evangelicals wrestling with their faith, before she died last year at a tragically young age.
Our book choice headed the best seller list for many months. Evans’ colleague wrote, “... (Rachel) proclaimed a more just and expansive vision of God’s love, to encourage others, and to amplify voices that are typically marginalized in the Church and in the world.”

We will then pick up Peter Enns's The Bible Tells Me So (Harper One, 2014; ISBN 978-0-06-227202-7). There are used hardback (preferred) and paperback copies available. 
From the dustjacket: “Christians have had it drilled into them that their job is to defend the bible against any challenge. But is this really God’s plan? What if God wants us to debate and wrestle with what we read in scripture? (In this book) you will find a revolutionary guide that will liberate Christians so they can truly engage with God’s Word.”

Both books examine the authors’ spiritual journeys. We are all on a spiritual journey and our hope is that these books can act as guideposts.
Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when 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.

You may remember the work of "Mask Force 2000", a community group that has been coordinating volunteer sewers and materials to supply masks in the Lehigh Valley.
First Pres is once again serving as a pick-up location for materials/drop-off finished masks location. It will be open:

1-3 p.m.

The efforts focus on making masks with a clear vinyl insert that are easier for folks with communication challenges.
If you are interested in picking up kits to sew the masks, come to the front of church to come inside and pick up. If you have questions or concerns please direct them to

Mail or drop off your orders so you can get your
gorgeous mums at a contact-less, drive-through
pick-up on Wednesday, Sept. 23 between 4-6 p.m.
*Front of church building*

The Congregational Life team has planned another outdoor “Parking Lot” Trivia Night for Friday, Sept. 18 (rain date: Friday, Sept. 25). NOTE OUR NEW STARTING TIME: we will BEGIN THE TRIVIA at 6:00 p.m.

Here’s the set up:

  • Each party’s vehicle will be directed to park in a designated parking space in the back (east) parking lot. There will be a vacant spaces adjacent to it – this is your space to use for lawn chairs, to hang out outside your car if you like. You are asked to stay in your designated space, except when delivering your trivia answers to the tabulator.

  • Masks are required, as is physical distancing of at least six feet.
  • The trivia will begin at 6:00 p.m. We will have an emcee who will read the questions over a loudspeaker. Each team (vehicle) will confer on the answer, then submit their answer to the official tabulator – the teams with the correct answer will be announced.
  • Points will be awarded – the winner gets bragging rights!

In case of rain, we will postpone the event to Friday, Sept. 25 and put the announcement on our website ( and on our Facebook page.
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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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 or website for the live service
  • 10:15 a.m.: Sunday School for K-5, via Zoom (see more information 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


  • 7 p.m.: Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group, via Zoom. Please send an email to (or call 610-867-5865) to get the log-in information.

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; ext. 238;

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