Friday, June 19, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

11:00 a.m. Traditional
(also available on our website and via phone - see below)

Staying Experimental and Nimble

I have said many times in the last three months, “I don’t know how we would have managed the pandemic 20 years ago,” before there was social media and videoconferencing platforms like Zoom. That technology has been essential to allowing us to continue to thrive as a congregation even in the midst of the challenges of both the pandemic itself and the stay-at-home order.

The word “congregation” comes from the verb “to congregate,” of course: to gather together. The technology of Zoom and Facebook have given us the capacity to continue to congregate and gather together in mind and heart and spirit, even when we have not been able to do so in body.  
Many of us have had to take a crash course in using this technology, and some of us have not been able to take full advantage of it because of a lack of access to adequate computer hardware or Internet connections. But for most of the congregation, it has given us the opportunity to see and hear and interact with each other in worship and education and church leadership in surprisingly powerful and intimate ways.
Yet even the most powerful technology is only as useful as those who have it are willing to make it. One of my constant prayers of thanksgiving throughout this crisis has been how we have embraced the challenge of continuing to gather together, continuing to be a congregation.

For the last 2+ years, we have identified as “an experimental church:” generating new ideas and trying them out; learning from what succeeds and what fails; and then pivoting quickly to apply that learning either to a revised version of the idea or to help with developing something new.

With that as our practice and our identity, the Session was able to take the congregation to a digital-only configuration for all of our worship and ministry in less than 24 hours from the time they decided it was necessary, and you as a congregation responded with enthusiasm and commitment and faithfulness. THAT is why the technology has been so helpful to us: because of you. You have embraced the opportunity it has afforded us, even when you weren’t sure what that meant or how exactly we were going to do it.

It seems clear that, until there is a widely available vaccine and/or treatment, we will be living with the pandemic in some form or fashion in the coming months. That means that we will continue to need to be experimental and nimble, as it is likely there will be periods in which the infection rate is relatively low (as seems to be the case right now in Pennsylvania, though obviously not in other regions of the country), and also periods in which it rises again.

As we have said before, the Session is monitoring developments closely and placing its primary focus on what it means, in any period, to be faithful disciples of Christ in loving God and our neighbors, and recognizing that how we do that may shift in different periods.

We encourage you as the members and friends of the church to continue to help us think through that. Your enthusiasm and creativity through this unique time in our congregation’s life has been and will continue to be essential to our ability to fulfill our calling and mission together.

With that in mind, I want to encourage you as you have ideas or questions about our church’s programmatic life, to reach out directly to our congregational leaders in those areas. In the Presbyterian Church, it is the Session that has the authority to develop, implement, and revise church programs. The pastor actually only has direct authority over the content of the worship services (Scripture, hymns, prayers); everything else is decided by the Session.

So, to facilitate your ability to raise questions and suggest ideas, we have created simple email addresses that will allow you to direct those to the right committee chair, who will in turn share them with the committee. If you have something that you think needs to go to the Session as a whole, you can send that to the Clerk of Session (currently Sue Farber), who is responsible for correspondence to and from the Session. All those addresses can be found here:

And if you have a general question (about anything church-related) that you’re not sure where to send, you can use our general mailbox: . This email is monitored by Carol Burns, our Communications Manager, and it is a safe and confidential way to communicate with us.

As we continue to journey through this time of the pandemic, we look forward to your ideas, your questions, your enthusiasm for our church and what more we might do and accomplish together for Christ. I am grateful for each member and friend of this congregation, and eager to see what the Lord has in store for us next!

Grace and peace,

PS – Please remember our “ Sermon Response ” sessions available via Zoom, after each service on Sunday: an opportunity to reflect on the message with others. Details are below.

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·     This week's sermon: A Clear Signal 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 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 join the ‘Sermon Response’ Zoom Meeting after each service: / Meeting ID: 955 325 387

To listen on the phone (audio only): 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.

To watch a video – available after the services have aired:
  • Visit our website and look for the link on the homepage
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE INTERNET ACCESS – OR PREFER TO “LISTEN IN” ON SUNDAY ON YOUR PHONE. Stay on the call for the ‘Sermon Response’ discussion (12-12:30 p.m.)

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

The kids who attend our Sunday School sessions each week have a great time, and they’d love to have you join them! You can join live on Sunday mornings via Zoom – or watch our “Driveway Sunday School videos” (stories and music) online at your convenience.
The videos are on the church website (

To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.: (note this is a new link)
Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116

Please consider sharing this information with the young ones in your life!
Wednesday, June 24
7 – 8:30 p.m.
No registration needed

Rev. J.C. Austin is offering “Faith in Living Color: Race, Racism, and Christian Discipleship” via Zoom for First Presbyterian members and friends, as one of the first ways that we as a congregation are responding to the national debate about systemic racial injustice. 
If you missed the first two sessions, you can view the videos here: and join us for the remaining session. We hope that you will make a special effort to be part of the course.

Here is the information to join the session on Zoom:

Meeting ID: 885 3951 3725
Password: 791308

via phone (audio only):
Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 885 3951 3725   followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.
Roger and Marilyn Whitely are long-time (60 plus years) members of First Pres, and they have played a number of roles during that time. Would you consider sending them a note or card of greeting to brighten their day?
Roger and Marilyn Whiteley, 1886 Caryn Drive, Hellertown, PA 18055

Although the window of giving officially ended on May 31, we can still accept your contributions for the Pentecost special offering from PCUSA.
A gift to the Pentecost Offering helps the church encourage, develop, and support its young people, and also address the needs of at-risk children. Forty percent can be retained by individual congrega-tions wanting to make an impact in the lives of young people within their own community.

The remaining 60 percent is used to support children-at-risk, youth, and young adults through ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
You can make your gift via the special (red) envelope in your packet of envelopes (mail it or drop off) or online at .

Use the turquoise “donate” button to access our secure online portal. Please use the “notes” box to indicate which fund you are contributing to (e.g., Pentecost special offering).
You may have heard the term "Juneteenth" but are not familiar with what it is, or its history.

We encourage you to learn more about this day - Juneteenth Independence Day - commemorating the June 19, 1865 announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, effectively ending slavery in the U.S.
Click here to read about the history, celebrations, food, and resurgence in modern times.
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
  • 10-10:30 a.m.: "Sermon Response" - via Zoom (see details, above)
  • 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
  • 12-12:30 p.m.: "Sermon Response" - via Zoom (see details, above)

*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;