Friday, April 17, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

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

A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Behind the scenes

Earlier this week, I was on a videoconference call with the rest of the Advisory Board of Macedonian Ministry, a national and ecumenical clergy development organization that was started by the Rev. Dr. Tom Tewell, whom some of you know from his time here as an associate pastor in the 1970s. As I joined the call, the new executive director of Macedonian Ministry greeted me and asked, “how was Holy Week for you?” I responded, “well… unusual,” to some knowing laughs from other board members, “but beautiful,” I continued, and others nodded thoughtfully in agreement, too.

And I meant that: it was certainly the most unusual Holy Week experience of my nearly 20 years of ordained ministry, most obviously on Easter Sunday morning, when our Sanctuary that would normally be filled with 700 people for the Traditional service only had myself, Sue Bennetch and our audio/visual team members, Aaron Kapes (left) and Kyle Steele, in the room as the service began. 

Even David Macbeth, our Music Director, and our singers and instrumentalists were not present, having pre-recorded their work earlier in the week to minimize the number of people needed in the Sanctuary for the livestream itself.
But it was also a truly beautiful Holy Week: Maundy Thursday was particularly intimate and powerful as we gathered in virtual “rooms” using Zoom videoconferencing to discuss Scripture and share Communion as if we, like Jesus’ disciples, were gathered in an upper room the night of his arrest.
The Good Friday Tenebrae service, which I was most nervous about how it would translate onto the livestream, was a moving experience in part because our dispersion in our homes mirrored the way Jesus’ disciples were scattered in the aftermath of his arrest, trial, and crucifixion. And Easter came with the promise of “he is not here; he has gone ahead of you; there you will see him” resonating in ways that it never had before.

So with that unusual and beautiful experience still in our minds and hearts, I want to say two things. First, a word of profound and humble gratitude to all of those staff members who put so much time and energy into making Holy Week happen so faithfully and well. Some of those are highly visible, like David and all of our musicians and singers, or Sue with her powerful prayers in worship.
Some you saw in passing, like Cristy Mette who organized and facilitated the technology parts of Maundy Thursday. And some you did not see at all, like Aaron and Kyle making our livestreaming seem easy (pictured above after the 9 a.m. Contemporary Service on Easter), or Carol Burns keeping us constantly informed through communications, or Rebecca Angione, Jake Brown, and Kyle Willans, who are keeping our building running well and our worship spaces clean and set up for our livestream services.

And, of course, in the midst of all that, Andie Barbehenn and the indefatigable Preschool teachers have continued to be creative and energetic about engaging our Preschool children and families online, while Cindy Matthews, our temporary Bookkeeper, is keeping us moving forward on course in terms of the church’s financial operations. Truly, it is an extraordinary team that we are blessed to have as part of the church.

And second, we are now in the season of Easter, of resurrection and new life. Yet like the disciples after Easter, we remain withdrawn into our houses for safety, as well. Those two things are not mutually exclusive; the question is how to honor both faithfully.

That is the question we will be asking and attempting to answer in the coming weeks, not only through worship but through our other ministries, as well. There will be more experiments to come for our ministry and life together during this time of “sheltering in place,” even as we look forward to the time that we can faithfully and safely come back together in person. So l look forward to hearing your ideas and to seeing your faces online as we continue to worship and serve the Risen Lord!

Grace and peace,

Old Testament lesson: Acts 2:14.22-32

New Testament lesson: John 20:19-31

Click each link to read online
·     This week's sermon: My Lord and My God! by Rev. Sue Bennetch

·       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

We are pleased to announce a new way to securely make your donations online to FPCB: 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 (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.
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.
Hearts N Minds Adult Education
The class will return this Sunday at 9 a.m. via Zoom to continue discussing
Sister Joan Chittister’s book, For Everything a Season . For this Sunday,
the chapter is entitled "A Time to Weep".

Meeting ID: 831 165 912

Or you can join via phone (audio only): 929-205-6099 and enter the Meeting ID
We had a very good turnout for Monday evening’s presentation of “Why Are People So Complicated?” by Bob Costello (pictured, right). If you missed it, we’ve posted a link to the recording of the Zoom presentation at – we think you’ll find Bob’s strategies of how to improve communication to be very valuable!
On Wednesday, Mary Lou Hatcher had an equally good group join her for the first in a series of three sessions, “Constructive Conversations in Difficult Situations”. If you missed it, you can still join the next two – Wednesdays at 7 p.m.:

Session Two (April 22): “Trusting and Growing our Own Capacity for Staying Present to the Other”
It is simple to say “love your enemy”. It is not so simple to do. This session will focus on some of the contemplative practices that help us to stay grounded, open and vulnerable when face to face with “the other”. We will look at ways to firmly claim our own values, without closing the door to a relationship.

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.
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. 
Last Saturday we used Facebook to share Easter traditions – like the bunny cake Jeanne Hunsicker has been baking for her children and grandchildren for 50 years (right) !

Other traditions included decorating homes with an ‘egg tree’ and floral door decorations, making homemade ‘bunny’ rolls, giving out new toothbrushes, and traditional – and not so traditional - Easter egg-dying. One family uses natural dyes from plants (like onion skins, red cabbage, and spinach), and another started a new tradition: a family egg-dying party via Zoom. Thanks to all who shared!
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;