Friday, April 3, 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: A different kind of journey

Friends, we are about to enter Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday this Sunday. This, obviously, is going to be a different experience of Holy Week than we’ve ever had before. For some of us, this will be an experience of grief: missing seeing each other, being with each other in the somber contemplation of Good Friday and the joyful celebration of Easter.

For some of us, this will be a journey that provides new meaning to both our faith and our worship services, as we hear and experience this familiar story in very different ways, shaped by the crisis our world is undergoing right now and buoyed by the current of hope that is at the very heart of our Easter faith: that God “has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”
(1 Peter 1:3). 
For most of us, I suspect there will be elements of both, in varying ways and proportions. And that is not only understandable, but healthy. I commend to you an excellent article published last week in the Harvard Business Review entitled, That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief, which names the dynamics of grief that we are all going through, and also brings in the question of finding meaning in the midst of it without denying the reality of grief.
And so, while there is obviously a sense of loss in how we will experience Holy Week this year, I can also think of perhaps no better season in the Christian calendar for us to be going through this pandemic. Because Holy Week simultaneously contains the greatest moments of grief and loss in our faith, and also the most profound expressions and experiences of meaning and hope. So as we prepare to enter this most sacred time of the Christian year, I urge you to walk fully through its richness and beauty and power, especially if you find yourself having more free time than usual.

We will celebrate Palm Sunday this Sunday at both 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. via Facebook Live. On Thursday night at 6 p.m., we will have an “Interactive Maundy Thursday Service,” which will combine prayers, Scripture, and music, with interactive small group Scripture discussions in virtual “rooms” on Zoom, and a similar experience of sharing Communion in small groups that will be closer, in many ways, to the Last Supper in the upper room than our typical services have been. I think it will be very meaningful, and urge you to be a part of it. (Details will be in next week’s Mid-Week Update email.)

Next Friday, we will have our Good Friday Tenebrae Service at 8 p.m. via Facebook Live; if possible, I encourage you to prepare for that service by joining it from a room that has a light switch with a dimmer, or multiple lamps that you can lower and turn off, or even candles that you can set out and extinguish as the service progresses into greater darkness. We will have more to say about both of those services early next week. And, of course, we will celebrate Easter at both 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 12.

Now, as I say all that, I also need to say that some of these plans may change in real time, or some aspects of the services may change, as the dynamics of the pandemic continue to develop. That may even happen as early as Palm Sunday. So I encourage you to monitor the church’s Facebook page and electronic communications if possible, because those are the quickest ways we can keep you informed.

But regardless of any such changes, we will continue to worship together online; we will walk through Holy Week together; and we will gather on Easter morning to celebrate the empty tomb together. I am grateful for this congregation and for our commitment to each other in this moment, and I look forward to experiencing Holy Week with you.

Grace and Peace,

Scripture lesson:
Luke 19:29-40

·     This week's sermon:   Listening for the Stones 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

You may also want to print a palm frond pattern to color, or trace on to green 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 on Monday:
  • Visit our website and look for the link on the homepage

Email us at for sign-in instructions; class begins at 10:15 a.m. via Zoom.

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

When you join one of our services on Sunday, please prepare your own elements in advance, and we will bless them in the communion prayers and take them together from our own homes.
What elements do you need? In these special circumstances, any kind of bread will do – whatever you have on hand (don’t make a special trip): bread, bagel, tortilla, cracker, pita chip or anything along those lines (basically anything that is made from wheat flour or a gluten-free alternative). 
As to the cup, there are three choices, and you should have at least one of them on hand. If you have available (and again, don’t make a special trip), you can use grape juice or wine. And if neither of those is an option for you for whatever reason, then simply use water.

In any case, if you are worshipping as a family, we ask that you use separate cups rather than share one, for hygienic reasons.
CHILDREN'S SUNDAY SCHOOL: for Kindergarten - Grade 5

This Sunday, we will hold our first Zoom Sunday School beginning promptly at
10:15 a.m. This program is aimed at children Kindergarten through Grade 5 and will last for about 30 minutes. 
Email us at for sign-in instructions. The Zoom platform is free and easy to use.

Families are invited to participate with their children – in fact, younger children will probably need adult help to participate. 
Handout #1:  coloring page
Handout #2 : two page handout

You may also want to print a palm frond pattern to color, or trace on to green paper.

We hope you enjoy this Sunday School experience!
We met as a Congregation last Sunday, and approved 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: Kristen Benway, Rich Gorton, George Mauntz, Don Robertson, Blaine Sheppard, Froy Thompson and Gail Watts.

A discussion of proposed by-law changes was tabled for the time being.

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
Sunday, April 5: Palm Sunday (Communion Sunday) – see instructions above to prepare for communion
   9 a.m.: Contemporary Service via Facebook Live
   10:15 – 10:45 am.: Children’s Sunday School via Zoom and phone (see article above)
   11 a.m.: Traditional Service via Facebook Live and phone
Thursday, April 9 at 6 p.m.: Interactive Maundy Thursday service, via Zoom (details to come)
Friday, April 10 at 8 p.m.: Tenebrae service via Facebook Live and phone
Saturday, April 11 at 7 p.m.: Compline - contemplative, candlelit service via Facebook Live and phone
Sunday, April 12 : Easter Sunday (Contemporary and Traditional services)
    9 a.m.: Contemporary Service via Facebook Live
    11 a.m.: Traditional Service via Facebook Live and phone
    Noon: Join us for an Easter Hospitality Time via Zoom (details to come)

Let's use our Facebook page to connect!
"Virtual Pizza Party": TONIGHT, beginning at
6 p.m. - stop by our Facebook page and look for our Pizza post. In the comments, share a photo of your pizza and maybe who made it or who is eating it (delivery pizza is OK too).

What kind of creative toppings can you come up with? How about sharing your recipe?

If pizza's not your thing, drop by to say hello!
"Share your Easter traditions!":  Beginning at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 11 - come to our Facebook page to post photos and/or descriptions of your family's Easter traditions.

Do you decorate Easter eggs? Bake a bunny cake? Display vintage Easter egg
decorations? Whatever you do to help make the celebration special, we'd like to
see it - who knows, you may inspire someone to adopt your idea!

Join us for Hospitality on Easter Sunday: We're working on plans to gather via Zoom to enjoy fellowship, beginning at noon. Watch for details.
Member Kate Arrington shared this update about the card ministry that her family is doing - it is so appreciated:
Lizzie and I spent the morning service folding a flock of butterflies and two bunnies. We are continuing the card ministry during this time of social distancing. Since we can't be present during Fellowship hour for members to sign the cards, we thought we would add a spring butterfly to each one.

If you know of someone who would benefit from a colorful greeting from the church, please send an email to with the name and address. 

One of our longtime members, Polly McClure, is now under hospice care at Kirkland Village. Polly has always been very faithful in sending cards to those in need, and now we are asking you to consider dropping her a note. Her address is 1325 Kirkland Village Circle, Bethlehem, PA 18017.

We have also been in contact with Jen Laury, the activity director at Kirkland Village. With their residents confined to their rooms and no visitors, they would love to hear from us with artwork and notes of cheer. You can forward those to Jen at Kirkland Village, 1 Kirkland Village Circle, Bethlehem, PA 18017.

NOTE: Because of the restrictions on visitors, you will need to mail your greetings. They cannot accept deliveries from individuals. Thank you!

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.

Hearts N Minds is continuing their weekly discussions using the ZOOM tool to connect:
They are now studying The Last Week by Marcus Borg and John D. Crosson. The reading assignment is in the chapter “Easter Sunday”: pages 190- 209, stop at "Easter and Christian Life Today".

There is no class on Easter Sunday, April 12. The class will then return to Sister Joan Chittister’s book, For Everything a Season , on April 19.

For Sunday at 9 a.m. : / Meeting ID: 831 165 912

Or you can join via phone (audio only): 929-205-6099 / Meeting ID: 831 165 912

Here's a link to a coloring page (for all ages!) of a beautiful "Alleluia" butterfly. Use it to decorate your own space, put in a window for walkers to enjoy, or consider mailing it to someone who could use a lift!

And if you're more ambitious, you can print out the same design on four 'tiles' that will make a larger design. Let us know if you do it - better yet, share a photo!

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!

Praise the Lord, God our Savior, who helps us every day
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)
  • 10:15-10:45 a.m. – Children’s Sunday School (see article above, for connecting)
  • NEW TIME! 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

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;