Friday, July 17, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

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


This has been a particularly difficult week for many people, which is saying something, given the challenges of an average week these past few months. The recent resurgence of the virus throughout most of the country has been disconcerting, particularly since those increases have not been limited simply to the states that have been the most lax in taking action to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus.

Many states, including Pennsylvania, have re-imposed restrictions that had been relaxed just a few weeks ago, and the current debate seems to be whether we have entered the “second wave” of the pandemic anticipated by many, or are simply caught in the undertow of the first wave.

Added to this has been an increasingly challenging national conversation around the question of what schooling should look like in the fall, in light of the pandemic. Students, parents, teachers, and staff are all feeling like pawns in a game that someone else is playing, where the rules keep changing and all the visible moves seem bad. 
As I was thinking about all this and how it might inform the sermon this coming Sunday, I came across an article suggesting that we reclaim the tradition of “Christmas in July” this summer, arguing that we could all use an extra dose of cheer these days. 
What actually caught my attention was that this is, in fact, a real tradition in the United States. I always thought it was just a marketing gimmick to get people to buy things when retail sales are sagging in the middle of summer with everyone on vacation. But apparently it began as a real celebration of Christmas, with trees and presents and everything, at a camp in the mountains of western North Carolina in 1940.

It spread as a practice during the war, and churches even got in on it, holding Christmas services and everything. By the early 1950s, the advertisers had decided to capitalize on it as they do in December, and that’s where the whole tradition of the sales came from.

I started thinking, hey, maybe this would be kind of fun. There were suggestions for putting a summer slant on traditional Christmas foods and decorations (Santa in board shorts, ice cream sandwich Christmas cookies, etc.). They lost me when they got to “bring out the Elf on a Shelf again,” though; personally, I think that’s annoying and stressful enough for one month a year already!

That also made me realize, though, that what we need right now is not forced cheer. Now, a “Christmas in July” celebration might be something that’s innately fun and energizing for you, and if so, go for it! But if it feels more like a chemistry experiment to try and cause a particular reaction instead of a garden that you want to plant and enjoy for itself, I wouldn’t recommend it.

In any case, it did make me think that perhaps we could all use a little “Advent in July.” Advent is a season that we usually struggle to hold onto because we are so eager for the celebrations of Christmas to arrive. But Advent has a beauty and power and meaning all its own, and which is particularly well-suited to where we find ourselves now.

So, this Sunday, we are going to consider what “Advent in July” might mean for us this year. To help get in the mood, consider finding something purple that you can have with you in digital worship from home. Purple, of course, is the color associated with Advent, so you could get some purple clothing or a coffee mug or a tablecloth or whatever it might be.

If you can, take a picture and post it as a Facebook comment at the beginning of the service on Sunday or, if that’s a challenge for you (or you’re watching on the website livestream or listening by phone), email it to and we will post it for you.

That said, if what you really need to do is simply show up in worship on Sunday, then just do that, and I look forward to being with you again! 

Grace and Peace,

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·     This week's sermon: Advent in July
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 watch a video – available after the services have aired:

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.:

Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116

Please consider sharing this information with the young ones in your life!
We welcome Hannah Steele back to our Sanctuary as the guest soloist for this Sunday’s Traditional service.
Hannah is a recent graduate of Westminster Choir College, graduating magna cum laude with her Bachelor's of Music in Voice Performance in May of this year. She performed in two operas at Westminster: as the 'Countess' in Marriage of Figaro and as a spirit in Massenet's Cendrillon .

Before her time at Westminster, she attended the Lehigh Valley Charter High school for the Arts and studied under David Macbeth (FPCB's musical director) for two years (and yes, she is the sister of Kyle Steele, one of our tech team members).
She is looking forward to attending graduate school in the near future and hopes to go on to have a long career in opera.
The 21-Day Racial Justice Immersion Project

As we shared with you in a recent Spotlight article, "More Than Good Intentions", we have begun a new initiative to address racial justice.
This project officially began on Wednesday, July 1 but you can jump in anytime. Basically it affords each of us the opportunity to commit to learning and listening more about the anti-racist history of our country, and how it has affected our Black neighbors.

Click on the image to the right to get started.
We will be adding additional resources to these pages; they will be listed at the top so you know which ones are new.

We will offer a Closing Reflection about this project via Zoom this Tuesday, July 21 at
7 p.m. You are welcome to join us even if you have not participated with the readings and other activities.

To join the Zoom meeting online: / Meeting ID: 828 8348 6416

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099 ; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 828 8348 6416 , followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.

We have taken the plunge and printed a DRAFT directory with the information we received pre-COVID. They are being mailed today, so if you provided information to us, one is on its way to you.

The printed information is as accurate as we had available, and the directory is definitely a draft. You can help us by contacting us at for any of these situations:

1.       If you did not provide information to us and would like to share your information
2.       If you did not receive a directory and would like one
3.       Your information was inaccurate or incomplete, please send the correct information

We will send corrected information via future weekly newsletters, so we encourage you to watch for that and make the corrections in your own copy. (We will not include any personal info in the newsletter that’s archived on the website.)

If you prefer to call us at 610-867-5865, just leave a message that you need to talk to someone about the directory (don't try to leave the details on the phone message).
Last Thursday evening about 25 members of FPCB gathered in the back parking lot for a fun evening of trivia and fellowship.  
With the help of our tech team, Kyle Steele and Aaron Kapes, we had sound, and Joanne Kelhart, with her Philly Fanatics hat, was the MC. Six teams competed for the bragging rights of FPCB Trivia Champions, with “Team We Focus” emerging on top ( pictured, right, masked up and ready to play: Bob Costello, Kerry Costello, and Donna Knepp). Come and join Team Google, Team of Ages, Team Rosie, Team Cubbies, and Team We Are Here for Fun and Fellowship, as they try to unseat them.
We’ll start at 6 p.m. for those who want to bring their own supper, followed by trivia at 7 p.m. (with a special guest star). New teams are welcome!

Next dates: Thursday, Aug. 13 and Thursday, Sept. 10 (rain dates will be the following Thursday). 

 Our friends who are involved with the Optimism 101 group have shared this update: The Optimism group continues to meet weekly. Please contact Melody for the specifics as days and times may vary. You can reach her at”
Please help us share this information, so we can help fill this important job for our Preschool program.

FPC Preschool has an exciting opportunity for a part-time Extended Care Coordinator. Hours are Monday - Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., or until the last child leaves; this position begins immediately.

The position requires certification in Elementary or Early Childhood Education.  
If interested, contact Andie Barbehenn at .
As with many large scale events, the annual Lehigh Pride Event has been reimagined to a virtual gathering via Facebook Live. Sponsored by Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, this celebration of LGBT arts and culture is now in its 27th year and will be held on Sunday, Aug. 16. 
The festival will include local and national talent, community spotlights, and more. We will be partnering with First Presbyterian Church of Allentown as a participating organization. More details to come, but you can check the latest here or on the Bradbury-Sullivan Facebook page.
The 2020 Census is currently underway, and Northampton County needs your help. The Census is conducted only once a decade, and its impact on communities, local, state, and county governments is long lasting. 
An accurate Census ensures that children and families receive their fair share of critical health and social services. It also allows Northampton County to invest in vital infrastructure projects. An undercount is an estimated loss of $2,093 per person, per year which is reduced funding available to the community, businesses, schools, churches, and organizations. 
It is in every resident’s interest that we achieve a complete and accurate count. You can use this link to access more information or to complete your own census form: .

If you need help please contact us at or leave a message at 610-867-5865. We are glad to help!
We have alerted you before, but it bears repeating – there are scammers who are ‘posing’ as local ministers, sending messages to their congregation members requesting the purchase of gift cards to help others in need.
Remember: neither of our pastors, nor any staff or other leaders in our church, will ever request gift cards or other cash gifts from you via text or email.

Please be wary, and if you receive such a message please do not respond to it, and immediately notify us at . Thank you!
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
  • 10:15-10:45 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

*NOTE: There will also be an online, pre-recorded video Sunday School lesson available on our website beginning on Saturday.

We will offer a Closing Reflection about the 21-Day Racial Justice Immersion Project via Zoom at 7 p.m. You are welcome to join us even if you have not participated with the readings and other activities.

To join the Zoom meeting online: / Meeting ID: 828 8348 6416

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099 ; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 828 8348 6416, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.

  • 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)

  • The Optimism group continues to meet weekly. Please contact Melody for the specifics as days and times may vary. You can reach her at

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;