Friday - May 10, 2019



Children's Sunday School during both services

Join us for Hospitality in Fellowship Hall after each of our services!
A New Way to Look at the Parables
Two thousand years later, Jesus’ ministry of teaching continues to hold great power. Even people who are not Christian find great wisdom and constructive challenge in his teachings. And at the heart of Jesus’ teachings are his parables: stories designed to upend our expectations, disrupt our assumptions, and startle us with new insight.

The parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son are some of the most well-known stories in the history of the world. And in church life, the Parables of the Sower, of the Lost Sheep, of the Mustard Seed, and so on have been treasured favorites for preaching, devotions, and Bible study since the church began.
Which is precisely the problem. I wonder sometimes where the threshold of indifference is when you spend too much time with the marvels of art in this world. When does the janitor of the Sistine Chapel stop gasping in awe when he walks in to start work? When did Monet’s friends drop by his studio and say, “More water lilies, I see. So, want to grab something to eat?”
When did Jimi Hendrix’s neighbors come knock on his door and say, “I know you need to practice, but can you just turn down the volume some?” Overfamiliarity with anything, even works of profound genius, can rob us of our sense of their true power and insight.

If you’ve spent time in Christian churches, you have heard many of Jesus’ parables so often that they begin to be overly familiar, and you begin to lose sight and sense of what’s really being said in them. We remember that they are supposed to be powerful rather than experiencing that power directly anymore.

Which is why I am so pleased that Jim and Janet Stahl are going to be offering a very creative and engaging three-part series on the stories of the parables, starting next Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Parlor. Jim and Janet have an extraordinary ministry in which they literally travel the world helping people to engage the Scriptures in their own cultures and contexts through Biblical storytelling.

We are blessed that they have a window in-between travels right now and are going to help us to engage the parables with new eyes. This will be a very creative and active experience, but more importantly, it will be one in which I think you will discover new power and depth to some of Jesus’ most familiar teachings.

One of our Core Values as a congregation is that we value an “Inquiring Faith,” in which we strive to always ask better questions and seek more faithful answers to the great questions of faith and life. This is a wonderful opportunity to do just that, and I hope you will be part of it!

Grace and Peace,

First lesson: Revelation 7:9-17  
Second lesson: Colossians 3:12-17
·       This week’s sermon: The Well-Dressed Christian by Rev. J.C. Austin           
·       We post each week’s sermon (audio and text) on our website:
We are happy to share this communication from a former member, Jenny Scott:

Greetings to Rev. J.C. Austin:

While we have never met personally, I grew up at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem. I started attending when I was less than two years old. Grew up in the youth department and loved to sing in the choir. I even worked as a summer youth intern while in college. FPC supported me for 8 years as I was a missionary in Kolkata, India and Vancouver, BC. FPC also supported me through my M.Div. degree. It is the place where my faith was born, where I found my community and place of belonging for many years. 
While it has been some time, I wanted to reach out: it is with great joy that I announce that I will be ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church on Thursday, May 16 here in Houston, TX. 

I wish that FPC could be represented at the service. While I know this is not realistic (physically speaking anyway), I want to recognize how FPC has been such a blessing to me along this journey.
I am so grateful to FPC - how the people have supported, enriched, challenged and strengthened me for so many years.   Would you please send my gratitude for all that FPC has done, and a request for prayers for me as I prepare for the ordination. 

Jenny can be reached at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church, 18300 Upper Bay Road, Nassau Bay, TX 77058.

  • Session examined the new Session members, Lindsey Chadbourn, Kristen Benway, and Terrence DeFranco and the new Deacon, Jeanne Hunsicker. Their ordination was approved and we welcome them all to their new positions with gratitude for their willingness serve our church.

  • Don Robertson attended his final meeting as a member of Session. He opted not to serve a second term so that he could commit more to time to other ministries in the church. Please thank Don for his hard work and commitment of time on our behalf.

  • Session, under the direction of JC Austin, spent time identifying areas we need special volunteer leadership as our ministries continue to grow. Many areas were discussed including a librarian, a small group coordinator, a communion coordinator and a volunteer coordinator. These “positions” and many other areas were noted and are being defined by committees; if you are interested, please see any session member for more information.
  • Session approved a request from the Deacon Board to offer a two-part presentation by the Rev. Beth Goudy from the Metropolitan Church, “How to Support LGBT Spiritually". Both sessions were well attended and received, and we are considering repeating both in the fall that would be open to the public.

  • A 12 hour prayer vigil was held Saturday prior to Palm Sunday; about 20 participated in this new event. We are evaluating ways to expand it next year.

  • The Worship committee requested we consider adding a Compline service on Saturday, April 20 to complete our Holy Week schedule. The service was primarily planned by David Macbeth.

  • Elizabeth Conard, Session representative to the Preschool board, updated us on the Preschool status – of note was that enrollment for next fall is ahead of the same time last year. She also conveyed the appreciation of the Preschool for the cooperation with the church this year.

  • JC Austin reported on the recently-formed Bethlehem Interfaith Group (BIG) that he has helped create. Among several opportunities they are planning are a “Justice Sabbath” in the fall to be hosted at FPCB and an Interfaith Thanksgiving service.

  • Session approved Kirkland Village’s request to place signage on our property on Center Street as we have done in the past. They will be advertising their new building development.

  • Our final Mission and Congregational Core Values Statements were each approved by Session. Phyllis Walker and Don Robertson worked with JC to complete the final version. Printed copies will be available in the information racks.

  • A Worship Task Force was formed in 2018 to research and evaluate different styles of worship, changes to our worship, etc. Joanne Kellhart chaired the group that also included Rich Hjorth, Robert Hunsicker, Susan Yee, and Sally Ross. Session approved the following recommendations from the Worship Task Force:

  1. Continue no Sunday School on the first Sunday of each month so that children can participate in Communion.
  2. Offer a blended service four to six times a year.
  3. Evaluate options for making the contemporary worship service sound system easier to break down and set up so that the full Kirk Center can be used for recreational and community activities in addition to the contemporary worship services.
  4. Explore a mid-week service of some type to be determined by the Worship Committee.

  • Approved FPCB as a “stop” when the Bethlehem Interfaith Group has a “Faith Crawl” on September 15, 2019.
A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY: “Telling the Parables”
Wednesdays, May 15, 22 and 29
7 – 8:30 p.m. in the Parlor
Jesus shared his parables, not as words on a page, but as stories he told in his own words, relating them to his experiences as well as those of his followers.
Bible translators and interpreters Jim and Janet Stahl will offer three engaging sessions in which participants can begin to learn to tell three of Jesus’ parables. The sessions will include instruction and opportunity, in a friendly, safe environment, for each person to discover their own version of story-telling.
For some that will be telling all or part of a parable in a one-on-one setting or in a small group, while others may be comfortable in front of a larger audience.

Supported by FPCB, the Stahls have traveled the world teaching the skills of story-telling in many cultures. They share that these will be ‘friendly, fun sessions, with no experience needed’ and that they will help participants deepen their understanding of these parables.

You are welcome to attend one, two or all three of these sessions, sponsored by the Discipleship Committee. Senior highs and older are invited to participate; please register at or 610-867-5865.
LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS: Ron Helmuth Memorial Service Luncheon

Ron Helmuth’s memorial service will be held on Saturday, June 1 at 11 a.m. in the Sanctuary, followed by a luncheon in Fellowship Hall. We are looking for volunteers to serve as greeters that day, set-up help on Friday and Saturday, clean-up on Saturday, and to bring food donations of appetizers, salads and finger desserts.

If you are interested in helping, please sign up on this easy online form .
HI NEIGHBORS: Celebrating the end of our spring series

For our final spring event, join us at 9:45 a.m. this Monday, May 13, when we will be entertained by Les Chanteurs, a vocal ensemble from Freedom High School directed by Jenn Volpato. Following the performance, attendees will gather for lunch. Each person is asked to bring their own lunch; beverages and an ice cream dessert will be provided. 
SHEET DRIVE: Please consider donating
Our partner, Outreach Depot, has collected mattresses from an Allentown hotel and they are now in need of all sizes of new or gently used sheets and pillow cases. 
Your donation can be put in the marked bins in the North Link and Rotunda until Sunday, May 26.

They were exceedingly grateful for our blanket drive so thank you for considering a donation!  
FPCB’s partner, Northeast Ministries, is hiring Summer Camp counselors. If you are a high school student or graduate, come work with the kids from June 10 to August 2 at our camp. For more information contact Jackie Jimenez at or call her at 610-691-3355.
Send us your news and photos to share:
Deadline for 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!

  • Hospitality in Fellowship Hall after each service; join us for light refreshments and fellowship
  • 9:00 a.m. - Contemporary Service, Kirk Center
  • 9:00 a.m. - Sunday School, Pre-K through Grade 5, Room A4
  • 9:00 a.m. - Adult Education, Hearts N Minds, Room 400
  • 10:30 a.m. - Traditional Service, Sanctuary
  • 10:30 a.m. - Sunday School, Pre-K through Grade 5 (Children attend first part of worship service), Room E3-4
  • Childcare for Infants and Toddlers, 8:30 a.m. to noon, Room A3

MONDAYS:  Hi Neighbors informational programs, 9:15 a.m., Fellowship Hall; It’s a Start fitness class, 10 a.m., Middle School Step
TUESDAYS:  Depression Support Group, 12:30-2:30 p.m., Room 206 (PW Room)
WEDNESDAYS: Overcomers Outreach, 7 p.m., Room 408
THURSDAYS: Choir Rehearsal , 7 p.m., Sanctuary;  Al-Anon Family Group , 7 p.m.,
Room 212

FIRST SUNDAYS (next: June 2): Blood Pressure Screenings, between services, North Link; Bereavement Group gathering, 12:15 p.m. (meet in Narthex after 10:30 a.m. service)
FIRST AND THIRD TUESDAYS (next: May 21): Successful Aging, 10:30 a.m., Room 412
THIRD WEDNESDAY (next: May 15):  Dementia Caregiver Support Group, 1 p.m.,
Room 206 (PW Room)
THIRD THURSDAY (next: May 16): Prayers & Squares, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Room 408
(bring your lunch and join us to create quilts and prayer shawls)

CHURCH OFFICE HOURS: We are open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. NOTE: We will be closed on Monday, May 27 for Memorial Day.

As always, you can leave a voicemail message with the church any time at 610-867-5865 or contact us at . I f you have an urgent pastoral need, please call our answering service at 610-778-7003.

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, phone: 484-695-4905 or email 
    Phil Fair, Prayer Ministrants,  phone: 610-867-8361 or email   

BAPTISMS, WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS : If members of the FPCB congregation would like to schedule weddings, baptisms or funerals, please contact The Rev. Sue Bennetch at 610-867-5865, ext. 209.
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 Care Associate: ext. 209;

David Macbeth , Music Director: ext. 202;

Cristy Mette, Administrative Operations Manager: ext. 228;

Rebecca Angione, Facilities Manager: ext. 210;

Andréa Wells, Business Manager; ext. 211:

Carol Burns, Communications Manager; ext. 238;

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