Friday, September 25, 2020 Newsletter



(also available on our website and via phone)

A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: A new option to connect

One of the blessings that has emerged for me in the midst of everything that is so painful about the pandemic has been groups of pastors from across the country (and actually, across the world) who have connected online to share resources and ideas and offer support and encouragement to one another (as well occasionally venting their frustrations to each other!).

These groups have been invaluable as we here at First Pres have tried to faithfully navigate the shoals and rapids of this pandemic, in everything from best practices on livestreaming to questions about building usage to ideas for more innovative ministry.

In those forums, one of the themes that has come up over and over again is the challenge that the pandemic has simultaneously created a more pressing hunger for strong bonds of community than ever AND disrupted most of our normal ways of cultivating that sense of community. While much of the public attention has been on the question of gathering for worship, there are ways of providing meaningful worship digitally while we are staying apart physically, but that is harder to do in terms of community. 
That’s been my own experience on Sunday mornings, as well; while leading worship in an essentially empty room is challenging, what I miss most are the informal conversations at the door, in the halls, in the Narthex, or in the Hospitality Hour. The same is true about committee meetings, educational programs, and staff interactions. (Right: This is what I'm missing!)
We have been able to move most of the “official” elements of those activities online pretty seamlessly, but it is the informal chats around such activities to catch up with people that we have not been able to replicate.

So, in keeping with our identity as “an experimental church,” I’m going to try an experiment for the next four weeks that I’m calling, simply, “Pastor’s Coffee Break.” On Wednesdays at 11 a.m., starting next week on September 30, I’ll be hanging out on Zoom with a cup of coffee for an hour.

If you want to drop in and chat at any time during that hour, you can use a link that we’ll provide on the Facebook page and website, just like we do for other programs (it’s also listed below in the pink box). I’m calling it “coffee break” because that’s what a break in the late morning is often called, but feel free to have your own beverage of choice or none at all!

If this works, we’ll keep it up for a while; if it doesn’t, we’ll try something else. In the meantime, know that the Deacons and various committees of the Session, especially the Congregational Life Committee, are working on more organized ways of nurturing community in the church. But I miss chatting with you all, and thought this might be a simple way of doing that. Hope to see you some Wednesday in the next few weeks!

Grace and peace,

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·   This week's sermon: Fountains of Stone, 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
(if you attend worship in person, copies will be provided)

The 11 a.m. Combined Service will be “Live” on Facebook 

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 COMBINED SERVICE (at 11 a.m. this 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.
Wednesdays at 11 a.m. – noon

Join Rev. Austin for a casual, drop-in-anytime-during-the-hour time for coffee and conversation (or your beverage of choice).

To join the Zoom Meeting online:
Meeting ID: 8403 994 5735
To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 840 3994 5735 followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.
We celebrated a happy occasion this past Sunday in our Traditional worship service: the baptism of Alina Mae Cernobyl, daughter of Mark and Audrey Cernobyl.
The baptism was performed Covid-style: livestreamed, masked, with physical distancing, and a very small contingent of family and friends in attendance. And our members affirmed their role in her spiritual growth with comments in the Facebook feed.

Several of our ‘at home’ attendees – along with our ministers – commented on how nice it was to again hear a small voice during the service! 

We are getting a good response to our new Sunday School curriculum for our Kindergarten – grade 5 children.

We offer a Zoom gathering every Sunday from 10:15-10:45 a.m., and prerecorded videos that you can access at any time on our website (look for the Sunday School logo on the homepage).
This Sunday’s story is about two friends, Elijah and Elisah, from 1 Kings 19:14-21 and how friends encourage one another.

The prerecorded videos will be posted every Saturday on the website page, and you can also find the Zoom login info for Sunday morning in the same place.
The prerecorded videos will be posted every Saturday on the website page, and you can also find the Zoom login info for Sunday morning in the same place.

To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.:

Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116

For this Sunday: We will not meet if the Combined Service’s outdoor option goes on as planned. If postponed due to weather, we will meet via Zoom this Sunday.

Our adult ed class, Hearts N Minds, has begun its weekly discussion about social justice, what the Bible says to us, and thoughtful, meditative readings. Everyone is welcome and you can join at any time. We meet every Sunday at 9 a.m. via Zoom. The first book is Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans.
The assignment for this week is the chapter titled “Origin Stories” (pages 7-28 in the print version). Please read the chapter through quickly and then go back and underline and highlight areas of interest.

Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.
Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: Freedom in Community
Wednesdays: October 14, 21, and 28
7:00 to 8:00 p.m. 
Via Zoom
Presenter: The Rev. Dr. Steve Simmons

As we close in on what is surely one of the most important and contentious elections in our lifetime, let’s take a deep breath, step back from the immediate moment, and talk about some of the “fundamentals” of our life together as Christians, and as citizens. 
On three evenings in October, we’ll dig into Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which speaks to an early church in conflict and tackles some very timely (then and now) questions: What does freedom in community mean? What is the difference between the good news of the Gospel and “fake news”, and how can we distinguish the one from the other? What does responsible citizenship mean when one is called to be in, but not “of,” this world?  
Join us for some spirited (and, we hope, enlightening) discussions on these critically important issues in Paul’s time, and in ours. 
Sunday, October 4 (rain date: October 11)
3 p.m.
Front Lawn
Bring your favorite friend to receive a blessing (crated or leashed, please). Enjoy a short service and music; we’re also asking participants to bring a donation of a pet supply (food, toy, etc.) that will be shared with Meals on Wheels. Many Meals on Wheels participants struggle to provide these items to their own pets. All people need to wear masks and practice physical distancing.

We look forward to seeing you!
Please help us spread the word about our new School-Age Program - meeting a need in our community by providing a safe, supportive space for K-5 kids to spend their remote-learning days (when they can't stay at home).

Consider printing out this informational flyer to share with friends, family and co-workers - you can also email it to them, and/or share this link with them:
Our kid-friendly, bright and spacious classrooms are ready to go (along with outdoor spaces), and the staff is hired and eager to welcome families to this program.
The program will be starting soon, and will be offered from Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
We have worked hard to keep fees affordable, and income-based discounts and scholarships are available.
We had a great turnout for our first-ever Hi Neighbors speakers bureau presentation on Monday, “Voting in 2020: A Guidebook”. We got timely and accurate information about this year’s election, “straight from the source”: Northampton county executive Lamont McClure and registrar Amy Cozze.
The group met via Zoom, which allowed for the speakers to share informational slides, and for the audience to ask questions. The other advantage to meeting virtually is that we recorded the session, so even if you were unable to attend – or want to revisit it – you can get all this great information!
Click on the video (right) for this important information.

Our Monday, October 19 presentation will continue the voting theme, with a look at the history of the 19th Amendment by author and retired history teacher, Alicia Iacono.
You will use the same login information for the 10 a.m. session:
Meeting ID: 889 4647 5793

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 889 4647 5793, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.
Last Friday evening was the last of our outdoor Parking Lot Trivia events. Despite the cooler temps we had a good turnout of almost 30 people. A new team, “Party of Eight” was victorious with “Team Rosie” coming in second; “Team We Focus” was recognized for winning two of the three events. 

Aaron Kapes, Kyle Steele, and Jake Brown were recognized with goodie bags for their expertise in helping making our Trivia events a success. The Congregational Life team would like to thank everyone who participated and remind you to watch for coming events in the near future! 

For those who are wondering whether the CROP Hunger Walk will be happening this year, the answer is a resounding “Yes”! But it will be a bit different. 
Partner congregations are encouraged to “go virtual,” promoting, contributing to, and registering for the event online.
Among other things, this means that if people can’t participate on Sunday,
October 11, they can do so at a time they find more convenient.

It’s up to individual teams to determine how, and how far, they wish to walk. Households, K groups, and other small clusters may want to walk together (some churches have reported that they plan to do some “rope hikes,” with knots in the rope spaced six feet apart to keep walkers physically distant!). Improvisation is the order of the day.

As far as possible, we encourage those who wish to contribute to do so online through our team link on the Bethlehem Walk website. Those who prefer to contribute by check can write their check to the church with “CWS/CROP” in the memo line, and we’ll combine individual contributions into one check issued from FPCB. Mail or drop off your checks to: FPCB, Attn: CROP Walk, 2344 Center Street, Bethlehem, PA 18017.

Last year, the CROP Walk fielded more than 800 congregational teams nationwide with more than 100,000 walkers participating, raising more than $7,600,000 for hunger relief and agricultural development worldwide. The Bethlehem Walk raised a little over $20,000, with $5,000 of that amount going to local food banks and hunger ministries. Our First Presbyterian team led the field of Bethlehem congregations in 2019, and we’re hoping for enthusiastic participation again, come rain, shine, or pandemic.

Church World Service notes that, even though the walk this year presents unusual logistical challenges, it’s needed now more than ever. Please join us in taking one more step toward ending hunger through this year’s walk.

If you have questions about how to do a “virtual” walk, please contact us at or leave a message at 610-867-5865.
Friends –

Will you join us in ‘showering’ member Jeaniene Eisenberg with cards, greetings, interesting articles and other mail, as she faces some health challenges:

Ms. Jeaniene Eisenberg
Holy Family Manor – S-T Rehab
1200 Spring Street
Bethlehem PA 18018
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 any prayer requests to or call 610-867-5865 and leave a message.
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 bulletin, above)

  • 10:15 a.m.: Sunday School for K-5, via Zoom (see more information above)
  • 11:00 a.m.: Combined Worship Service - offered outdoors in front of the church building and also via livestream; see instructions in blue box, above, to join us online, and in the yellow box to join us via phone 


  • 11:00 a.m.-noon: Pastor’s Coffee Hour via Zoom (see Rev. Austin’s Pastor’s Message, above for details)
  • 7 p.m.: Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group, via Zoom. Please send an email to (or call 610-867-5865) to get the log-in information.

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;

Marianne Zarillo, Business Manager: email:

Cindy Matthews, Bookkeeper: email:

Carol Burns, Communications Manager; ext. 238;

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