Friday, February 19, 2021 Newsletter



9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

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

As most of you have realized, music of all kinds is very important to me in terms of my life and faith. Music is one of the most powerful ways that I experience God’s gifts of beauty, truth, meaning, love, and power; whether I’m listening to it or playing it myself; whether the music speaks directly to or about God, or simply references those gifts of God in speaking to something about human life.
One of my favorite current artists is a singer-songwriter named Foy Vance. He’s from Ireland, but spent much of his childhood in Oklahoma as the son of an itinerant Baptist minister who was an evangelist there. So his music is shaped by that experience and is a wonderful amalgam of Irish poetics and Southern soul. And he is a person of faith whose values show up periodically in his songs, both positively and in terms of a concern about superficiality and hypocrisy in religion that echoes some of Jesus’ in the gospel of Matthew (Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18) that we often read on Ash Wednesday.
So with that in mind, it’s perhaps not surprising that one of his songs is a story song that is essentially a reworking of the Good Samaritan story, with the roles of the Samaritan and the innkeeper rolled into one. It tells the story of a homeless and drug-addicted woman who comes to a hotel and asks the concierge if there’s any way she could get a room.

Realizing she can’t afford any of their rooms, he offers to give her his own room for the night so she can get cleaned up and rest. He even offers to sit with her through the night so she won’t be tempted to use drugs. Moved to tears, she asks why he’s helping her, and he responds, “consider it an indiscriminate act of kindness.” (You can listen to the full song if you’re interested)

Ever since I heard the song, I have preferred his language to the more common “random acts of kindness.” Random means truly random, with no consideration of the object of the kindness. And that, in itself, is good because it pushes us beyond acts of kindness simply to those whom we already know and love.

But “indiscriminate” acts of kindness go even further, directing us to those who are most in need of kindness and are often overlooked or rejected by others, and refusing to discriminate against them because they’ve somehow done something that means they no longer “deserve” kindness.

That, of course, is contrary to the heart of the Christian gospel, which is founded on the fundamental truth of God’s grace: that nobody “deserves” it, and yet everyone may receive it, because that is who God is.

The Discipleship Committee has started a wonderful Lenten initiative highlighting the idea of taking on additional practices of faith during Lent. This is specifically about a practice of daily acts of kindness through Lent. I encourage you to take on this Lenten practice, and to try to find different kinds of acts to do: intentional, random, and indiscriminate, and reflect on the impact of those acts both on the recipient and on you, the giver (see related article, “Lenten Challenge”, below).

Now, they will probably not be as dramatic as the ones in the song! But the point isn’t the drama; it’s the kindness. And in a time of great anxiety and isolation and pain and division, acts of kindness of any kind can be a powerful, even dramatic, ministry of healing and hope.

Grace and peace,

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read the verses
·   This week's sermon: Losing to Win 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 Sunday

The Discipleship Committee invites all families and individuals to participate in a 40-day Lenten Challenge! During Lent, some faiths focus on giving up something up that they love - like chocolate or sweets or even using social media.

Presbyterians have traditionally sought to ‘take up’ something, like helping out more at home or making an effort to be nicer to their brother or sister.
We are suggesting that you use this period of reflection and preparation to think of small ways to make someone else’s day a little better, through daily acts of kindness or gratitude. You can print the Lenten calendar here.

We are going to build a ‘virtual’ bulletin board where everyone can share and see these acts of kindness. Please share yours with us – acts of kindness you may have received, given, or heard about. You can send photos and/or words to or send to Lenten Challenge, FPCB, 2344 Center St., Bethlehem, PA 18017. We’ll share the link to the virtual bulletin board next week.
We can’t wait to see what everyone ‘takes up’!

As Monday, March 1, quickly approaches, we are excitedly preparing for the arrival of our new Associate Pastor, Rev. Lindsey Altvater Clifton. COVID has created some challenges in meeting Lindsey as the building is closed and we continue to gather virtually. However, we are using the blessing of technology to plan some virtual ways to welcome Lindsey into our church family with open arms.

Below are a few dates to mark on your calendar for opportunities to meet and hear from Lindsey; we will let you know as other opportunities arise: 
  • Sunday, March 14: ‘Meet and Greet’ hospitality hour following the 11 a.m. church service

  • Wednesday, March 17: Lindsey will present at the Lenten Supper

  • Friday, March 19: Game Night! (more info below)

  • Sunday, March 21: Lindsey will be preaching during both services
We ask that to help Lindsey ease into her new role (and not overwhelm her inbox) that you email Kristen Benway at with any ideas or other opportunities you might have, to welcome Lindsey to the congregation. The APNC (Associate Pastor Nominating Committee) is coordinating all of the welcoming opportunities.

If you are in a K group and have an interest in welcoming Lindsey during one of your meetings, please have a member of your K group email Gail Watts at to make arrangements.

We are looking forward to the warmer weather when we can once again gather outdoors. Lindsey’s installation will be scheduled at the end of April or the beginning of May.  Stay tuned for more details!

The One Great Hour of Sharing special offering is sharing God’s love with our neighbors around the world. It provides relief from natural disasters, food for the hungry, and support for the poor and oppressed. 

We have the opportunity to donate to this through Easter Sunday, April 4. Imagine the good that can come out of a whole denomination giving to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Self-Development of People. It reaches places one church alone cannot.  
If you have pledge envelopes, a special one for this offering is included. If you do not have envelopes, you may donate by sending your check to the Business Office; make it out to First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem and write “One Great Hour of Sharing” in the memo line.

You may also give online at; write “One Great Hour of Sharing” in the online memo box. Your donation will be greatly appreciated.

We will again present our popular “Lenten Supper Series”, every Wednesday from February 24 – March 24, offered via Zoom (online and “phone only”).
The Discipleship Committee has arranged for an interesting line-up of presenters, under the umbrella topic of “Worship: Praising and Enjoying God Together”.
You are welcome to join the Zoom at 6:00 p.m., for 30 minutes of fellowship time (you can eat your supper online with others or just enjoy the conversation).
The program begins at 6:30 p.m. and runs for an hour – if you have not already joined in, please sign in before 6:30 so we can start on time. 

February 24: “A Really Short History of Worship” by Steve Simmons
March 3: “A Preacher's Eye View of Music in Worship” by Cindy Simmons
March 10: “Christian Worship: A Cross-Cultural View” by Jim Stahl and Janet Stahl
March 17: “Worship Matters: Engaging Worship as an Embodied Spiritual Practice” by Lindsey Altvater Clifton
March 24: “Exploring the Art(s) of Preaching” by J.C. Austin

To join via / Meeting ID: 893 3839 7818

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 893 3839 7818 followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.

You can read more about each session in this week’s Spotlight newsletter.
Introduction to Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Abuse

Thursday, February 25
7 p.m. via Zoom

The Discipleship Committee invites you this learning opportunity, presented by Catherine Hernandez, an Outreach Advocate Educator with Turning Point of Lehigh Valley.
Turning Point is a safe place where survivors of domestic and intimate partner abuse and their children can find refuge. They provide services in Lehigh and Northampton counties and reach nearly 3,500 people a year through their programs and services.  
Those include a 24-hour Helpline, Emergency Safe House, Empowerment Counseling and Groups, Legal Advocacy, Outreach Education, and Medical Advocacy. Their Mission is to eliminate domestic and intimate partner abuse in the Lehigh Valley through empowerment, education, and engagement.

This program is open to all.

To join the Zoom meeting online:

Get your thinking caps ready - the Congregational Life Committee has planned two more dates for online Game Nights!

Mark your calendars for Friday, March 5 and Friday, March 19 - the fun starts on Zoom at 7 p.m. The games are easy and fun for all ages, so bring the family!

We are continuing to support the Bethlehem Emergency Shelter with a collection of needed items for the homeless men and women they serve. The collection will be taken through Sunday, February 28.

We are asking for donations of small fruit cups, nutrigrain/granola bars, and paperback books (especially those geared towards a male audience). You can safely deposit in the tub outside the South entrance; if you cannot travel to the church building please contact us at or 610-867-5865 and we will arrange for pick up.
The Hearts N Minds adult ed class has begun exploring The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending the Bible Has Made us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns.

For this Sunday, please read pages 73-99. Then get some blank paper ready ahead of class to make a chart/take notes on the two major story clusters in this section:
  • The Birth Stories in the Gospels
  • The Empty Tomb Stories in the Gospels

To join via
Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450
To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099when 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.
We are pleased to offer two Sunday School options for families! Gather with other families on Sunday mornings between 10:15-10:45 a.m. for a Zoom session; you can also do “anytime” Sunday School with a prerecorded series of videos on our website. 
This week's story is from the book of Matthew 5: 41: “Go the Extra Mile”. Jesus challenges us to not just do the minimum amount of kindness but to be kinder than you have to be.

To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.: 
Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116
Hi Neighbors is FPCB’s popular speaker series where adult learners of all ages hear presentations on a wide variety of interesting topics.

On Monday, March 8 author, archivist and historian Martha Capwell Fox will make a presentation on The Silk Industry in Easton”.  
To join Zoom online:
Meeting ID: 880 1333 6329

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 880 1333 6329 followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – press the # key again.
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!

  • 9:00 a.m.: Contemporary Worship service via Facebook Live and on our website
  • 9:00 a.m.: Hearts N Minds – see more information above
  • 10:15-10:45 a.m.: Sunday School via Zoom – see more information above
  • 11:00 a.m.: Traditional Worship Service - see instructions in blue box, below, to join us online, and in the yellow box to join us via phone
FOR THIS SUNDAY: : Worship with us “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!
  • 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: Visit our website
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE INTERNET ACCESS: You can participate on your phone to listen to the 11 a.m. Traditional service

To listen on the phone (audio only): 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 – press the # key again.
  • 7 p.m.: Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group weekly meeting, via Zoom (Meeting # 380 435 9056 / Password: overcomer)
  • 7 p.m.: Lenten Supper Series; see more information 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;

Marianne Zarillo, Business Manager: email:

Cindy Matthews, Bookkeeper: email:

Carol Burns, Communications Manager; phone 610-428-9649;

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