Friday, June 12, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

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

A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: “All of the Above”

Today I filled out a survey from the Log College Project, the program of Princeton Seminary that we are part of, that is trying to cultivate new ways of doing ministry with young people. The survey was to help them get a better sense of how the events of the past three months have been impacting that ministry and how they might help us respond.

One of the question was something like, “in a word or phrase, describe how are you feeling in this moment? (“I’m exhausted.” “I’m hopeful.” “I’m overwhelmed.” “I’m excited.” I’m grieving.”) My answer to that question was, “all of the above.” And I suspect that’s the answer that many of you would give if you were asked the same question.

We’ve talked periodically through the pandemic about grief; I even preached a sermon on it as an expression of love, in the sermon series after Easter: “Love in the Time of the Coronavirus.” But grief – which is not limited to death, but any kind of loss, including our expectations or beliefs about our lives and society and world - is hitting us in a whole new way in the last few weeks:
  • grief for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many others
  • grief for those who have been abused or even killed in or around the protests, including protesters, bystanders, and law enforcement officers
  • grief for the sense of how familiar so much of this is in so many ways, in spite of the progress that has been made over the decades. 
And we are exhausted and overwhelmed by the stress of processing it all and trying to figure out what are the faithful and constructive and impactful ways to respond as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Yet while acknowledging and honoring that, we should also not lose sight of the reasons to be hopeful and even excited. The entire top-10 of the New York Times bestseller list are books related to understanding and combating systemic racism. Organizations and individuals who have never spoken out against racism and white supremacy before are doing so. And 68 people showed up for the first session of our new adult education course, “Faith in Living Color: Race, Racism, and Christian Discipleship.”

There were also a handful of people who had technical difficulties joining (our apologies; we have a plan to prevent that from happening again), and others who were simply unable to attend for various reasons. So you can go to and find links to the course, as well as the sermon series “Sermons in Extraordinary Time,” as that progresses. We’ll also share other relevant resources as we create or curate them, including the work of our Racial Justice Task Force, a new initiative from the Session to help guide our efforts in this crucial work.

I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work in our congregation and our world in the midst of “all of the above,” and will continue to be so as we strive to be faithful to our calling in this tumultuous season.

I am grateful for us as a congregation that is truly leaning in to that calling, to our core values and our mission as I mentioned last week. And I am hopeful that there is good and important fruit that is being born in the midst of all this that will nourish us all more fully in God’s ways of justice, mercy, and peace.

Grace and peace,
PS – Please remember our “Sermon Response” sessions available via Zoom, after each service on Sunday: an opportunity to reflect on the message with others. Details are below.

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·     This week's sermon: The Big Reveal 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 join the ‘Sermon Response’ Zoom Meeting after each service: / Meeting ID: 955 325 387

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 – simply press the # key again.

To watch a video – available after the services have aired:
  • Visit our website and look for the link on the homepage
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE INTERNET ACCESS – OR PREFER TO “LISTEN IN” ON SUNDAY ON YOUR PHONE. Stay on the call for the ‘Sermon Response’ discussion (12-12:30 p.m.)

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

Stories! Songs! Friends!  This week’s Sunday School experience will be a combination of a live Zoom gathering on Sunday morning from 10:15-10:45 a.m. AND pre-recorded videos that you can access at your convenience.

The videos are on the church website ; scroll to the bottom of the homepage.
To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.: (note this is a new link)

Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116
MEET OUR GUEST VOCALIST: Lauren Curnow Madigan
We are pleased to welcome Lauren Curnow Madigan as our guest vocalist for Sunday’s Traditional service.

Lauren, a mezzo soprano, holds Masters Degrees in Music and Opera Performance from The Juilliard School and The Curtis Institute of Music, respectively, and earned a B.A. from Muhlenberg College where she is on the voice faculty.
She has performed roles with numerous opera companies, both in the U.S. and internationally, and completed apprenticeships with The Opera Theater of St. Louis, The Santa Fe Opera and The Wolftrap Opera.

Visit her website:
Amanda Gerrity, a member of our congregation, will share her vocal talents during the Contemporary worship service; she is a member of the group of musicians who regularly present music for that service.
Wednesdays, June 17 and June 24
7 – 8:30 p.m.
No registration needed

Rev. J.C. Austin is offering “Faith in Living Color: Race, Racism, and Christian Discipleship” via Zoom for First Presbyterian members and friends, as one of the first ways that we as a congregation are responding to the national debate about systemic racial injustice. 
If you missed the first session, you can view the video here: and join us for the remaining sessions. We hope that you will make a special effort to be part of the course.

Here is the information to join the session on Zoom:

Meeting ID: 885 3951 3725
Password: 791308

via phone (audio only):
Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 885 3951 3725   followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.

The Lackawanna, Lehigh, and Northumberland Presbyteries have been offering a series of important Zoom workshops on topics of concern for churches in the COVID-19 era.
These workshops are open to everyone: church members, elders, and ministers. They begin with a presentation highlighting the major issues, followed by an opportunity for Q & A and conver-sation. The workshops will be recorded and posted on our websites. To register:
Tuesday, June 16 :  1:00-3:00 p.m. (Synod-wide)
The Expanded Table: Ideas for a Hybridized Worship Experience Between People on Zoom and People in Person. Former PC(USA) Moderator Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow will lead us in a conversation about how churches’ new ways of worshiping can be combined with pre-COVID-19 worship as a both/and rather than an either/or.
Roger and Marilyn Whitely are long-time (60 plus years) members of First Pres, and they have played a number of roles during that time. Would you consider sending them a note or card of greeting to brighten their day?
Roger and Marilyn Whiteley, 1886 Caryn Drive, Hellertown, PA 18055
After a brief hiatus, our Optimism 101 group is back on Wednesdays at noon, via Zoom.

As we work our way through these changing and challenging times, we all struggle from time to time with feelings of isolation, loneliness and the loss of personal connection. 
In response to this ongoing issue, the Optimism 101 group will be changing the focus of weekly meetings to address the current issues related to the sudden loss of our familiar patterns, our social/in person connections and the ways we can support each other as our neighborhoods open up. This loosening of restrictions is fraught with concerns for ourselves and others and yet, so welcomed and needed by many.

To join the Zoom meeting: / Meeting ID: 881 8442 8633

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

Questions? Please contact us at
The teachers and families of our Preschool met up one last time this week – ‘at a safe distance’ – to say good-bye
to a most unusual school year!

The families did a ‘drive through’ in which they picked up their belongings and gave a wave to their teachers.
We will soon be opening our ‘Summer Splash’ program to currently-enrolled families only, and are accepting registrations for fall. Info at .
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**
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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
  • 10-10:30 a.m.: "Sermon Response" - via Zoom (see details, above)
  • 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
  • 12-12:30 p.m.: "Sermon Response" - via Zoom (see details, above)

*NOTE: There will also be an online, pre-recorded video Sunday School lesson available on our website beginning on Saturday.
  • 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)
  • noon - 1 p.m.: Optimism 101 support group via Zoom (see details 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;

Carol Burns, Communications Manager; ext. 238;

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