Friday, May 19, 2023 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. ‘Holy Ground’ Contemporary Worship in Fellowship Hall
  (in person)
11:00 a.m. Traditional Worship in the Sanctuary
  (in person and livestreamed on Facebook and our website)

As you all know, we as a congregation are in a significant ongoing conversation about our mission strategy as a church, and more specifically how we can use our facilities and property to extend and expand that mission in a financially sustainable way. While nothing has been decided yet, it is likely that this will include both long-term initiatives and shorter-term agreements with community partners. 
The Mission Strategy Steering Committee continues to work hard on these issues, and will be sponsoring its next congregational gathering as a “Lunch and Learn” on Sunday, June 4, after worship. Details for that gathering will be coming.

At the moment, though, I want to highlight our most recent partnership, which is sponsoring a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous here at our church facilities on Thursday nights.
This church already has a longstanding commitment to an explicitly Christian substance abuse recovery group, Overcomers Outreach. In fact, we will be having a Minute for Mission in worship at the end of June to highlight that group’s 30 year ministry here at First Pres.

Alcoholics Anonymous (“AA”) is a spiritually-grounded program that is built around alcoholics helping one another recover from their addiction, but it is not specifically Christian. So why would we do both? Well, to put it simply, because that’s what Jesus did. Jesus healed people of diseases and exorcised demons, and while he commended some of them for their faith, he did not require them to make a specific faith commitment in order for him to care about them.

Rather, he helped them just as they were, simply because they needed help, and it was in tending to their need that he proclaimed the nature of God’s kingdom: a community of restoration and reconciliation, of life and love and hope, through the power of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ.

And so we do that explicitly through Overcomers with those who identify as Christian, and we do it now implicitly by using our facilities to support AA, thus enabling us to care for a greater number and range of people in Christ’s name than we could if we only supported one.

As I thought about all this, I came across a powerful poem that I think gives wonderful insight; it is called A Hymn to Church Basements. We, of course, do not have the stereotypical church basement beneath the Sanctuary that is typical of a small church, and the poem is geared more towards the specifics of Narcotics Anonymous, but I think it captures not only the power of these recovery programs but also why they have historically been partnered with churches.

I invite you to read it and consider it not only in terms of these partnerships, but the unexpected ways in which the less obvious places in church buildings can be spaces of profound ministry and healing and even, as the season of Easter prepares to draw to a close, of resurrection:

This world loves a grand cathedral:
its righteousness and pulpit,
purported sanctuary of redemption,
holy spire & stilled saints,
history of fire & painted glass.
Pews where congregants pray & worship,
troubled by questions they hope someone
has answers to.
They wait on their knees to be forgiven.
But where are the songs of praise
for church basements?
That lower level, that rock bottom room
sunken & reverent with flickering lights,
water-stained ceilings & coffee-stained carpets,
its full moon of chairs that appear
every night at 8:00 because a crackhead
made a commitment?
People don’t kneel in church basements.
Instead, we squat against walls
& stand arms crossed in doorways.
We sit slouched & messy, look each other in the eyes
say, I am an addict and I don’t want to die
& oh God, is this not a kind of miracle?
I prefer my angels banged up & salty,
chubby from eating cookies instead of shooting dope.
They pull splinters from their wings,
hug the newcomer too tightly,
shake their heads at me when I don’t raise my hand to share.
No matter how tough I try to look, no matter how long it takes,
they say keep coming back kid.
Tonight, the addict who overdosed last month,
the one who had to be revived with Narcan,
is making the coffee.
- Joan Kwon Glass
Grace and Peace,

  • This week’s sermon: Up, Up, and All Around by the Rev. J.C. Austin

  • We post the video of each week’s services and sermon text on our website:
TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT on 8.5" x 11" paper for Sunday


  • Child care will be available from 8:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. this Sunday morning; please ask an usher for directions.

  • Your children are a joy in our worship services, and should the need arise, “kid bags” are available for their use. They are in the Narthex and in the blanket-sitting area (to the left of the communion table in Fellowship Hall).

  • We offer nametags for folks to wear – these are for everyone! You can pick up as you enter the worship space; please clearly PRINT your first name.
AFTER EACH SUNDAY SERVICE: Coffee & Conversation

Folks are invited to stay for Coffee & Conversation following each of our two worship services. 

This is an opportunity for connection in Fellowship Hall where you’ll find coffee for adults along with juice boxes and a simple snack for children. 

The Hearts N Minds adult ed class will meet this Sunday from 9:45-10:40 a.m. in the Parlor – this will be the last session before the summer hiatus.

The group is studying the book, Elusive Grace: Loving Your Enemies While Striving for God’s Justice by Pastor Scott Black Johnson. This week’s reading is “Called to A Larger Vision, A Space for Transcendence, Epilogue: Courage for the Called and Afterword (pages 122- 139).”

Beginning Sunday, May 28 (Memorial Day weekend), we will offer a
10 a.m. Summer Worship Service. This schedule will run at least through Sunday, Sept. 3 (Labor Day weekend).

We’ll offer the popular Lemonade on the Lawn after the service!
Let’s celebrate spring with “Sip Happy” – an intergenerational Tea Party we’ve planned for Sunday, May 21 from 2-4 p.m. in Fellowship Hall.
All are welcome! We’ll have tea, refreshments, musical entertainment by Ted Rewak, and fun, hands-on activities. Optional: you are welcome to ‘dress up’ and/or wear your favorite spring bonnet!
Please let us know you’re coming so we can plan: you can use this online RSVP form or call the church’s main office at 610-867-5865.
CAN YOU HELP? We could use the contributions of a few bakers/shoppers, and some help with set-up, serving and clean-up. Please use this easy online sign-up form or call the church’s main office at 610-867-5865.

Each year on Pentecost Sunday (May 28), we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church. Each year, this celebration is marked by receiving the Pentecost Offering which nurtures the faith of those who are the church to come.
A gift to the Pentecost Offering helps the church encourage, develop, and support its young people, and to address the needs of at-risk children. Forty percent of the Pentecost offering is retained by individual congregations wanting to make an impact in the lives of young people within their own community.
The remaining 60% is used to support children-at-risk, youth, and young adults through ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Please consider a gift to First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem; in the memo: Pentecost Offering. You can also visit (again, note Pentecost Offering in the 'NOTES" box).

Hunger in America isn’t front page news these days, but for many of our fellow citizens food scarcity is a lingering, and worsening, threat. With the end of the emergency SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) in effect during the COVID emergency, the average client has seen his or her benefit drop by $90 per month, aggravating what for many had already been a situation of food insecurity. But we have an opportunity to help. 

Every five years, the US Congress reauthorizes an omnibus Farm Bill, determining policy and funding levels for agriculture, food assistance programs, natural resources, and other aspects of food and agriculture under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Bill is up for renewal this Fall (it expires on September 30), and Bread for the World, the Christian advocacy organization, is asking churches around the country to write letters in support of provisions in the bill that will help to increase food availability and security for our most vulnerable citizens, including:
  • NUTRITION: increasing access to healthy food in the U.S., as well as enhancing global maternal and child nutrition.
  • EQUITY: expanding access to SNAP among marginalized populations, and supporting self-governance and food sovereignty for Tribal Nations.
  • SUSTAINABILITY: keeping food out of landfills by increasing support for post-harvest food recovery efforts, and tackling the threat to food security posed by extreme weather.

We’re asking members and friends of FPCB to participate in this year’s BFW Offering of Letters, which will focus on the Farm Bill, by writing letters to our Senators and Congressional Representatives.

If you’d like to simply write letters after worship on Sunday mornings, or drop them off, a table will be set up for that purpose this Sunday (May 21) and again on Sunday, May 28, and we’ll make sure that they are sent to the appropriate offices. (A sample letter suitable for “tailoring” will be available.)

If you would prefer to send letters electronically, you may do so by clicking on this link and following the instructions (be sure to indicate that you are writing as part of the Offering of Letters).

For general information on Bread’s initiative on the Farm Bill, and on its work in general, please visit Together we can make a difference!
Many thanks to those who supported our latest series of programs! We had a wonderful selection of topics, and very good feedback on the quality of the presenters.

We will soon begin planning the fall series – if you have any suggestions for speakers you would like hear, please drop us a note at
We want to be sure we are presenting topics of interest to you!
By The Rev. Suzanne Trump, Associate Pastor for Formation and Compassion

On Monday, May 8 I was privileged to serve as a volunteer for the Habitat for Humanity Lehigh Valley fund raiser called “She Nailed It.”  
It is a completion relay where four women hammer nails into a board and the fastest time wins. This year the fastest time was 16.6 seconds! That is quick to get four large nails into a two by four, hammered by four women sharing one hammer. 

This is the largest fund raiser for Habitat for Humanity locally. We started the day with $150,000 and will add to it when all the donations come in.
I serve on the She Nailed It committee so if you want to know more, please contact me at (That's me standing in the center, above)

Thanks to all who contributed to this fun day! With a special nod to all who supported the big basket raffle - the Preschool made over $1100 from ticket sales.
If you are hospitalized, please tell the hospital our church code is 724. Also, please call the church office at 610-867-5865 to let us know as the hospitals do not always collect this information.  After hours, leave a message or call our answering service at 610-778-7003.

Send any prayer requests to or call 610-867-5865 and leave a message.
Send us your news and photos to share:
**Deadline for the next week's newsletter:
WEDNESDAY at noon**
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  • 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 - click on the "Watch the Service" button
  • 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 archives

  • 8:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.: Child Care (ask ushers to direct you)
  • 9:00 a.m.: “Holy Ground” Contemporary service, Fellowship Hall
  • 9:45-10:40 a.m.: Hearts N Minds adult ed class, Parlor - all welcome!
  • 11:00 a.m.: Traditional Worship Service, in-person in the Sanctuary AND livestream on Facebook Live and our website followed by Coffee & Conversation in Fellowship Hall

WEDNESDAYS: 7 p.m. - Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group weekly meeting, via Zoom (Meeting # 380 435 9056 / Password: overcomer)


Regular office hours are Monday - Thursday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Many of the office staff are working remotely for some of the time, so please make an appointment if you need to see someone specific. The answering service (610-778-7003) can take your urgent pastoral concerns, 24 hours a day. 

IN CASE OF BAD WEATHER: Look for updates on our website (, Facebook page, and WFMZ (channel 69 and We will also put the info on our church phone message, 610-867-5865.

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. Lindsey Altvater Clifton, Associate Pastor for Justice and Community Impact;

The Rev. Suzanne Trump, Associate Pastor for Formation and Compassion;

David Macbeth, Director of Music Ministries: ext. 202;

Rebecca Angione, Temporary Facilities Manager;

Carol Burns, Communications Manager: ext. 238;

Tracy Leszcynski, Preschool Director; phone: 610-867-2956;

Marianne Zarillo, Finance (interim); ext.

Cindy Matthews, Bookkeeper; ext. 211;