Friday, August 14, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

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


During the last five months, the Covid-19 virus has been utmost on our minds and hearts. Pennsylvania has approximately 118,000 confirmed cases. With this number climbing, we all probably know someone who has come down with the disease, or someone who has succumbed to the virus. We keep these individuals and the entire world population in our prayers.

There is no doubt that our lives have drastically changed. Facebook Live is now our “go-to” worship place on a Sunday morning; committees meet on Zoom; our staff is working from home. With minimal adjustment, positive energy and grit determination, we are still alive and well, as we remain diligent in warding off this pandemic. Thank you all for joining us on this journey. Your support is deeply appreciated.
I would like today to focus on “essential services”. This is one of the phrases that we now associate with the virus - along with wearing masks, social distancing, testing, vaccines, PPE equipment, etc. The Economic Policy Institute’s website identified ten professions that they considered “essential”. At the top of the list, of course, is health care, followed by food and agriculture. energy, chemical sector, transportation, communication, financial sector, water and wastewater management, and critical manufacturing. 
As I looked over the list, these services would be immediately noticed if they disappeared. We know of them, use most of them, and rely on the services they provide. My theological mind began to wander, as I added one more essential service to the very top of the list.

Yes, friends, God is “essential”. We sometimes feel that God disappears from us. We know and study God, and we surely rely on the “services” God provides. At a time when our home, work and play are disrupted; when we have stopped gathering in person to worship, conduct our meetings on Zoom, plan our trips to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, and recreational activities with the virus on our minds, God is with us.

This quiet time of staying home and away from crowds is a wonderful time to explore our relations with God. Revisit a Bible verse you love, design a prayer space to communicate with God – alone and present. Be conscious of all the times we need God’s essential services during our day, allow God to enter into your space. Talk, question, think and pray. God is waiting. God is essential. God is at the top of our list. 


Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·   This week's sermon: The Best-Laid Plans by Rev. J.C. Simmons

·     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 watch a video – available after the services have aired:

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

Whether you attend ‘live’ – in person on Sunday mornings, via Zoom - or watch our “Driveway Sunday School videos” (stories and music) online at your convenience, our Sunday School teachers have you covered with a meaningful experience each week.

The videos are on the church website.
To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.:

Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116

Please consider sharing this information with the young ones in your life!

Sunday, Aug. 30 at 10 a.m.: We are currently planning a Combined Worship service that will be offered outdoors at the front of the church building, as well as livestreamed. Check this article for details, and a link to sign up to let us know if you're planning to come.

You likely heard about the horrific explosion that occurred in Beirut, Lebanon last week. If you would like to donate to relief efforts through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance:

For more information or to donate, visit To give by phone, call 800-872-3283. To send a check, please designate where you want your gift to go on the memo line and mail to: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

If you are interested in lively discussion about social justice, what the Bible says to us, and thoughtful, meditative readings, then the adult education group Hearts N Minds might be for you.

Over the years, the group has studied many different writers and subjects and we will continue on that path of respectful exploration starting Sunday, September 13. We will be gathering via Zoom until further notice.
Discussion leaders throw out questions to discuss as a whole or in breakout groups. Our first book is Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans (Nelson Books, 2018; ISBN - 978-0-7180-2231-0). It is available new in paperback for $17 or there are plenty of used copies to buy.

Evans was a newspaper columnist (and best-selling author) who challenged conservative Christianity and gave voice to a generation of wandering evangelicals wrestling with their faith, before she died last year at a tragically young age.
Our book choice headed the best seller list for many months. Evans’ colleague wrote, “... (Rachel) proclaimed a more just and expansive vision of God’s love, to encourage others, and to amplify voices that are typically marginalized in the Church and in the world.”

We will then pick up Peter Enns's  (Harper One, 2014; ISBN 978-0-06-227202-7). There are used hardback (preferred) and paperback copies available. 
From the dustjacket: “Christians have had it drilled into them that their job is to defend the bible against any challenge. But is this really God’s plan? What if God wants us to debate and wrestle with what we read in scripture? (In this book) you will find a revolutionary guide that will liberate Christians so they can truly engage with God’s Word.”

Both books examine the authors’ spiritual journeys. We are all on a spiritual journey and our hope is that these books can act as guideposts.

You may remember the work of "Mask Force 2000", a community group that has been coordinating volunteer sewers and materials to supply masks in the Lehigh Valley.
First Pres will once again serve as a pick-up materials/drop-off masks location. It will be open:

Wednesdays: Aug. 19, Aug. 25, Sept. 2
1-3 p.m.

The efforts will focus on making masks with a clear vinyl insert that are easier for folks with communication challenges.
If you are interested in picking up kits to sew the masks, come to the front of church to come inside and pick up. If you have questions or concerns please direct them to

The Congregational Life team sponsors its second "Parking Lot Trivia Night", coming this Thursday, Aug. 20 evening (rain date: Thursday, Aug. 27).

ALSO: If you have any extra produce from your garden to share, please bring along with you for others to take home.

We had a great turnout last time – everyone is welcome.
Here’s the set up:
  • Each party’s vehicle will be directed to park in a designated parking space in the back (east) parking lot. There will be a vacant spaces adjacent to it – this is your space to use for lawn chairs, to hang out outside your car if you like.
  • You are asked to stay in your designated space, except when delivering your trivia answers to the tabulator.

  • Masks are required, as is physical distancing of at least six feet.

  • You are invited to gather, starting at 6 p.m. for BYOF (bring your own food). Bring along your dinner or snacks; there will be no grills and no tables, so plan accordingly!

  • The trivia will begin at 7 p.m. We will have an emcee who will read the questions over a loudspeaker. Each team (vehicle) will confer on the answer, then submit their answer to the official tabulator – the teams with the correct answer will be announced.

  • Points will be awarded – the winner gets bragging rights!

In case of rain, we will postpone the event to Thursday, Aug. 27 and put the announcement on our website ( and on our Facebook page.

A local Eagle Scout is spearheading a Drive-Through Food Drive tomorrow (Saturday) between 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Edgeboro Moravian Church, 645 Hamilton Ave., to help replenish the food pantry shelves at North East Community Center, one of our ministry partners.

Items will be unloaded from your car for you. (Alternative: If you would rather have your items picked up from your home, please call Robyn Balsai at 610-865-1110, if you live in the Bethlehem area, or Val Hoff at 484-903-8804 if you live in Nazareth area.)
These are needs specifically identified by Northeast Community Center:

  • non-perishable food
  • refrigerated and frozen food (that can be prepared in microwave)
  • breakfast food
  • baby items: diapers, baby formula, etc.
  • hygiene Items and toiletries (adults and children
As with many large scale events, the annual Lehigh Pride Event has been reimagined to a virtual gathering via Facebook Live. Sponsored by Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, this celebration of LGBT arts and culture is now in its 27th year and will be held this Sunday, Aug. 16. 
The festival will include local and national talent, community spotlights, and more. We will be partnering with First Presbyterian Church of Allentown as a participating organization. 

Tune in: Bradbury-Sullivan Facebook page.
We also invite you to ‘like’ BIG’s new Facebook page
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 bulletins, above)

  • 9:00 a.m.: Contemporary Service – join us on our Facebook page for the live service
  • 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

*NOTE: There will also be an online, pre-recorded video Sunday School lesson available on our website beginning on Saturday.

  • Sunday, Aug. 30 at 10 a.m.: We are currently planning a Combined Worship service that will be offered outdoors at the front of the church building, as well as livestreamed. Check this article for details, and a link to sign up to let us know if you're planning to come.

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;