Friday, February 12, 2021 Newsletter



9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

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

Friends, as I mentioned last week, we are coming up on the beginning of Lent, with Ash Wednesday happening this coming week. Our Ash Wednesday Service will take place at 7 p.m. via Zoom (see the details on page 2), and will include both the Imposition of Ashes and the sacrament of Communion, so it will require some advance preparation from you.

It’s very important to have ashes on hand if you are participating. If you “ordered” an Ash Wednesday kit, you can pick them up starting today (after 10 a.m.) outside the South Entrance; just look for the designated container when you get there. If you are making them on your own, charcoal ash (like in a grill) is probably best, but any ash – like from a burned candlewick or piece of paper - will probably work. 
In any case, though, you need to not simply have ashes (and remember, a little goes a long way!), but to prepare them before the service. To do that, you will need to mix them with a few drops of oil at a time (olive oil is traditional, but vegetable/canola oil or baby oil works perfectly well) and then mix them together. Repeat until the mixture resembles a thick paste. If you’re a visual learner, check out this brief, helpful video.
All this, of course, presupposes that observing Ash Wednesday is a good and important thing! So I want to address that, as well. I have seen people online saying things like, “Do we really need Lent this year? Haven’t we given up enough already?”

The reference, of course, is to the practice of giving something up for Lent, a practice that is particularly prominent in the Roman Catholic and Episcopalian traditions. And if that was central to Lent, I think I would agree that we could give up ‘giving up something’ for Lent this year!

But that practice is hardly the point of observing Lent; on the contrary, at its best it is designed to focus one’s attention on the observance of Lent by eliminating distractions and indulgence and redirect that energy into prayer and reflection.

The danger of confusing the practice with the point is part of why Presbyterians have traditionally avoided giving things up for Lent and instead stressed the importance of taking things up for Lent: engaging in additional spiritual disciplines of prayer, Scripture reading, and service to deepen one’s understanding and practice of faith.

This actually goes back to the origins of Lent, which was developed after Christianity was unbanned and legitimized by the Roman Empire and the church needed a means to prepare the sudden surge of people interested in Christianity to receive the sacrament of Baptism. Their answer was Lent: a 40-day period of intensive study, worship, and preparation to be baptized on Easter.

And this is the dimension I want to suggest for us to claim in Lent this year. Both Ash Wednesday and Lent are sometimes overly focused on what we’re giving up, what we’re turning away from. But repentance means to turn towards something, too. As I mentioned in a recent sermon, the traditional questions in the sacrament of Baptism include both those turns: turning away from evil and sin, turning towards Jesus Christ and then following him in our lives of faith.

This Lent, more than ever, it is good to remember our baptisms, to remember that God’s grace has claimed us and called us by name, and nothing in heaven or earth can separate us from that. And then it is good to reclaim our baptisms, to rededicate ourselves to responding to God’s grace intentionally and actively and with gratitude.

So, I invite you to join the worship service on Ash Wednesday and to participate in Lent by turning towards Christ with renewed commitment and expectation, taking up new ways of Christian worship and learning and service. And as you do so, I am confident that Christ will meet you in that and bless you in Lent with insight and growth and fullness and yes, even joy!

Grace and peace,

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read the verses
·   This week's sermon: **Spoiler Alert!** 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


WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17: We will offer our Ash Wednesday worship service at
7 p.m. via Zoom. This will be a Communion service, so if you want to participate, you will want to prepare your elements. You will also want to have prepared ashes on hand; here are your options:
  • If you requested prepared ashes from the Worship Committee, you can pick them up at the South entrance of the church building. Names are on the individual bags. These are only for the people who sent a request to the Worship committee.

  • You can prepare your own; here is a helpful video showing how to do it: The video references burning something organic, like palms or plants from your garden; there are other options.
  • You can also carefully burn the corner of a piece of paper or get some ashes from a burned candlewick. Mix the ashes with a drop of oil (any kind, like olive oil, baby oil, etc.) until it resembles a thick paste.

  • It is better to mix the ashes close to the time of the service (try to do it that day).
For Wednesday, February 17 at 7 p.m.:

To join via / Meeting ID: 833 6436 6895
To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 833 6436 6895 followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.

You will want to print the 8-page bulletin - it includes the readings that will be used as part of the service.

WEDNESDAYS, FEBRUARY 24 – MARCH 24: We will again present our popular “Lenten Supper Series”, 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”. The programs will be offered from 6:30-7:30 p.m.; there will be an opportunity to sign in earlier to ‘virtually’ enjoy your supper and/or fellowship time together. More details to come.

February 24: “A Really Short History of Worship” by Rev. Dr. Stephen Simmons
March 3: “A Preacher's Eye View of Music in Worship” by Rev. Cynthia L. 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 Rev. Lindsey Altvater Clifton
March 24: “Exploring the Art(s) of Preaching” by Rev. J.C. Austin
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. We have a Lenten calendar that you can use to record these acts. You can print the Lenten calendar here: black and white OR color.

We also have a Lenten Devotional that we can send to you; please send your request to

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’!
Click here for a summary of the Annual Meeting held on January 31.
Financially supporting FPCB

Many thanks to those who have made their annual pledges to FPCB for 2021. We know it has been a difficult year, financially, for many, and we are very appreciative of your continued support.

Pledge packets were mailed in November. If you did not receive one, here are a couple of options:

  • Visit our website, This will take you to a page where you can download and print the stewardship letter and the pledge form. You can then mail the pledge form to our Business Office.

  • If it’s more convenient, send an email to or leave a message at 610-867-5865 and we will mail you a packet.

When making your pledge, we encourage you to consider the monthly electronic deposit option so that your monthly pledge will be automatically paid to FPCB, ensuring funding coming in all year round.

For the following situations, please contact Marianne Zarillo, our Business Manager, at or call 610-867-5865 and leave a message for her:

  • If you requested monthly pledge envelopes and did not get them.
  • If you would like a confirmation that your pledge was received.

For those who use Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT):

If you had an EFT set up to give donations to the church in 2020, and want to continue an EFT for 2021: you needed to send in a new pledge card or send an email to the Business Office to confirm that. If you did not renew your EFT pledge, it is not currently being taken out of your account.

There were also ‘glitches’ with some banks erroneously deducting the 2020 amount on January 20, 2021. Some then followed up with another deduction of the 2021 amount. Most banks have corrected this error, but if you had two deductions taken for January, please contact Marianne.

Proportional Giving

Every member of a PC(USA) church is asked to support the work of the larger Presbyterian Church (USA) and their local Presbytery with a special offering called “Proportional Giving”. For 2021 the amount is $39.13 per member.

  • If you received pledge envelopes, there is a designated envelope for that offering.
  • You can send a separate check to the Business Office, with “Proportional Giving” in the memo line.
  • You can make your Proportional Giving payment online – add the words “Proportional Giving” in the ‘notes’ section of the form.

Souper Bowl of Caring
Last Sunday we took a special collection for the Souper Bowl of Caring. As part of this national initiative, these funds will go to our mission partner, Northeast Community Center, to support their food programming for seniors. You can still send a separate check with “Souper Bowl” in the memo, or make a secure online donation at – add the words “Souper Bowl” in the ‘notes’ section of the online form.

Thank you for your continued support!

If you have an appointment to get the Covid vaccine and need a ride, please let us know. Members of the Deacon Board are able to drive you to and from your appointment. 

You can call Sue Bennetch at 610-217-1171 or send an email to with your name, phone number, the date of your appointment and the time. We will be in touch to make the necessary plans.

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 chapter two, pages 29-70.

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 Ruth, the story of Ruth and Boaz. “Kindness is showing others they are valuable by how you treat them.” As this is Valentine's Day, remember to be kind to your family and friends.

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”.  
If you missed Monday’s trip to Slovenia with Bob Brown and Madeline Brown, you can view it here:

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.: Ash Wednesday Service 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;

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;