Friday, May 21, 2021 Newsletter

9:00 a.m. Contemporary 
11:00 a.m. Traditional*

 (* also available on our website and via phone)
A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: The gift of the Holy Spirit

This Sunday is Pentecost, one of the major holidays of the Christian year. The word Pentecost literally means “fiftieth” in Greek, and it is observed fifty days after Easter (which, to me, definitely feels like longer than fifty days ago!).
That’s because Pentecost isn’t originally a Christian holiday; in Judaism, it is known more often by its Hebrew name, Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, because it comes seven weeks and one day after the Feast of Unleavened Bread at Passover. It began in Judaism as a harvest festival, but evolved into a celebration of the gift of the Torah, the covenantal Law, to Moses on Mount Sinai. 
For Christians, Pentecost celebrates not the gift of the Law but the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus, who had spent the previous fifty days mostly hiding in Jerusalem from the enemies who wanted to finish destroying Jesus’ legacy. So this Sunday, we will tell the dramatic story again of how the Spirit suddenly descended on the small band of disciples and changed everything for both the church and the world.

Typically, we encourage people to wear something red to worship on Pentecost to symbolize the flames of the Spirit, which Scripture describes as alighting on the disciples like tongues of fire. Throughout the pandemic, when we have been in digital worship, we have affirmed that while we may not be able to gather physically, we are being gathered and bound together by the power of the Holy Spirit in our worship and fellowship and service.
So Pentecost, when we celebrate the gift of the Spirit, is particularly important for us to celebrate. Therefore, I want to encourage you to do two things for worship this Sunday. First, find a way to bring something red into your home worship space, whether that is red clothing (even red pajamas!), a red tablecloth, red flowers, whatever will help you embody something of the Spirit’s presence and power. 
And second, if you’re willing, take a photo (like Ginny and Fred Shunk shared in 2020)! You can either post it in the Facebook comments at the beginning of the worship livestream, or you can email it in advance to, and we will post it for you. That way, we can create a Pentecost photo album of First Presbyterian gathered in the Spirit for Pentecost!

I look forward to being in worship with you on Sunday as we gather together to celebrate the gift of the Spirit to the church in Jerusalem, and consider how the Spirit is moving us as the Christian Church today, and as the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem in particular. See you online and in Spirit on Sunday!

Grace and Peace,

Scripture lesson:
Click the link to read the verses
·   This week's sermon: Speaking the Language by The 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


As one of the four Special Offerings of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Pentecost Offering unites us in a church-wide effort to support young people in Christ and inspire them to share their faith, ideas, and unique gifts with the church and the world.
Each year on Pentecost Sunday (this Sunday, May 23), we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church. The Holy Spirit remains with us still, connecting us with the church of the past, continuing to inspire the church of today, and pointing us to the church of the future. Each year, this celebration is marked by receiving the Pentecost Offering which nurtures the faith of those who are the church to come — children, youth, and young adults.
Congregations keep 40% of raised funds to initiate or support programs for young people in their communities.

Pentecost is usually represented with the color red, which symbolizes the fire of the Holy Spirit. So wear red this Sunday (and send us photos: and make your special offering by writing a check to First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, memo: Pentecost Offering, or making a donation online at (put “Pentecost Offering” in the notes box). 

Last week we announced that we are offering a two-part Inquirers’ Seminar, as part of our ministries of engagement and faith formation here at First Presbyterian.

While these seminars are a necessary step towards formal membership in the congregation, member-ship itself is not the goal or expected outcome. Rather, we offer them to give people an intentional space and time in which to ask and consider good questions about the Christian faith, the Presbyterian Church, and this congregation.
Inquirers gather for an interactive experience that explores the intersection of our own stories with the story of Jesus, the church, and our story as the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem.

Some people are inquiring specifically about membership here; some just want to learn more about the Presbyterian tradition; and some are just trying to get a better understanding of who Jesus is and how Christians think about him and relate to him. 
Each person brings their own questions as well as their own story, and the Inquirers Seminar is a place to bring those and let them take root and bear fruit; the word “seminar,” after all, comes from a Latin word for a plant nursery where seeds are planted and nurtured as they grow.

The next Inquirers’ Seminar will be in two parts: Sunday, June 6, from 1-4 p.m.; and Tuesday, June 15, from 6:30 – 8 p.m. Weather permitting, the Sunday session will be outdoors at the picnic pavilions at Monocacy Park on Illicks Mill Road; the Tuesday session will convene via Zoom.

If you are interested in participating or in learning more, please contact us at or call the Church Office at 610-867-5865 with your contact information, and we will be in touch with you. Hope to see you there!

We're pleased to pass along this learning opportunity. You will view the movie, on your own, before the online gathering. You can watch this film on Hulu, DIRECTV, Amazon Video, Apple iTunes, and YouTube (rent).

To register:
For this Sunday, May 23, the class continues with its book, Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus by Jim Wallis. All are welcome to join the discussion!

Our reading assignment is Chapter 5: “The Power Question” (pages 113-134).

To join via Zoom:
Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450
To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.
ZOOM SUNDAY SCHOOL: Our Last Gathering!
For these past several months, it has been our pleasure to offer two Sunday School options for families. As we head into a summer hiatus, this Sunday will be our last to gather with other families between 10:15-10:45 a.m. for a Zoom session. There will also be a new “anytime” Sunday School lesson with a prerecorded series of videos on our website.
This week's story is inspired by Mark 12:41-44: Widow's Mite. Practice LIVING for God. The more you practice asking yourself 'Does this honor God?', the more natural it will become.

The videos will remain on our website for you to access at any time ( We hope you enjoy them, and share with friends and family.

We send our appreciation to the faithful group of adults who have shepherded this opportunity for our children!

To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.: 
Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116
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, livestreamed
  • 9:00 a.m.: Hearts N Minds adult education class – see more information above
  • 10:15-10:45 a.m.: Zoom Sunday School – see more information above
  • 11:00 a.m.: Combined Worship Service, livestreamed - 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: 848 4170 9518, 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)

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. Lindsey Altvater Clifton, Associate Pastor of Formation and Justice;

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;