Friday, August 5, 2022 Newsletter


10:00 a.m. Summer Worship in the Sanctuary

 (* also available on our website and via phone)
MESSAGE FROM THE REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Called to do the hard work

I am looking forward to being in worship with you this Sunday after several weeks away on vacation! It was good to have some downtime to rest, even though it was mostly a “staycation” here in Bethlehem. 
The exception to that, though, was a pretty big exception: I received a last-minute invitation to join a trip to Northern Ireland! As many of you know, I am on the board of The Ministry Collaborative, a national organization that focuses on supporting and developing pastors and priests in many denominations.

I was asked to join the trip because the staff person who would normally go had to back out, the cohort in question is based in Philadelphia, and I have a lot of experience leading trips. 
It was an extraordinary experience in so many different ways, and I can’t do it any real justice in one newsletter article! But I’d like to give you an overview of the context, at least, and then invite you to consider one experience in particular in your own hearts.
It was an eight-day trip, all in Northern Ireland.

As you probably know, Northern Ireland is not part of the Republic of Ireland, but rather the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland was partitioned off when the Republic of Ireland was granted independence in 1921 because while the Republic is 90% Roman Catholic, the six counties that make up Northern Ireland have a Protestant majority, mostly made up of Presbyterians and Anglicans.

The northern Irish Protestants themselves had no desire to be part of a Catholic republic, and called themselves Loyalists or Unionists because of their desire to remain British. Thus, those six counties were partitioned into Northern Ireland as the fourth region of the United Kingdom.

While the most violent phase of the conflict in Northern Ireland, known as “The Troubles,” lasted only 30 years (1968-1998), the decades prior to that were filled with division, hostility, and even violence between the Protestant majority and a Catholic minority.

But the Troubles were a new chapter in all of that, with paramilitary forces on both sides clashing with each other, as well as with the UK police and military, and numerous bombings, as well. By the time the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998, ending hostilities, thousands of innocent men, women, and children had been killed, many more wounded, and the entire population traumatized.

During the trip, we met with numerous people, including many people of faith, who worked for peace during the Troubles and have been deeply involved in the ongoing efforts to promote justice, peace, and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. But one of the most notable experiences was about someone I did not meet: David Trimble.

Trimble died literally as I was on my way to Northern Ireland; he had been one of the most prominent political leaders of his generation there, and received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in creating the Good Friday Agreement and getting his party to accept it. However, prior to that work, he was an unabashed Protestant partisan, having started his career in a fringe right-wing party with ties to Protestant paramilitaries that was often accused of fascist sympathies.

He was despised for most of his career by the Roman Catholic minority, and seen as a champion of Protestant dominance in Northern Ireland. Yet soon after being elected leader of the largest Protestant party in Northern Ireland, he began doing the unexpected: working for peace with his enemies.

In 1997, he became the first Protestant leader ever to agree to negotiate with the main Catholic political party, Sinn Fein, often described as the political face of the Irish Republican Army, the main Catholic paramilitary group. Some Protestants were outraged, calling him a traitor and even threatening his life. But he, along with other key leaders on both sides, persevered and established a peace in Northern Ireland that most people thought would never come.

During my time there, every Catholic leader I met went out of their way to declare their sorrow at Trimble’s death and their respect for him as a leader of uncommon moral courage. And one night, as we attended a traditional music festival dedicated to peace and reconciliation, a Catholic Republican musician stood alone on the stage and played a traditional Irish lament on his wooden flute in memory and honor of Trimble, while two prominent political leaders, one Catholic and one Protestant, sat beside one another, watching and nodding approvingly. It is hard to overstate just how remarkable and unlikely any of that would have seemed to anyone in Northern Ireland not even 30 years ago.
It is tempting to call that and the peace process as a whole a “miracle” because it is so improbable that it was even attempted, much less that it was so successful. 

But that is a way to offend both Protestants AND Catholics in Northern Ireland, because while most would agree that God was at work through that process, calling it a miracle discounts how much hard and skilled work went into creating it by so many people.
And how many difficult and even once unthinkable compromises were made, and how people like Trimble had to make a conscious decision to make hard choices that went against almost everything they had believed and worked for their entire lives. 

With all that in mind, I invite you to join me in reflecting on what lessons that might have for us here in the United States, in a time of dramatic polarization, incendiary rhetoric, and even political violence. How does our faith equip us and call us to do the hard work of justice, peace, and reconciliation in our nation and our community right here in the Lehigh Valley? What are the difficult and courageous things we need to be exploring towards those ends? Who are the enemies that we need to reach out to and work with for the common good despite everything that tells us not to do so?

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus said, “for they will be called children of God.” Peace, then, is not something that simply happens; it is made, and those who make it are blessed in the making, not just in the results. So it was in Northern Ireland; so it may be for us here and now.

Grace and Peace,
If you would like to participate from home, you can prepare your own elements:
bread or bread-like item (cracker, pita, etc.) and grape juice, wine or water.

Click the link to read the verses
- This week’s sermon: The End of the Law by
The Rev. J.C. Austin

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


  • The Building Reopening Task Force has issued a new guideline: they encourage that people wear masks, especially if they are in a high risk category, as an additional precaution to protect themselves and others.  

  • Child care will be available from 9:45-11:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings; please ask an usher for directions.

  • 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.
This Sunday following Summer Worship, we’ll gather for our final Table Talk of the summer. 

Please join us for a light lunch and Baby Shower to celebrate the new addition that Mursal and Baz will welcome to their family in just a couple of months!
Baz, Mursal, Taib, and Bahar will join us for food, games, and gifts. 

If you’d like to purchase something they need, we’ve helped them make a registry at Target:

You can also find and print the registry in any Target store at the kiosk by Guest Services. You’ll need to search for the baby registry under the name Mursal Wardak, and let them know upon check out that it's for her registry. They can scan the barcode on the printed copy when you check out. (Or you can email Lindsey at to let her know what you purchased, and she can mark it off the registry list.)

If you’d like an option that’s quick and easy, gift cards to Target or Walmart would be greatly appreciated. If you’re unable to attend, feel free to mail or drop off any gifts or gift cards labeled for Mursal & Family (or with Lindsey’s name), and we’ll make sure they get to the event.

We have plenty of food so please plan to come even if you’ve not volunteered to bring anything to share. We look forward to a fun, meaningful celebration with our whole congregation on Sunday!

Our weekly Lemonade on the Lawn hospitality time, immediately following our Sunday service, resumes on Sunday, August 14. And every Sunday we encourage you to look for the table at our post-service events, where you can sign cards for our friends who are sick or hospitalized.
Many thanks to those of you who answered the call to write letters to our Congressional elected officials, encouraging them to consider the passage of legislation that would extend citizenship to our Afghan refugees. We collected 105 communications that will be delivered to their offices.

We appreciate everyone who advocated on behalf of our neighbors. If you would like more information about this initiative, you can read about it in our July 15 newsletter. It is not too late to write to our Congressional representatives directly.
For the next couple of weeks we will enjoy having five staff members on our facilities team, thanks to two recent hirings.

Joining Kevin Konczyk, Facilities Maintenance Manager (center), are (from left) Kyle Willans, Brandon Bereznak, and new hires Tom Bartholomew and Tommy Austin (no relation to J.C.).
Brandon will be leaving in a couple of weeks to begin his studies at Temple University – we are very excited for him and wish him well!

We currently have these employment opportunities available - if you know of someone who might be interested in additional information, please have them contact us at

  • Pastoral Associate
  • Director of Early Childhood Education
  • Coordinator of Extended Care
  • Assistant Coordinator of Extended Care
We are looking for a couple of 'on call' volunteers to assist us in providing child care on Sunday mornings. The hours are 9:45-11:30 a.m., or until the last child leaves. There are always two workers present. These are sub positions, in case our regular staff is unable to work.

Volunteers need to be at least 16 years old, and will need to get their clearances, for which there is no cost. You will get the assistance you need to complete them.

Interested? Contact JoAnne Turcotte at

Share your talents and interests! If you enjoy current issues, travel, music, road trips, or local initiatives and organizations, we have the volunteer position for you!

We are looking for a coordinator for our popular Hi Neighbors program – this is the weekly gathering of folks who enjoy presentations on a wide variety of topics. The new coordinator will work with our current coordinator, Leslie Pohl, to learn the ropes of scheduling interesting local speakers and presenters – you can also recruit friends to assist you; make the work light!

The weekly sessions are held September – November (the fall series is already scheduled), and March – May. The presentations are free and open to all.

Contact Leslie at or leave her a message at 610-867-5865 if you are interested or would like more information.
Local families with school-age children are invited to come to Wesley Church, 2540 Center St., on Saturday, August 20 between 8 a.m. – noon for their annual Backpack Event.

Kids can pick up a new backpack filled with school supplies, and choose new socks and underwear. Over 1500 backpacks will be available!
Help will be needed on Sundays, August 7 and 14, beginning at 11 a.m. to stuff the backpacksSIgn up here for volunteers for the day of the event.

If you are interested in donating kid-sized underwear and socks, there are collection bins outside the Wesley church doors.

On Sunday, August 21 from 12:00-6:00 p.m., we’ll host a booth at the 2022 Lehigh Valley Pride Festival alongside friends from First Presbyterian Church of Allentown. We’ll need volunteers to help with setup and clean up and with offering a warm welcome to festival-goers who stop by our booth for goodies, information, and conversation. We hope to have enough volunteers to cover two- hour shifts. 

It’s a great way to share God’s love and meet new friends. (Plus, it’s a ton of fun!) If you’d like to help, please email Lindsey

To make it easier to connect with ways to help in our community, we’ve created a new website page with listings of FPCB and community volunteer opportunities.

We’d also like to add additional organizations, or specific volunteer tasks. If you have any to share, please contact us at or leave a message at the church office, 610-867-5865.

We would like to know when our members are entering the hospital. Please tell the hospital that your church ID is 724. We contact the hospitals on weekdays to get that information. If you enter the hospital on Friday-Sunday, you can 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 is
WEDNESDAY at noon**
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  • 9:45 – 11:30 a.m.: Child Care (ask ushers to direct you)
  • 10 a.m.: Summer Worship Service, in-person in the Sanctuary AND livestream on Facebook Live and our website; below, to join us online
  • 11 a.m.: Table Talk/Baby Shower, location TBA
  • 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
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE INTERNET ACCESS: You can participate on your phone to listen to the Summer Worship 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.
TUESDAYS: 10 a.m.-1 p.m.: Crafters, Room 408 (everyone welcome)
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, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. The South entrance will be open during these hours, and on Sunday mornings.

Many of the office staff are continuing to work 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. 

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;

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

Kevin Konczyk, Facilities Maintenance Manager;

Pam Marth, Administrative Coordinator: ext. 228; email:

Carol Burns, Communications Manager: ext. 238;

Laura Hawk, Preschool Director; phone: 610-867-2956;