Friday, September 18, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

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


Exploring and evaluating ‘in person’ options

“Are you open?” This question has been floating around church circles (and, indeed, faith communities beyond Christianity) for several months now, as states began lifting some of the restrictions on public assembly and organizational operations. 
When it comes to the church, of course, it’s the wrong question; we have been open throughout the pandemic, not only continuing to fulfill our mission but actually expanding our ministry in many ways through worship, education, community-building, and service. A better way of asking that question would be, “have you re-opened your buildings and begun to use them again?” I thought I would update you a little on how we’re addressing that question.
As we’ve previously shared, the Session created a Building Reopening Task Force several months ago, made up of First Pres members with specific expertise in public health, virology, medical science, and building management. That Task Force focused on the question of indoor worship first and, as we announced in July, the Session unanimously decided on their unanimous recommendation to indefinitely suspend indoor worship because of the significant ongoing risks in gathering, even using protective protocols, and the limitations those protocols would impose on the quality of worship compared to our digital services. 

However, the Session also decided that we would be experimenting with new alternatives to indoor worship and ministry. So, we had our first outdoor in-person worship service on August 30, which seemed to go quite well. The Worship Committee has evaluated that experience and recommended to the Session that we continue with monthly outdoor gatherings in September and October, which the Session approved. (See below for details on Sunday, September 27’s combined service at 11 a.m.)

While everyone would love to do this more often, it takes a significantly greater amount of preparation and time to do outdoor services, and monthly opportunities seem to be the best balance of capacity and desire at this time. Meanwhile, the committee is working on ideas for what we might do once the weather turns worse with the onset of winter, and what new opportunities for worship we might explore, as well.

Beyond worship, some small groups and committees, such as the Board of Deacons, have begun meeting in-person outdoors on the church grounds. And the Congregational Life Committee has been hosting monthly “Trivia Nights” in the parking lot, which have been a great way to gather in fun and community. Obviously, great care is taken to maintain physical distance in all these gatherings.

And we’ve been very pleased to safely keep our Preschool’s “Summer Splash” program open over the summer, and we are now beginning the fall session of the Preschool program. As we hope you’ve read, we are also embarking on a new School-Age Program, to meet the needs of families whose children are enrolled in a hybrid program and need supervision on their remote learning days. We are doing all of these programs with a strict adherence to guidelines, and a lot of inspiration and commitment from our faculty and volunteers. Read more.

This fall, we will continue to monitor the pandemic and evaluate how that impacts our activities. But more importantly, we will continue to explore and experiment with how we can thrive in new ways in our current circumstances. We are “always open” in spirit, in mission, and in community; I am proud of how we have done that so faithfully over the last six months, and excited about the possibilities that are with us now!

Grace and peace,
See below to meet the nominee for Elder

To join the Zoom Meeting online:
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.

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·   This week's sermon: Living Day to Day, 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 THIS SUNDAY: Both Services “Live” on Facebook

SERVICESWe 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: Visit our website

You can call in at 10 a.m. to listen to the Congregational Meeting, and then stay on the line to hear the Traditional Service.

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, September 27: Combined Worship Service at 11 a.m. – You can attend in-person at an outdoor service at the front of the church building, or view via Livestream on Facebook or on our website. If you plan to attend the outdoor service, please send complete this online form.
Among other business, members will be electing a new elder to complete the term of Ben Coleman. The Nominating Committee has nominated Bob Costello for this position. NOTE: There is another elder opening, and the committee may be presenting a candidate for that spot. Nominations will also be taken from the floor.
Bob, a Bethlehem Township resident, has been affiliated with FPCB for 12 years, having married into this church. His wife Kerry grew up here and she and her family have been involved in various ministries over the years.  (He is pictured above, right, with Rev. J.C. Austin at an FPCB training.)
Bob is the Assistant Commissioner for Organizational Development at the New York City Department of Probation. He has been actively involved in Restorative Justice for more than 20 years and has provided trainings and other services for FPCB and other faith groups.
Last Sunday we rolled out a new Sunday School curriculum for our Kindergarten – grade 5 children!

We offer a Zoom gathering every Sunday from 10:15-10:45 a.m., and prerecorded videos that you can access at any time on our website (look for the Sunday School logo on the homepage).
This Sunday’s message centers on the story of two friends, David and Jonathan, from 1 Samuel 20. We’ll talk about how friends love one another.

The prerecorded videos will be posted every Saturday on the website page, and you can also find the Zoom login info for Sunday morning in the same place.
This Sunday’s message centers on the story of two friends, David and Jonathan, from 1 Samuel 20. We’ll talk about how friends love one another.

The prerecorded videos will be posted every Saturday on the website page, and you can also find the Zoom login info for Sunday morning in the same place.

To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.:

Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116

We’re excited to share that Hi Neighbors, our popular speakers bureau, will return for the new semester in a new format – we’ll be going virtual!
Everyone is welcome to join us this Monday, Sept. 21 via Zoom for:

Voting in 2020: A Guidebook
A presentation by Lamont McClure, Northampton Community Executive and
Amy Cozze, County Registrar 
This is a timely topic and we look forward to our speakers sharing up-to-date information about registering and the options for voting (mail-in, drop off, and in-person). Our Monday, Oct. 19 presentation will continue the voting theme, with a look at the history of the 19th Amendment.

For Monday, Sept. 21 at 10 a.m.:
Meeting ID: 889 4647 5793

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 889 4647 5793, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.

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 are continuing on that path of respectful exploration every Sunday at 9 a.m. via Zoom.
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. 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 The Bible Tells Me So. 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.
Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when 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.

Get your gorgeous mums at a contact-less, drive-through
pick-up on Wednesday, Sept. 23 between 4-6 p.m.
*Front of church building*

DROP OFF your order form and payment BEFORE NOON
in the envelope on the door of the South Entrance

The Congregational Life team has planned another outdoor “Parking Lot” Trivia Night for TONIGHT - Friday, Sept. 18 (rain date: Friday, Sept. 25). NOTE OUR NEW STARTING TIME: we will BEGIN THE TRIVIA at 6:00 p.m.

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.
  • The trivia will begin at 6:00 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 Friday, Sept. 25 and put the announcement on our website ( and on our Facebook page.

For those who are wondering whether the CROP Hunger Walk will be happening this year, the answer is a resounding “Yes”! But it will be a bit different. 
Partner congregations are encouraged to “go virtual,” promoting, contributing to, and registering for the event online.
Among other things, this means that if people can’t participate on Sunday,
October 11, they can do so at a time they find more convenient. 

It’s up to individual teams to determine how, and how far, they wish to walk. Households, K groups, and other small clusters may want to walk together (some churches have reported that they plan to do some “rope hikes,” with knots in the rope spaced six feet apart to keep walkers physically distant!). Improvisation is the order of the day.

As far as possible, we encourage those who wish to contribute to do so online through our team link on the Bethlehem Walk website. Those who prefer to contribute by check can write their check to the church with “CWS/CROP” in the memo line, and we’ll combine individual contributions into one check issued from FPCB. Mail or drop off your checks to: FPCB, Attn: CROP Walk, 2344 Center Street, Bethlehem, PA 18017.

Last year, the CROP Walk fielded more than 800 congregational teams nationwide with more than 100,000 walkers participating, raising more than $7,600,000 for hunger relief and agricultural development worldwide. The Bethlehem Walk raised a little over $20,000, with $5,000 of that amount going to local food banks and hunger ministries. Our First Presbyterian team led the field of Bethlehem congregations in 2019, and we’re hoping for enthusiastic participation again, come rain, shine, or pandemic.

Church World Service notes that, even though the walk this year presents unusual logistical challenges, it’s needed now more than ever. Please join us in taking one more step toward ending hunger through this year’s walk.

If you have questions about how to do a “virtual” walk, please contact us at or leave a message at 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 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**
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Your likes / comments / shares help us spread the word about First Pres!

THIS SUNDAY (print bulletins, above)

  • 9:00 a.m.: Hearts N Minds adult education – held via Zoom (see info above)
  • 9:00 a.m.: Contemporary Service – join us on our Facebook page or website for the live service
  • 10:00 a.m.: Congregational Meeting - via Zoom (see info above)
  • 10:15 a.m.: Sunday School for K-5, via Zoom (see info 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


  • 7 p.m.: Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group, via Zoom. Please send an email to (or call 610-867-5865) to get the log-in information.

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; ext. 238;

Andrea Barbehenn, Preschool Director; phone: 610-867-2956;