Friday, January 17, 2020 Newsletter

 SUNDAY SERVICES: 9:00 a.m. Contemporary ∙ 10:30 a.m. Traditional

Children's Sunday School during both services

Join us for Hospitality in Fellowship Hall after each of our services!
A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Learning more about Baptism

Last week I reflected on some of the typical questions that come up about the sacrament of Communion. I heard some positive feedback about that as well as some requests for something similar about Baptism, so I thought I’d do that this week:

Q: Why are we baptized?

A: In the Reformed theological tradition (of which Presbyterians are a part), we don’t believe that our salvation is contingent on being baptized. We believe we are baptized because we are saved, not saved because we are baptized. Our tradition is relentless in its emphasis on the sovereignty and grace of God, which essentially means that God has both the first and final say on things. That, in turn, means that baptism is a response to God’s grace, not an acquisition of it.
Instead, we talk about baptism as a sign and a seal of God’s saving grace. In baptism, we recognize and respond to that saving grace with gratitude and a commitment to a life of following Christ in our words, actions, and spirit. And so baptism is both our formal inclusion in the church, the body of Christ, and our commissioning as Christ’s disciples and ministers; every Christian is called to ministry through their baptism.
That is what is “different” about us after baptism. Those who are called to ordained ministries have specific responsibilities in the church, but those are in addition to the baptismal call that we all have. 

Q: Is the water holy?
A: Yes and no; it depends on what you mean by that. Our understanding of the water is similar to our understanding of bread and wine (or juice!) in Communion: it is not made holy in itself, but the Holy Spirit works through it to be really present and active in the sacrament itself. So it is holy in the actual act of baptism because of the presence of God’s Spirit in that moment, but it doesn’t stay that way afterwards. Think of the water more like a doorway that the Spirit moves through, rather than a room in which the Spirit lives. 

Q: What’s the difference between baptism for infants and adults?
A: Because of our emphasis on God’s grace, we don’t believe baptism is a conscious “decision for Christ” like Baptists or some other traditions do. So we baptize infants because we believe that God’s grace is already at work before we are even aware of it or capable of any understanding of it. So there’s nothing different about baptism, per se, between infants and adults.
What’s different is that adults being baptized are also able to declare their faith in Christ and intention to follow Christ as a disciple and a member of the church. Those who are baptized as infants have to do that when they are old enough to do so in order to be full members of the church. That’s where the tradition of Confirmation came from, for example, but that’s a different article!

Grace and Peace,

Isaiah 58:1-12  
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
·      This week’s sermon:  In Practice  by Rev. J.C. Austin        

·       We post each week’s sermon
(audio and text) on our website:

On Sunday, Jan. 26, we will gather as a community for a 10 a.m. Combined Worship Service , followed by our Annual Congregational and Corporate Meeting . All members are encouraged to attend this important meeting, at which we will address business of the congregation and corporation including nominations. It will conclude by noon.
After the Annual Meeting, you are invited to attend a fund raiser luncheon in Fellowship Hall , offered by Boy Scout Troop 302. The pasta meal costs $10 for adults and $5 for 10 and under; please be prepared to pay cash at the door.

The menu includes baked ziti, pasta and sauce, meatballs, salad, rolls, iced tea, lemonade, coffee/tea, and desserts.
This is a fund raiser for Boy Scout Troop 302, to assist with their operating costs, which took a sharp upturn this year after their budget was established. FPCB’s sponsorship of Boy Scout Troop 302 since November, 1917, is the longest continuous sponsoring relationship of a Boy Scout troop in Bethlehem.
CHURCH DIRECTORY: Collecting member information

Thank you! We had a great response to our first collection of information to update our church database, the first step to creating a new church directory. 
Volunteers will be available this Sunday morning and again on Sunday, Feb. 2 to collect members’ information (name, address, home phone, cell phone and email address, as available).

  • 8:45-9:00 a.m.: Rotunda
  • 9:45-10:30 a.m.: Fellowship Hall
  • 11:30 a.m.-noon: Fellowship Hall
Your assistance is needed to assure we have accurate information. In addition to confirming your info, we will need your express permission to print your information in our directory. We thank you for taking a few minutes to take care of this important process.

We will also be offering options to share your information with us by online form, by mail, and over the phone, and we will make arrangements to meet with our members who live at Kirkland.  
Because we want to turn this project around quickly, we will not be including photos in this first version; we plan to publish another directory with photos within the year.
Thanks for your cooperation! If you have any questions please contact us at

On Sunday, Jan. 19 Hearts N Minds returns to its study of For Everything a Season by Sister Joan Chittister. The focus will be on the chapter titled “A Time to Die” (page 77 in the print version). All are welcome, whether you have read the book or not, or attended any of the previous sessions.
From Elder Joanne Kelhart , chair of the Worship Committee:

We extend our thanks to Cindy Simmons for coordinating readers for our worship services for the past year, and are happy to welcome Lindsey Chadbourn and Marie Rosenthal, the new coordinators for this effort.

If you’re interested in serving as a reader in the Contemporary service, please contact Lindsey, and Marie will be handling the Traditional readers. Both can be contacted at .

We are also in need of volunteers to serve as greeters, ushers, and communion support for both services. Please contact Joanne at if you feel called to serve.

At the January Stated Assembly of Lehigh Presbytery we will have a special speaker, Tod Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains. Tod will share a combination of illuminating insights and practical tools to help you re-imagine what effective leadership looks like in our rapidly changing world.
It will be held here at First Pres on Friday, Jan. 24 from 1:00-4:00 p.m.

This event is free and open to the public; RSVP to the Lehigh Presbytery office at 610-391-9020 or

Copies of the book are also available to purchase from the Presbytery office.

NEW! Plastic Film Collection Program
Wondering what to do with all those plastic grocery bags,
produce bags, dry cleaning bags, bubble wrap, bread bags and
other plastic film that your household uses?

We will begin a new collection program on Sunday, Feb. 2 –
watch for details!

In November we told you about Christ UCC Church (where FPCB has a dedicated team of members who prepare and serve lunch once each month).
Christ UCC also recruits individuals and/or groups willing to help with meals, and to handle a number of other volunteer tasks for the people who stay in their overnight shelter during the winter months. 

Prior to volunteering, you are asked to complete an application form and view their volunteer orientation materials. 
Links to the form and orientation materials, as well as the list of volunteer spots are included in this online sign-up form .
If you have not received your 2020 pledge envelopes
in the mail, please contact our Main Office
at or 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 Melody Engel at 484-695-4905 or to keep us up to date.
Send us your news and photos to share:
**Deadline for next week's newsletter: Wedneday at noon**
* * *
And follow us on Facebook : @FirstPresBethlehem
Your likes / comments / shares help us spread the word about First Pres!

  • After each service: Hospitality in Fellowship Hall – join us for fellowship and light refreshments
  • 9:00 a.m. - Contemporary Service, Kirk Center
  • 9:00 a.m. - Adult Education, Hearts N Minds, Room 400
  • 9:00 a.m. - Sunday School, Pre-K through Grade 5, Room A4
  • 10:30 a.m. - Traditional Service, Sanctuary
  • 10:30 a.m. - Sunday School, Pre-K through Grade 5 (Children attend first part of worship service), Room E3-4
  • Childcare for Infants and Toddlers, 8:30 a.m. to noon, Room A3

MONDAYS: No class this week (building closed)  “It’s a Start” Fitness Class, 10 a.m., Middle School Step Room
TUESDAYS: Optimism 101 (formerly Depression Support Group), noon - 2 p .m. (note new time), Room 206
WEDNESDAY: Overcomers Outreach , 7 p.m., Room 420
THURSDAY: Chancel Choir rehearsal , 7 p.m., Sanctuary; Al-Anon Family Group ,
7 p.m., Room 212

FIRST SUNDAYS (next: Feb. 2): Blood Pressure Screenings, between services,
North Link
SECOND SUNDAYS ( next: Feb. 9 ) : Bereavement Group gathering; bring your lunch if you like
FIRST AND THIRD TUESDAYS (next: Jan. 21): Successful Aging, 10:30 a.m.,
Room 412
FIRST THURSDAY (next: Feb. 6): Presbyterian Womens Circle , 1:00-3:00 p.m.,
Room 206 (PW Room)
THIRD WEDNESDAY (next: Feb. 19):  Dementia Caregiver Support Group, 1 p.m.,
Room 206 (PW Room)
THIRD THURSDAY (next: Feb. 20): Prayers & Squares, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Room 408 (bring your lunch and join us to create quilts and prayer shawls - no experience needed)

CHURCH OFFICE HOURS: We are open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. As always, you can leave a voicemail message with the church any time at 610-867-5865 or contact us at . I f you have an urgent pastoral need, please call our answering service at 610-778-7003. NOTE: The building will be closed next Monday (Jan. 20) in recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. 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:
    Melody Engel, Hospital Ministrants, phone: 484-695-4905 or email 
    Phil Fair, Prayer Ministrants ( note new phone): 610-737-4074  or email   

BAPTISMS, WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS : If members of the FPCB congregation would like to schedule weddings, baptisms or funerals, please contact The Rev. Sue Bennetch at 610-867-5865, ext. 209.
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 Care 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;