Friday, June 5, 2020 Newsletter


SERVICES ONLINE via Facebook Live: 

9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

11:00 a.m. Traditional
(also available to hear it via phone - see below)

A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Re-centering ourselves

A little over a year ago, the Session approved a new set of core values and a mission statement to articulate our deepest identity as a congregation and the particular calling that we have discerned from God for us to answer as a congregation. I think it is important, in this moment we find ourselves in as a congregation, to recall and re-center ourselves in those important statements.

As you will recall, we identified four core values that are essential to who we are. That doesn’t mean there are not other important values we have; it means that if we were to turn away from any of these four, we would be turning away from our very being as a church. In a very real sense, we cannot be who we are if these four values do not ground our life and work together.

Those values are that we are a Christ-centered church that is welcoming to all , and that we seek and practice an inquiring faith and an active faith . That is who we are and who we always strive to be.

Our mission statement defines the work we are called to and how we are called to do it. It says:

As a diverse and joyful community of Christ’s followers, we explore how God’s gracious love gives meaning to our lives and faith and inspires us to address the needs of our world. Through our worship, learning, and service, God fills us with purpose, compassion, courage, and hope.
Any mission statement is both descriptive and aspirational; it recognizes the essence of the work we do and why and how we do it, and it also calls us to greater faithfulness in that work. In a sense, our mission is never ultimately accomplished, but always points us towards what we are to do, and do more of, even while assuring us that it is our work to do and we are particularly gifted and sent to do it “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
With that in mind, I want to say two important things to you at this time. First, the Session spent a great deal of time in its meeting last Monday discussing how the church can and should respond to not simply the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but to the deep and unhealed wounds of racial injustice in the body of our nation that Mr. Floyd’s killing represents.

You will be hearing more about that in a separate pastoral letter that I will be sending shortly, but as you will see, that work arises directly from the values and mission described above. It is essential to who we are and what we do as the disciples of Jesus Christ who have been called together as the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, and particularly to our identity as a Christ-centered congregation with an inquiring and active faith, and to our mission to explore how God’s gracious love gives meaning to our lives and faith and inspires us to address the needs of our world.

Second, I want to say that I am launching a new sermon series this Sunday that I am calling, “Sermons in Extraordinary Time.” Pentecost does not begin a new liturgical season on the Christian calendar; as I mentioned in the sermon last Sunday, we are in what is known as “Ordinary Time.” But if anything is clear at the moment, it is that we are not in ordinary time.

As we transition into a new time of struggle with a global pandemic, as we simultaneously find ourselves in a time of reckoning with the history and ongoing reality of systemic racial injustice in the United States, we are certainly in “Extraordinary Time.” And so, for at least the month of June, we are going to focus our attention in worship on what the gospel of Jesus Christ says to us here and now, in this extraordinary time, about what God is up to and how we are called to follow and share in that.

As a part of that series, I am also going to convene a “Sermon Response” gathering by Zoom after each worship service. These will be opportunities for you to engage with each other and with me about the morning’s Scripture and the content of the sermon: reactions, reflections, questions, concerns, even rejections! I hope that you all know me well enough by now to know that one of the things I love most about this church is how we do not all think and believe the same things the same way, and yet we are all striving to be faithful in what we think and believe and do.

In this moment, we are all struggling in new and deeper ways with how to feel, what to do, what we think and believe, in light of what’s going on in the world. And that includes me! And yet because of the pandemic, we have to be intentional about creating space to talk directly with one another on these crucial concerns, because we won’t simply run into each other in the Hospitality Hour or the parking lot. So we’re going to experiment with this by Zoom for at least the month of June during the “Sermons in Extraordinary Time” series.

These sessions will be about thirty minutes long: from 10-10:30 a.m., and from 12-12:30 p.m. That will allow me a few minutes to get to a computer or device after each services ends (we’re generally running at about 50 minutes for worship time in the digital services). The second one can run a little longer if we’re still in a good discussion, but I will have to excuse myself promptly at 10:30 a.m. regardless to get ready for the 11 a.m. service.

I hope if you attend you will be able to be present from the start and through to the end (or at least the official thirty minutes), so that you can not only offer your own thoughts, but hear and respond to those of others. And this is an opportunity for you; I will be mostly listening or responding to questions, but I will have already talked for 18 minutes or so! So I will not be offering more content, but rather helping facilitate you being able to reflect on the sermon Scripture, topic, and content of the day.

Thank you for your faithfulness in this extraordinary time. I am inexpressibly grateful to be in ministry with you, and look forward to deepening our work together in the weeks to come.

Grace and peace,
PS – A reminder that this is Communion Sunday, so if you want to participate we ask that you prepare your elements. Some kind of flour-based (or gluten-free) item like a bagel, bread, roll, cracker, pita, tortilla, etc. You will also want to have some grape juice, wine, or water to sip. Please, no special trip to a grocery store!

See below for a special demo video for a simple bread you can make!

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·     This week's sermon: Putting Things in Order 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

SERVICES : We 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 join the ‘Sermon Response’ Zoom Meeting after each service: / Meeting ID: 955 325 387

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 – simply press the # key again.

To watch a video – available after the services have aired:
  • Visit our website and look for the link on the homepage
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE INTERNET ACCESS – OR PREFER TO “LISTEN IN” ON SUNDAY ON YOUR PHONE. Stay on the call for the ‘Sermon Response’ discussion (12-12:30 p.m.)

We will offer the TRADITIONAL SERVICE (at 11 a.m. on Sunday) with an ‘audio-only’ option so you can listen to it on your phone.

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 SCHOOL for this week

Stories! Songs! Friends!  This week’s Sunday School experience will be a combination of a live Zoom gathering on Sunday morning from 10:15-10:45 a.m. AND pre-recorded videos that you can access at your convenience.

The videos are on the church website ; scroll to the bottom of the homepage.
To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.: (note this is a new link)

Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116
Canned Food/Non-Perishable Food Drive
Tomorrow (Saturday) from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Monocacy Manor, 395 Bridle Path Road, Bethlehem (see directions below)

Financial stress due to the COVID-19 Pandemic has ramped up visits to the Food Pantry at  New Bethany Ministries, one of our ministry partners .
Interested in supporting this effort? Please drop off your canned goods and/or non-perishable food items.

Upon arrival, just drive up the hill and stop at the white garage at the top on your right. Please follow the posted instructions and remember to be conscious of the need to maintain proper physical distance.
We ask you to please consider wearing a mask out of respect for those who are at risk and/or have ongoing concerns for their family members.

Questions? Contact them at
MAKE YOUR OWN COMMUNION BREAD (or good-anytime-bread)

Jane Masters (with able assistance from her videographer, Don Masters) shares this demonstration of how to make a simple recipe that you can bake into loaves or rolls. Gather your ingredients and equipment, and enjoy the process of making your own bread! Here's the recipe to print out (note Jane is making half a batch).

We have had a good turnout for our previous Discipleship presentations on Zoom, including Wednesday night's session by Jim and Janet Stahl: “ Our Choice of Words: A continuation of our series on Constructive Conversations” .

Check out these very interesting sessions – they have all been recorded:

The Lackawanna, Lehigh, and Northumberland Presbyteries will jointly offer a series of important Zoom workshops on topics of concern for churches in the COVID-19 era: re-opening our buildings (held on June 3), the financial impact of remote worship, and the format(s) of our worship and other ministries as we move forward.
These workshops are open to everyone: church members, elders, and ministers. They will begin with a presentation highlighting the major issues, followed by an opportunity for Q & A and conver-sation. The workshops will be recorded and posted on our websites. Register:
Wednesday, June 10: 1:00-2:30 p.m.
Generosity in Uncertain Times. Ministry Relations Officer Rev. Ellie Johns-Kelley and Vice-President for Planned Giving Resources Karl Mattison, both from the Presbyterian Foundation, will help us address the effects COVID-19 has on stewardship and giving—now and in the future.

Tuesday, June 16 :  1:00-3:00 p.m. (Synod-wide)
The Expanded Table: Ideas for a Hybridized Worship Experience Between People on Zoom and People in Person. Former PC(USA) Moderator Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow will lead us in a conversation about how churches’ new ways of worshiping can be combined with pre-COVID-19 worship as a both/and rather than an either/or.
After a brief hiatus, our Optimism 101 group is back on Wednesdays at noon, via Zoom.

As we work our way through these changing and challenging times, we all struggle from time to time with feelings of isolation, loneliness and the loss of personal connection. 
In response to this ongoing issue, the Optimism 101 group will be changing the focus of weekly meetings to address the current issues related to the sudden loss of our familiar patterns, our social/in person connections and the ways we can support each other as our neighborhoods open up. This loosening of restrictions is fraught with concerns for ourselves and others and yet, so welcomed and needed by many.

To join the Zoom meeting: / Meeting ID: 881 8442 8633

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

Questions? Please contact us at
The Miners
The Philpotts
The Colletts
The Engels
The Shunks
The Arringtons
The Benways
The Maiaticos
Jack Walker
The Magocs
(and Rosie)
Phyllis Walker
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 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.: Contemporary Service – join us on our Facebook page for the live service
  • 10-10:30 a.m.: "Sermon Response" - via Zoom (see details, above)
  • 10:15-10:45 a.m.: Sunday School via Zoom (see details, 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
  • 12-12:30 p.m.: "Sermon Response" - via Zoom (see details, above)

*NOTE: There will also be an online, pre-recorded video Sunday School lesson available on our website beginning on Saturday.
  • 12:00 – 12:30 p.m.: Midday Reflection (led by one of our pastors – a short time of reflection and prayer via Zoom: /Meeting ID: 335 481 050; via phone: call 929-205-6099 and enter the Meeting ID when prompted, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again)
  • noon - 1 p.m.: Optimism 101 support group 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;

Carol Burns, Communications Manager; ext. 238;

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