Friday, March 17, 2023 Newsletter

9:00 a.m. ‘Holy Ground’ Contemporary Worship in Fellowship Hall
(in person only)

11:00 a.m. Traditional Worship in the Sanctuary – Sunday
  (in person and livestreamed on Facebook and our website)

There has been a significant transition recently in the life of our church to which I want to call your attention.

Elder Sue Farber has officially stepped down as the Clerk of Session after years of extraordinary and faithful service, and Elder Jennifer Cole has been elected by the Session as the new Clerk of Session. Sue would probably tell me not to make a big deal about this, which is why I didn’t ask her about it (!), but I think it’s important to talk about on several levels.
First, I want to publicly thank Sue for her service as Clerk of Session. She took up the role during the period in which the church was in schism, which meant that there were all kinds of unusual and challenging aspects to the job, which is a challenging one even under normal circumstances. She persevered through the transition back into the building, from Bill Hess as Interim Pastor and Moderator of Session to myself as Senior Pastor and Moderator, and through the “rebuilding phase” of the congregation in 2018-19. 
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, the Session went to meeting twice a month, which required considerably more work from her, and she did it with excellence and perseverance. When she finally decided it was time to step down this year, it was all I could do not to be selfish and try and talk her out of it, but that would not have been very faithful on my part! So I will simply say, thank you, Sue; it was a joy and privilege for me to work with you for these past 5+ years.

Second, I want to take this opportunity to explain something of what a Clerk of Session does! The Session, as you know, is the governing council of the congregation, and makes almost all the decisions in the life of the church, aside from who serves in leadership and certain decisions related to property, which the congregation as a whole decides.

The Session has two officers: the Moderator, who chairs the meetings of the Session and may exercise other duties as assigned or approved by the Session; and the Clerk. The Clerk is essentially the administrative officer of the Session; the Clerk takes the minutes of Session meetings and is responsible for maintaining them for future reference. They are responsible for overseeing the maintenance of the church rolls, including: members joining or moving away; baptisms; births; and deaths.

The Clerk also manages correspondence to and from the Session with members, community leaders, denominational entities, and so on. For Presbyterians, who stress both the primacy of Elder leadership and doing things “decently and in order,” it’s hard to overstate the importance of having a strong Clerk to manage these duties well.

Thankfully, we have a new Clerk who meets that criteria! Elder Jennifer Cole has stepped up into the role as Clerk of Session. Jennifer joined the church several years ago and has been deeply involved in a range of ministries and activities in the life of the church, distinguishing herself by her commitment, wisdom, and faithfulness. Since being elected Clerk, she has taken up her new duties with energy and excellence, and we can all be grateful for her leadership moving forward. (read more about Jennifer below)

This congregation is certainly blessed in terms of the talent and commitment of the leaders whom God has called forth, and I am looking forward to what lies ahead for the Session and congregation as we move forward!

Grace and Peace,

Hebrews 11 (select verses)
This week’s sermon: Way Will Open: Running for
Our Lives by The Rev. J.C. Austin

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


  • Child care will be available from 8:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. this Sunday morning; please ask an usher for directions.

  • Your children are a joy in our worship services, and should the need arise, “kid bags” are available for their use. They are in the Narthex and in the blanket-sitting area (to the left of the communion table in Fellowship Hall).

  • 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.

We may be done with COVID, but COVID is not done with us!

Although the COVID transmission rate in the Lehigh Valley is currently low, there have been a number of members of our congregation who have contracted the virus in recent weeks. Nevertheless, the Building Reopening Task Force has agreed that we are at a point where each individual needs to make his or her own decisions on COVID precautions.

Therefore, we have removed the markers from the sanctuary which were in place to encourage social distancing. However, if you are concerned about your exposure, we recommend that you continue to wear a high quality mask and continue to follow social distancing recommendations when in group settings.
As J.C. noted in his message (above), Elder Jennifer Cole has stepped into the role of Clerk of Session.

Jennifer is a resident of Hellertown, having moved there three years ago from Bucks County, where she grew up. She has been retired for a number of years, from her work as an ICU/critical care nurse.
The parent of two sons – one who lives in Coopersburg and one in San Diego – Jennifer counts gardening, reading and walking among her interests.

She began attending First Pres in January 2020, when she relocated to the Lehigh Valley. Says Jennifer, “I was ‘home’” and she became a member in July 2021. She joined Session last year, and has also been involved in the Discipleship and Congregational Life committees (now part of the Community Life Program Committee), and Chancel Choir.

We invite folks to stay for Coffee & Conversation following each of our two worship services. 

This is an opportunity for connection in Fellowship Hall where you’ll find coffee for adults along with juice boxes and a simple snack for children. (We will still gather for our Intergenerational Faith Formation story and craft after the 9:00 service!)

This Sunday we conclude our four-part special Lenten series for adult ed. All are welcome to gather in Fellowship Hall beginning at 10 a.m. These sessions are in-person only; the recordings are shared on our website.

We are exploring the insights of the two books that the Session and Trustees read last summer and which have been guiding their strategic work ever since. The books are Shift: Three Big Moves for the 21st Century Church, by Mark Tidsworth, and We Aren’t Broke: Uncovering Hidden Resources for Ministry and Mission, by Mark Elsdon. 

While you are certainly invited to make reading these books part of your Lenten discipline, there is no expectation that you will have done so in order to participate in the class. Rather, we’ll be presenting the key points of the two books and discussing them with an eye towards how they might speak to us right here at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem.

The Hearts N Minds adult ed class is on hiatus until Sunday, April 2, when they will meet at 9:45 a.m. in the Parlor. They will not meet on Easter Sunday (April 9) and will resume on Sunday, April 16.
“Making Room for Something New”
The last of four sessions in our Lenten Supper series will be offered next Wednesday (March 22).

From 6:00-7:30 p.m. we’ll gather in Fellowship Hall for a simple potluck meal and explore the theme Making Room for Something New.  
The series offers insight on discipleship practices and spiritual postures for navigating transition and change, both as individuals and as a community. 

There is time for food and connection, a brief bit of teaching and practice, followed by small group reflection and conversation. Here are the themes we’ll explore together over the four weeks: creating space and waiting/wintering; stillness; imagination; resilience and vitality.

Attendees are invited to bring either a salad or dessert for at least eight. Any variety of salad (pasta salad, grain bowl, chicken/egg/potato salad, green salad, etc.) or dessert is welcome!

We also need five volunteers each week to help with light preparations at 5:30 p.m. If you’re available to help, please email or call the church office at 610-867-5865 and your message will be shared with Gail Watts, who is coordinating the suppers. 
FPCB volunteers will be cooking and serving dinner for the guests at Bethlehem Emergency Sheltering on Wednesday, March 29.  We need volunteers to clean up during service and after the meal, and serve as shower monitor (which is just a simple check-in process). 

If you’re interested in volunteering, these are the available spots – please email Pastor Lindsey at or see her on Sunday morning:
  • Clean-up - 6:00-8:30 p.m. (2 volunteers needed)
  • Shower Monitor (Male) - 7:15-9:15 p.m. (1 volunteer needed)
Our popular speakers program, Hi Neighbors, will be back starting on Monday, March 27!

This time around we're partnering with the folks at Meals on Wheels, who are assisting us with the scheduling of presenters, and to promote our program.
We thank them for their support!
Each program will begin at 9:30 a.m. in Fellowship Hall with a hospitality time. The presentations will begin at 10 a.m. All are welcome - there is no fee and no pre-registration.

On March 27 we'll kick off with a program by Melissa Hakim, M.D., a Patient Advocate and Health & Wellness Advisor with Hakim Health Partners. Patient advocacy is the bridge between you and your doctors, specialists, family members and hospital. Learn how to get help with diagnosis, specialists and various treatment options.

Watch next week's newsletter for the complete list of programs running weekly through May 15.
Around the world, millions of people lack access to sustainable food sources, clean water, sanitation, education, and opportunity. One Great Hour of Sharing supports individuals and communities in need. From initial disaster response to ongoing community development, their work fits together to provide people with safety, sustenance, and hope.

This collection will be taken through Easter Sunday (April 9).
NOTE: The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance fund is supporting earthquake response efforts in Turkey and Syria.

First Pres is collecting nonperishable foods and bedding for New Bethany Ministries, Bethlehem Emergency Sheltering and Northeast Community Center, now through Palm Sunday.

Note that the items for BES can be new or very gently used; they are also requesting donations of tents (they appreciate this model, so they can tell who is affiliated with their programs).

Containers are located in the North Link and in the Kirk Center. Please consider supporting these Bethlehem organizations.
ORDERS DUE SUNDAY! Easter Flowers: We are now taking orders for flowers for use in our Easter services – you will have your choice of a hydrangea ($22), tulip ($11) and daffodil ($11). Special envelopes are available, or you can use the one in your pack of envelopes. This is a nice way to honor or remember a loved one, and you can take home the flowers you order. 
NOTE: We are not ordering Easter lillies this year - just the options noted above.

Chancel Flowers: We appreciate the donation of chancel flowers for use in our Traditional worship services in the Sanctuary. This is a wonderful way to honor a loved one, or their memory. Please sign up for your requested date using the form in the Narthex (or you can call the church office at 610-867-5865).

We will order the flowers on your behalf. The cost is $75, payable to First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem; send your payment to the Finance Office or use the flower envelope that is with the sign-up form.

The next Helping Hands trip is slated for Saturday, April 15 – Saturday, April 22 and will take volunteers back to New Bern, NC to work on homes for our neighbors there.
The registration deadline is Thursday, March 30. The cost is $250.00 (includes round trip travel to New Bern and housing and meals while in New Bern), but if the cost is prohibitive and you would like to participate, there are scholarship funds available.

The Orientation Meeting will take place on Thursday, March 30 at 6 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Allentown.

If you are interested or would like more information, please contact Kevin Kehoe via or leave a message for him 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, but you are also enouraged to contact Jane Mackie 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 the next week's newsletter:
WEDNESDAY at noon**
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  • 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

  • 8:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.: Child Care (ask ushers to direct you)
  • 9:00 a.m.: “Holy Ground” Contemporary service, Fellowship Hall (in person only) followed by Coffee & Conversation in Fellowship Hall
  • 10:00 a.m.: Lenten Adult Ed class, Fellowship Hall – all are welcome
  • 11:00 a.m.: Traditional Worship Service, in-person in the Sanctuary AND livestream on Facebook Live and our website; in-person followed by Coffee & Conversation in Fellowship Hall

TUESDAYS: 6 p.m. - Handbell rehearsal, Sanctuary (middle school and older, no experience needed)

WEDNESDAYS: 6-7:30 p.m. - Lenten Supper Series, Fellowship Hall; 7 p.m. - Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group weekly meeting, via Zoom (Meeting # 380 435 9056 / Password: overcomer)

THURSDAYS: 7 p.m. - Chancel Choir Rehearsal, Sanctuary


Regular office hours are Monday - Thursday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Many of the office staff are working 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. 

IN CASE OF BAD WEATHER: Look for updates on our website (, Facebook page, and WFMZ (channel 69 and We will also put the info on our church phone message, 610-867-5865.

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;

Carol Burns, Communications Manager: ext. 238;

Tracy Leszcynski, Preschool Director; phone: 610-867-2956;

Marianne Zarillo, Finance (interim); ext.

Cindy Matthews, Bookkeeper; ext. 211;