Friday, May 8, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

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

A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: On this journey together

This Sunday will mark the start of the ninth week that we’ve been a fully digital church. In that time, we’ve found ways to authentically worship together, including celebrating Communion; we’ve moved existing ministries of education and service online and started new ones; our Deacons have attempted to check in with every member of the congregation multiple times by phone; we’ve even held a congregational meeting online! It has been an extraordinary journey so far: filled with joy and sorrow, difficult losses and surprising blessings, bold decisions and happy accidents.

At this two-month mark, it is not clear when things will substantially change again for our life together. As you know, the Governor of Pennsylvania’s plan for “re-opening” the state includes three phases, coded by color. In the Lehigh Valley, we are in the red phase now, which means we are still under a stay-at-home order. 
The yellow phase, moving from stay-at-home to “aggressive mitigation,” means that even in that phase, groups of more than 25 people at once could not gather, which obviously impacts all of our pre-pandemic Sunday worship services. In anticipation of that move, whenever it comes, the Session has already begun exploring the most faithful and responsible ways for us to respond to it, and there is much left to consider. But we are beginning now so that we will have a plan when the possibility of a change arrives.  
However, there is at least one thing that is very clear. The last two months have proven that we can remain a faithful and impactful congregation under these extraordinary circumstances, continuing to fulfill our mission and living out our core values in profound and powerful ways through our worship, education, service, and life together as we adapt to our changing circumstances.

So I want to suggest three important ways that everyone can be exercising their own ministry as part of our congregation’s mission, regardless of the circumstances we are in:

  • Pray. Continue to pray for our community and world, for the essential workers who are shouldering such heavy and dangerous burdens, and for those who are particularly vulnerable in the fallout of this pandemic. And pray for the Session as they continually seek to discern God’s will for us in responding to this pandemic, and for our staff and volunteers who are serving so powerfully and well in so many ways in this moment.

  • Share. Social media is more powerful than ever right now as a tool for connection and support, and people are hungry for good news. So if you are on Facebook, please make a special effort to share our livestream worship feeds on your own page; on Sunday mornings, as well as our other Facebook posts. Make a comment when you do so, as this makes the post visible to more people under Facebook’s algorithms.

If you are not on Facebook, consider joining, at least for the duration of the
pandemic. If you’d like assistance with that, we can help you; just send a
request to and we will pair you with a “tech buddy”
who can help you decide how much information you want to share in setting up
your page so you do not feel like you’re taking unwanted risks.

  • Give. We have never been busier or more impactful as a congregation in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in word and action than we are right now, and that will continue to be the case. Your generous gifts of money, time, energy, and love are crucial to our ability to do that. You can continue to give financially through an electronic bank transfer (ACH), through a gift using our new online giving portal or simply by mailing in a check.
You can give your time and energy by sending a message to to either volunteer for a particular program, such as our Meal Ministry to those for whom shopping is dangerous or cooking is difficult, or simply to say, “I’d like to help, but I’m not sure how…”.
And you can give your love simply by writing a note, picking up the phone, or suggesting a video meeting to others in the congregation or the larger community so you can ask them how they are, assure them you are praying for them, and tell them you look forward to seeing them in person as soon as that’s appropriate. Contact us at if you need help setting up a video meeting – we’re glad to help!

It has been one of the great joys and privileges of my life and ministry to be your pastor as we have responded to this crisis together as a congregation with love, courage, compassion, and hope. Wherever the next steps lead us, I am grateful for us to be on this journey together, and I am certain that God will continue to bless us and lead us as we do so.

Grace and peace,

Scripture lesson: Phillipians 2:5-11

Click the link to read online
·     This week's sermon: Unbound Grief 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
  • NEW TIME! 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 for a link to view the service
  • Please check in with a comment so we know you’ve joined us!

To watch a video – available after the services have aired:
  • Visit our website and look for the link on the homepage

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
SUNDAY SCHOOL for this week

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.:

Meeting ID: 859 8632 3119

As our communications needs evolve, starting next week
look for an email communication from us on Mondays,
replacing the Wednesday Mid-Week Update.

The Discipleship Committee has planned several new learning opportunities for May:
FPCB BOOK CLUB: Devotions by Mary Oliver
Tuesday, May 12 from 1-2:30 p.m. on Zoom
Led by Anne Taylor

Anne will lead a discussion about selected poems from Mary Oliver’s book. You are welcome to attend whether you have read the poems or not – it will be a very emotional and powerful experience!
To join the Zoom Meeting / Meeting ID: 848 2945 7577

To participate by phone only: call 929-205-6099 and enter Meeting ID when prompted.

Coming next!

The Kingdom of God in Song and Symbol – a two-part series
Wednesdays – May 20 & 27 – from 7-8 p.m. on Zoom
Led by Rev. Dr. Steve Simmons

READ MORE ABOUT ANNE'S AND STEVE'S PRESENTATIONS... (this webpage also has videos of our previous presentations)
Hearts N Minds Adult Education
The class will meet this Sunday at 9 a.m. via Zoom to discuss
Sister Joan Chittister’s book, For Everything a Season . For this Sunday,
the chapter is entitled " A Time for Peace ".

Meeting ID: 831 165 912

Or you can join via phone (audio only): 929-205-6099 and enter the Meeting ID
After a brief hiatus, our Optimism 101 group is back on Wednesdays at noon, via Zoom.

This group is available to provide support and friendship to anyone challenged by depression, or who cares for someone who is.
To join the Zoom meeting: / Meeting ID: 881 8442 8633

To participate by phone only: call 929-205-6099 and enter Meeting ID when prompted.

Questions? Please contact us at

This Sunday our guest vocalist for the 11:00 a.m. Traditional service is Dr. Chris Jackson, Director of Choral Activities at Muhlenberg College, and Outreach Director/Bass Soloist with the grammy-nominated professional choir Skylark.
Chris is a good friend of music director David Macbeth and an excellent singer, bringing to us this week a movement from the Ravel song cycle, "Don Quichotte a Dulcinee". 

Each Thursday evening, our Chancel Choir meets via Zoom, and Chris has agreed to stop by our gathering next Thursday evening to introduce himself and answer any questions you may have on his Sunday performance.

This will be a wonderful conversation....please plan to attend!
To join the Zoom meeting on Thursday, May 14 at 7 p.m.:

Meeting ID: 883 675 284

To participate by phone only: call 929-205-6099  and enter Meeting ID when prompted.
to those who participated in yesterday's Interfaith Hour of Prayer, presented by the Bethlehem Interfaith Group (BIG). There were wonderful prayers and music offered by the leaders of our member houses of faith, and we had a good group ‘attending’, many from FPCB.

Here is a photo from the Zoom call – we will let you know when we have a video of the event available.
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**
* * *
And follow us on Facebook : @FirstPresBethlehem
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
  • 9:00 a.m.: Hearts N Minds adult education (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

*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.
  • 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;