Friday, July 31, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

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

A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Getting in Good Trouble

As I’ve mentioned in a few sermons, the concept of “home” is a little complicated for me. I was born in Tennessee but have no memory of those years; I moved around several times in my preschool years. I spent my childhood right here in the Lehigh Valley, living in Allentown for all my elementary school years. Then my family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and I spent my adolescence there, where my parents and my brother still live.

So as I write this article from the Lehigh Valley, my once and current home, my “other” home is on my mind, because yesterday Atlanta celebrated the life of John Lewis, the iconic civil rights leader, with a funeral at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Ebenezer, as you may know, was the congregation led for four decades by Martin Luther King, Sr., a prominent pastor in both Atlanta and the broader Black church and an influential civil rights leader in his own right.
When Martin Luther King, Jr. left his pastorate in Montgomery to devote himself to the Civil Rights Movement, he returned to Atlanta and became co-pastor with his father at Ebenezer to ensure he stayed rooted in the church. 

It was also the church home of Lewis when he moved to Atlanta; Lewis was himself an ordained Baptist minister and a devoted Christian, and credits Martin Luther King, Jr. with being the key inspiration that led him to become both a pastor and a civil rights leader. 
Lewis is famous for his leadership in the Freedom Rides, the Selma marches, and the March on Washington. But more recently, he is perhaps best known for his refrain of urging people to get in “good trouble.” He returned to that theme in an op-ed he wrote just before his death that was published in the New York Times yesterday, in which he said, “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.”

As a veteran activist who directly confronted some of the most aggressive injustice and hate of our time, he understood that doing good sometimes causes trouble, and in fact, it is often the case that the bigger and more urgent the good is, the bigger the trouble is from pursuing it.

One of the things that convinced me almost three years ago that God was calling me to the pastorate here at First Presbyterian Church in Bethlehem was recognizing that, in our own way, this is a congregation that is willing to get into good trouble, necessary trouble. At the time, this congregation was still immersed in the aftermath of a bitter division over whether we should embrace or reject the equality of LGBTQ people in the life of the Christian church.

Standing for the full inclusion of LGBTQ people at the time resulted in a lot of trouble, to put it mildly. But it was good trouble, necessary trouble, faithful trouble; following Christ, after all, has been causing a lot of trouble since the very beginning of the Christian church! And that was what really drew my attention as I talked with the search committee: that this was a group of people willing to do that for the sake of the gospel. I remember talking to one friend at the time who said to me, “you just need to understand you’ll be stepping into a world of trouble if you say yes.” And I replied, with Lewis on my mind, “yes, but it’s good trouble.”

And it has been, in so many ways! Now, as many of you may remember, I was called and installed here to a three-year term as pastor, largely because it wasn’t clear at the time where that trouble was going to lead us and there needed to be some flexibility to call someone with different gifts in case that was necessary.

With the end of that term now on the horizon (it expires at the end of November 2020), I am delighted and humbled that the Session voted last Sunday to call a congregational meeting to recommend to you that I be retained as pastor without a fixed term. This would shift my call to the standard pastoral relationship in the PC(USA), and would mean there is no “expiration date” on my ministry here.

There will be more about that as we get into the fall, but as I go off for a bit of vacation over the next two weeks, I do so with a heart full of gratitude for all the good trouble we’ve gotten into together over the past few years, and with a mind full of eagerness about what we might do next!

Grace and Peace,

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·     This week's sermon: Imagine!
by the Rev. Dr. Steve Simmons

·       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 watch a video – available after the services have aired:

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

Whether you attend ‘live’ – in person on Sunday mornings, via Zoom - or watch our “Driveway Sunday School videos” (stories and music) online at your convenience, our Sunday School teachers have you covered with a meaningful experience each week.

The videos are on the church website.
To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.:

Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116

Please consider sharing this information with the young ones in your life!
We are happy to welcome the Rev. Dr. Steve Simmons as our preacher this Sunday, and our Worship Leader will be Rev. Cynthia Simmons.
Cindy and Steve are both Presbyterian (USA) pastors who served congregations in Oregon and Illinois before coming to the Lehigh Valley in 1995. Steve was on the pastoral staff of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia before joining Moravian Theological Seminary in 2001 to direct the continuing education program and teach theology, until his retirement in 2017.
Cindy served 15 years on the staff of First Presbyterian of Allentown and later pastored First Presbyterian of Easton before retiring in 2016.

Steve and Cindy both sing in our church choir and volunteer in our education programs; they are also active in the Bethlehem Interfaith Group (BIG), of which First Pres is a member.

First, we are happy to welcome back our full complement of musicians for our Contemporary service at 9 a.m. – following all protocols, of course!

Secondly, we welcome back Madison Zahorsky and Bryan McClary as guest vocalists for the Traditional service at 11 a.m.

Both of our vocalists are graduates of Westminster Choir College. Madison attended Lehigh Valley Charter Arts High School, and graduated from Westminster in 2019. Bryan will be attending The Jacobs School of Music as a first year Voice Performance major, and recently received his BA from Westminster.

Yesterday, elder Rich Hjorth was part of a presentation on coronavirus, offered by Lehigh Presbytery. If you missed it, you can watch it here (start the video at the 20 minute mark).

He also referenced two articles during his talk – if you would like printed copies mailed to you, please leave a message at 610-867-5865 or send us an email at :

NOTE: you do NOT need to subscribe to read the article; click on the 'down'
arrow in the upper right corner of the 'subscribe' box

We are fortunate to have Rich’s expertise during this time!

You may remember that our neighbors at Wesley Church put on big event each year before school starts, so kids in our community can get the things they need for a successful start to the new school year.

They will be offering this opportunity again, although in a different format. “We Got Your Back” will be held Saturday, Aug. 15 from 8 a.m.-noon at Wesley, 2540 Center St. It is a drive-through event, and the organizers have instituted a number of protocols to ensure everyone’s safety.

You can help by:

1.       Making donations of needed items – the most needed items are boys and girls underwear. You can see what they need here , and can either order it through this site (make sure to mark delivery to "We Got Your Back" and it will be delivered to Wesley) OR you can buy similar items and deliver to Wesley yourself before the event. DO NOT deliver to First Pres.

2.       Volunteers are needed for that day, at the event. If you are interested, you need to complete this form and submit it. Note that you will need to attend an in-person volunteer training session the week before the event; volunteers must be entering 6th grade or older.

Thanks for considering this opportunity! #AnActiveFaith

If you provided information to us for our new directory, you should have received one in the mail.

From Directory Team chair, Jackie Byrnes: “ Now that you have all received our church's first directory, we would like to thank those people who worked on the directory team gathering data and helping to edit the results. They are: Linda Flipovits, Irene Maunz, Cheri Newton, Tom Miller, Anita Shannahan, Ginny Shunk, Judy Smullen, co-chair Sue Farber, and last but not least - our two angels in the office, Cristy Mette and Carol Burns.
The printed information is as accurate as we had available, and the directory is definitely a draft. You can help us by contacting us at for any of these situations:

  • If you did not provide information to us and would like to share your information
  • If you did not receive a directory and would like one
  • Your information was inaccurate or incomplete, please send the correct information
If you prefer to call us at 610-867-5865, just leave a message that you need to talk to someone about the directory.
  • Midday Reflections is on a hiatus; watch for updates on when it will resume.

  • Optimism 101 is no longer meeting.
As with many large scale events, the annual Lehigh Pride Event has been reimagined to a virtual gathering via Facebook Live. Sponsored by Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, this celebration of LGBT arts and culture is now in its 27th year and will be held on Sunday, Aug. 16. 
The festival will include local and national talent, community spotlights, and more. We will be partnering with First Presbyterian Church of Allentown as a participating organization. More details to come, but you can check the latest here or on the Bradbury-Sullivan Facebook page.
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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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
  • 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.

  • Sunday, Aug. 30 at 10 a.m.: We are currently planning a Combined Worship service that will be offered outdoors at the front of the church building, as well as livestreamed. Check this article for details, and a link to sign up to let us know if you're planning to come.

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;