Friday, June 4, 2021 Newsletter

9:00 a.m. Contemporary 
11:00 a.m. Traditional*

 (* also available on our website and via phone)
A MESSAGE FROM THE REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Pride - a corrective reaction

We have now begun our summer preaching series around the theme of “A Good Word,” in which we are exploring what Scripture tells us about how to understand a particular word each week that has significance for our lives and faith and ministry as individual Christians and as a congregation.

Lindsey started us off last Sunday, appropriately enough, with the word “Grace,” which is where pretty much any theological conversation or consideration should begin for Christians! And, thanks to the excellent response to our invitation to submit words for consideration in sermons, we have enough “Good Words” to carry us through the Labor Day weekend! Thanks to all who responded, and we’re looking forward to exploring these words with you through the lens of Scripture throughout the summer. 
There is one word that was not suggested that I want to explore briefly here, though. That word is “pride.” Earlier this week, a pastor friend of mine posted a message on her Facebook page that simply said, “Happy Pride, friends!” She was, of course, referring to the month of June, which is known as Pride Month for LGBTQ* people.

As you probably know, “Pride” is a celebration of LGBTQ identities, culture, and history in the month of June each year, and the post was simply a recognition of that.
But what followed this innocuous post was a torrent of negative comments that ranged from outright hate against LGBTQ people to theological condemnations of my friend as a “false teacher” who is leading her congregation away from God through her commitment to LGBTQ inclusivity. 

And within the latter were a number of posts arguing that Christians should not support LGBTQ Pride because “pride” itself is condemned as sin by the Bible. Now, I assume that we are all in agreement that hate of any kind is antithetical to the Christian gospel. But given the number of comments saying that we as Christians cannot support LGBTQ Pride because pride is inherently sinful, I want to address that word here as Pride Month unfolds and the word “pride” is so much in the air.

The traditional Christian understanding of the sin of pride is that it directs honor to oneself that rightfully belongs to God, and it has often been identified as the “root” of sin, in which we forsake God’s will and follow our own, instead. 

Augustine sums this up well: “Pride is the beginning of sin. And what is pride but the craving for undue exaltation? And this is undue exaltation – when the soul abandons Him who to whom it ought to cleave as its end, and becomes a kind of end to itself” (City of God).

The problem, of course, is that this definition of pride as “undue exaltation” has nothing to do with LGBTQ Pride. I think we all actually know that not all forms of pride are sinful expressions of undue exaltation. When I am proud of my son for excelling at something, that is not undue exaltation: it is gratitude for the gifts he has been given and for his dedication in using them well and productively, as God intends all gifts to be used. Sinful pride would be replacing gratitude with undue exaltation: believing that he has greater inherent value to God or for society because of his innate characteristics, or racial identity, or gender, or so on.

LGBTQ Pride is hardly the sinful undue exaltation condemned by Augustine and almost all theological traditions in some form, including our own Reformed theological tradition, as well as Scripture itself. On the contrary, I would argue that this celebratory understanding of Pride is a corrective reaction to what we might call “undue denigration,” categorizing and treating LGBTQ people as “less than” in church or society simply because of their identities.

And for Christians, that is not only something we can support, but should. Because it is the insistence that LGBTQ people are beloved by God and should be accorded the same dignity and rights and opportunities as any human being. More than that, it recognizes that LGBTQ people have particular perspectives and experiences and contributions that enrich the church and our society and our world that should be recognized and celebrated with gratitude and appreciation, in part precisely because church and society have for so long treated LGBTQ people with its own form of sinful pride: displacing God’s love with human rejection and exclusion and persecution, and unduly exalting non-LGBTQ people in doing so.

So, I hope that with this theologically-informed understanding of the word “pride,” we can wish our LGBTQ members and friends and neighbors a “Happy Pride” this month, not in spite of our faith but because of it, as an expression of our love and our conviction that we are all beloved children of God together, as the first letter of John famously puts it: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7-8).

Grace and Peace,

*LGBTQ = “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer.” You may have seen other versions of this, and there is not a strict consensus on the best acronym to use, but Rev. Goudy of the Metropolitan Community Church of the Lehigh Valley, who spoke to us a couple of years ago about this, encouraged us to use this one as a good combination of clarity and inclusivity. 

Scripture lesson:
Click the link to read the verses
·   This week's sermon: A Good Word:
Mission by The 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 Sunday

Communion Sunday
If you would like to participate,
please prepare your elements:
bread or bread-like item, and
grape juice, wine or water

On June 30 Andrea (Andie) Barbehenn will retire from the staff of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, after serving its Preschool and Extended Care Program for 35 years – 30 of them as its Director. Our church has offered a Preschool program for more than 50 years and Andie has been its longest-serving director.

We want to express our deep gratitude for Andie’s faithfulness to her calling as a teacher and leader in our Preschool in these 35 years of service, and the impact she has made on generations of students who have come through the school. We invite you to be part of doing that.
Did any of your family members attend our Preschool? If so, we invite you to send us your thoughts about the experience by Monday, June 21. We’ll include your notes in a memory book for Andie.  (Right, Andie and two young friends – pre-Covid!)

Please send notes and/or photos to, or by mail to Carol Burns, First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, 2344 Center Street, Bethlehem PA 18017.  
We are also offering an opportunity to contribute to an honorarium (cash gift) for Andie upon her retirement. Please make your donation by Monday, June 21. Checks should be made out to First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, with “Andie Barbehenn gift” in the memo line:

  • Mail a check to: Marianne Zarillo, First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, 2344 Center Street, Bethlehem PA 18017. 
  • You can drop off cash or a check to your child’s Preschool teacher; please be sure it is clearly marked for Andie’s gift.
  • You can also donate at; in the memo box indicate “Andie Barbehenn gift”.
  • If you attend an in-person worship service on Sunday, June 20, you can deposit your check (or cash, in a marked envelope) in the collection basket.
And last, but not least, please join us on Sunday, June 27 at either the 9:00 a.m. Contemporary worship service (indoors in the Kirk Center) or the 11:00 a.m. Traditional worship service (indoors in the Sanctuary), where we will recognize and honor Andie’s service to our church and community. 

At these worship services, Andie will share some of the history of the Preschool and its impact. (Note: Church protocol requires the correct wearing of masks at these services.) Both services will also be livestreamed on the church Facebook page, @FirstPresBethlehem.

You can also stop by between services (10-10:45 a.m.) for an outdoor reception on the east side of the building, to say hello to Andie and wish her well.

Thank you for sharing in this special celebration!
We are so very sorry to share this news, that long time Preschool teacher Ginny Dagnall passed away unexpectedly on Sunday.

Mrs. Dagnall taught in the Preschool program for 25 years and has touched many young lives and their families. Her obituary, and the opportunity to leave a memorial tribute is available at

Our prayers go out to Mrs. Dagnall's family, friends and co-workers, and to the entire Preschool community.
CYF Summer Social Updates: Calling all children/youth/families

We’ve made some changes to our monthly summer fellowship events for children and youth of all ages (and their families):
Sunday, June 13 at 1:00 p.m. - Strawberry Picking at Valley Fruits & Veggies (5309 Colony Drive, Bethlehem). We’ll meet there and enjoy the tractor ride to the berry patch to pick our own berries! They have a food truck on site if you’d like to have lunch before picking, and they’ve got strawberry milkshakes and shortcakes available to purchase for dessert. 
Please email Lindsey ( to RSVP so we know who to be on the lookout for at the farm.

Sunday, July 18 - Movie Night on the Church Lawn

August - We’ll still have a Pool Party hosted by the Benway Family, but a new date is forthcoming. The Bradbury-Sullivan Center just announced this week that Lehigh Valley Pride is being held in-person on Sunday, August 15, so we want folks to be free to participate in that event since the church will have a booth at the festival!

We recently announced that we are offering a two-part Inquirers’ Seminar, as part of our ministries of engagement and faith formation here at First Presbyterian. The first session will be offered this Sunday and it’s not too late to sign up (see below).

The Inquirers’ Seminar will be in two parts: this Sunday, June 6, from 1-4 p.m.; and Tuesday, June 15, from 6:30 – 8 p.m. NEW LOCATION: Weather permitting, the Sunday session will be outdoors on the church grounds (please bring a chair); we will move indoors if the temperature is challenging. The Tuesday session will convene via Zoom.

If you are interested in participating or in learning more, please contact us at or call the Church Office at 610-867-5865 with your contact information, and we will be in touch with you. Hope to see you there!
The Hearts N Minds class will meet this Sunday, June 6 for one last time before taking a summer hiatus.
They will continue with the book, Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus by Jim Wallis. The reading assignment is the chapter, “Question of Fear”.

To join via / Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – press the # key again.
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!

  • 9:00 a.m.: Contemporary Worship Service, livestreamed
  • 9:00 a.m.: Hearts N Minds adult education class via Zoom
  • 11:00 a.m.: Combined Worship Service, livestreamed - see instructions in blue box, below, to join us online, and in the yellow box to join us via phone 
FOR THIS SUNDAY: : Worship with us “Live” on Facebook
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!
  • 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
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE INTERNET ACCESS: You can participate on your phone to listen to the 11 a.m. Traditional service

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 848 4170 9518, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – press the # key again.
  • 7 p.m.: Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group weekly meeting, via Zoom (Meeting # 380 435 9056 / Password: overcomer)

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. Lindsey Altvater Clifton, Associate Pastor of Formation and Justice;

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;

Marianne Zarillo, Business Manager: email:

Cindy Matthews, Bookkeeper: email:

Carol Burns, Communications Manager; phone 610-428-9649;

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