Wednesday, December 23, 2020 Newsletter

See Christmas Eve schedule below


9:00 a.m. Contemporary
11:00 a.m. Traditional (also available on our website and via phone)

Because of the New Year holiday, next week's newsletter will be emailed to you on Wednesday, December 30. There will be no issue of the Spotlight newsletter for next week.

The deadline for the newsletter moves to Tuesday at noon; send any information to Thank you!
A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Waiting and Preparing

Three years ago, I began serving as your pastor at the beginning of Advent. As I’ve said before, there is a certain…burden…that comes with using the initials “J.C.” as a pastor, since many people immediately make the connection with those being the initials of Jesus Christ. And so people particularly had fun with being able to say, “We’re waiting for J.C. to come to Bethlehem in Advent!”

As you’re reading this, you’re probably sitting on the boundary between Advent and Christmas, when we shift from the weeks of spiritually (and literally!) waiting and preparing for the coming of Christ into the celebration of the gift of Christ being born to us. 
Which is fitting, because I’m delighted to say that the waiting and preparing that we’ve been doing over the last nine months (an appropriate timeframe, given the Christmas story!) for an associate pastor is coming to an end, because the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (“APNC”) has selected a candidate for you to consider calling as our next associate pastor!! What a wonderful gift for us to be able to celebrate in this season and anticipate receiving in the new year.
Now, as we celebrate and anticipate, I want to explain a few things about how this will unfold and what your role and responsibility is as members. First, the APNC has informed the Session that it has a candidate and proposed terms of call (salary, etc.) for that candidate. The Session has affirmed those proposed terms of call, but it does not know who the candidate is, because the APNC reports directly to you, the congregation.

In Presbyterian governance, the right of the people to elect their own leaders is sacrosanct. That is why you had to approve the APNC in the first place, and they report directly to you when they have a candidate they wish to nominate to you. And according to Presbyterian process, they bring only one candidate; you commissioned them to go out and discern who would best fulfill the calling for this position, and when they believe they have done that, they nominate that person to you.

So: the Session has called a Special Congregational Meeting for Sunday, January 10, at 9 a.m. via Zoom, in order to receive and act upon the report of the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee. Please mark your calendars now and plan to be a part of this crucial moment in our congregation’s life and ministry. (We will offer a Combined Worship service at 11 a.m. that day.)

In the week leading up to the meeting on January 10, the APNC will be sending some advance communications to you about their process and why they are excited to be nominating this person. For confidentiality reasons, though, they will not be able to release any identifying details about the candidate until just before the meeting itself.

This is standard in the Presbyterian Church (USA) call process, because the candidate cannot tell their current congregation that they have received a new call until that call is issued; in this case, by an affirmative vote by you.

But given the speed with which information travels these days, it is all too easy for the current congregation to stumble upon that news too early if it is published with any real advance notice, which obviously then creates a series of painful problems for both the candidate and that church. And in any case, our governing process makes the congregational meeting itself the place that you learn about the specific candidate and make your decision.

So: the APNC will be providing general information in the week leading up to the meeting, and will make a more descriptive brochure available to inform you of some of the basics before the meeting begins. In the meeting itself, you will hear from both the APNC and the candidate as to why they feel this is a call from God, and then you will have an opportunity to ask them questions before discussing and voting on the nomination.

On a personal note, I want to say I am thrilled by this news and can’t wait for this meeting! And I want to commend the APNC on their diligent, faithful, and energetic work in going through the search process and finding a strong candidate to help us live more deeply into our mission as a congregation.

So again, please mark your calendars for Sunday, January 10, at 9 a.m.; it will be a wonderful start to the New Year!

Grace and Peace,

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·   This week's sermon: Jesus Brings Joy by Rev. Sue Bennetch

·     We post each week’s sermon
(audio and text) on our website:
TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT on 8.5" x 11" paper for Sunday

Thursday, December 24
all offered via Facebook Live and on our website*

* To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 815 4991 0311, followed by the # key.
You will be asked for the participant ID – press the # key again.

All services will include a candlelight portion – please have your own candles ready!

5-5:30 p.m.: Intergenerational Service
In addition to being live streamed, this service will also be offered outside in front of the church building. Please bring your own chairs and wear masks; physical distancing and other protocols will be in place. Appropriate for all ages. Candles will be provided for attendees.

NOTE: We are watching the weather for Thursday; at present the forecast is not looking favorable for an outdoor service so please check our website, Facebook or church phone message (610-867-5865) before venturing out.
7:00 p.m.: Traditional Service
Join us for a pastoral message, and special music by guest vocalists Madison Zahorsky (soprano) and Bryan McClary (baritone), and the Hill to Hill Brass Quintet.

The church’s Chancel Choir will also present a virtual anthem.
11:00 p.m.: Communion Service
This service will include the components of the 7:00 p.m. service, along with the celebration of communion. If you would like to participate in communion, prepare your elements beforehand: bread or a bread-like item (cracker, pita, roll, etc.) and grape juice, wine or water. 

Many thanks to all who were able to contribute to our collection of items for our neighbors in need. Deliveries of baby items, winter gear, socks and underwear, and pet items were made to the Salvation Army (below right), New Bethany Ministries (below left), and Northeast Community Center.

Sadly, the final week of our Spiral Advent Walk was cancelled due to weather conditions.

The Discipleship Committee has reimagined the ‘in person’ walk to a virtual, simulated one, scheduled for Monday, December 28 at 7 p.m.
We will gather in community to discuss scripture and the mediations of James Finley and Richard Rohr.

Join us to revisit the Advent Walk in virtual format or experience the Walk simulation for the first time, as we broaden our understanding of the nature of God’s LOVE at work in us and in the world.
If you have any writings or a journal from this experience, please bring to the virtual gathering, as well as a candle to light.

To join via phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 891 1326 3891 followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – press the # key again.

The third annual Giving Tree will be in place through Thursday, December 24 - virtually for this year.
As last year, you can purchase everything from famine relief food vouchers to winter heating fuel for refugees around the world. People who have given in the past will have received a catalog from which they can choose items.

You can also view the catalog online at
Payment can be by check or credit card. Do not make the check out to FPCB. You can designate the church affiliation, if you desire. 

Send the check and the order form in the enclosed envelope (from the catalog) directly to PCUSA. Remember people overseas are also in need in the time of COVID.
“Advent of the Spirit”

The class will not meet this Sunday, December 27, or on Sunday, January 3. Due to the Congregational meeting at 9 a.m. on Sunday, January 10 (see the Pastor’s Message, above), the next class will be held that day from 10-10:45 a.m.

On January 10, we will discuss the last lecture in the “Advent of the Spirit” series. All four lectures are available to listen to, on our church website. You do not need to listen to the lectures to attend class. We hope you will join us!

We are pleased to offer two Sunday School options for families! Gather with other families on Sunday mornings between 10:15-10:45 a.m. for a Zoom session; you can also do “anytime” Sunday School with a prerecorded series of videos and related resources that you can access on our website when convenient. These are updated weekly.
This week's lesson is based on Luke 2: 8-20: the story of the Shepherds in the fields. Spread the Good News: God sent Jesus to bring peace, and that peace is for everyone.

To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.: / Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116

A favorite tradition for many is the annual Bach Choir Christmas concert. As with many things, it took a new turn
this year with an online version.

You can view it anytime on YouTube.
The concert also will be shown on 69-WFMZ-TV on Christmas Eve at 10 p.m.

The Discipleship Committee is planning two learning opportunities for us in the new year – more information about both (including log in information) will be shared in next week’s newsletter:

Creating Your Spiritual Family Tree
Wednesday, January 6
7 p.m. via Zoom
Presenter: Jan Bickford

The beginning of a new year invites time for reflection on our lives. In this offering we will be reflecting on our “spiritual family tree:” on those people who came before us and laid the foundation for our spiritual development. Prior to our gathering you will receive materials and instruction to create your personal “tree.”

Living Spiritually in a Material World
Wednesdays: January 13, 20, and 27
7 p.m. via Zoom
Leader: The Rev. Dr. Steve Simmons

What might a faithful and responsible attitude toward our material possessions actually look like? In this series, we’ll consider what the Bible says about wealth (and poverty), how we can we best use our material resources to live faithfully as disciples of Christ, and even how we can make “decluttering” our lives a spiritual discipline. 

You may be considering an end of the year donation, to take advantage of tax credits. If mailed, those donations must be received by Wednesday, December 30. If you wish to drop off, you may do so on Wednesday, December 30 between 9 a.m.-noon – there will be a large envelope on the inside door of the South entrance. Please do not come into the building. Thank you for supporting FPCB!
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: TUESDAY at noon**
* * *
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 - see instructions in blue box, below, to join us online
  • 10:15-10:45 a.m.: Sunday School via Zoom – see more information above
  • 11:00 a.m.: Traditional Worship Service - 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
9 a.m. - Contemporary Worship Service
11 a.m. - Traditional Worship 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: Visit our website

We will offer the TRADITIONAL WORSHIP 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.
  • 7:00 p.m.: Virtual Advent Walk – see more information above

  • 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.

The building is closed beginning Thursday, December 24 and will reopen on Tuesday, January 5. The South entrance will be open on Wednesday, December 30 between
9 a.m. – noon if you want to drop off year-end donations – look for the large envelope on the inside vestibule door (please do not come into the building).
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;

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;