Friday, September 4, 2020 Newsletter



9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

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

Last Sunday was a new experiment for us as a church, as over 70 people gathered outdoors in front of the church building for our first in-person worship service since early March!
If you were not able to attend, I hope you saw the photos in the Spotlight that went out earlier this week to give you a feel for how the service went.

While this was certainly not a “return to normal,” given the safety protocols we needed to observe (not to mention being outside, which we’ve done only one other time in recent years!), it was a joyful day to be physically near one another in worship.
In fact, the Session has already decided to proceed with holding outdoor in-person services on at least September 27 and October 25, and will be looking at whether and how we might be able to do services beyond that as the weather gets colder.

So first, I want to invite you to mark your calendars for those dates if you are able to join in person on those days; the digital livestream will be available for those who cannot attend for whatever reason. Second, please note that those services will be at 11 a.m., not 10 a.m. like last Sunday.

Traditionally, we have held combined services at 10 a.m. as “splitting the difference” between the earlier and later Sunday morning services. However, it takes our tech team considerable time on Sunday mornings to set up for outdoor services (which is part of why we are doing a once-a-month schedule), and beginning at 11 a.m. gives them a little more breathing room.

Second, we are going to expand our experiment by encouraging people to remain and socialize while maintaining physical distancing after the service. We will say more about the protocols for that later, but given how well people abided by the distancing and mask requirements this past Sunday, we want to take the next step to provide for some in-person, informal time as a community in addition to worship.

Finally, if you are willing to serve as an usher or parking lot volunteer in the future, please send a message to with your availability and contact information. We have most of the team from August 30 returning on September 27, but we don’t want to rely on them for every outdoor service and so are looking to expand our roster! So please let us know if you are interested in serving in this capacity at all, and then we’ll worry about scheduling you on a specific day.

On a personal note, I have been delighted by how powerful the sense of community has been in our digital services, but I must say it was particularly “well with my soul” after the service to have been able to see so many of you in body as well as spirit on Sunday.

I am so grateful for each of you as we continue to journey through these days, and look forward to being with you again in worship this Sunday as we celebrate Communion in digital worship at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. (so don’t forget to prepare your elements and post a picture on Facebook if you can!).

Grace and peace,


Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·   This week's sermon: A Useful Problem 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

SERVICESWe 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: Visit our website

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, Sept. 6: Sunday School (live and pre-recorded sessions) is on hiatus; will return on Sunday, Sept. 13

Monday, Sept. 7: Labor Day holiday; staff will not be working

Wednesday, Sept. 9: Mask Force ministry drop-off/pick-up for those interested in sewing fabric masks; front of church building between 1-3 p.m. (continuing indefinitely)

Sunday, Sept. 13: Sunday School and Hearts N Minds adult education begin their fall sessions (see Hearts N Minds article below)

Sunday, Sept. 13: Bethlehem Interfaith Group (BIG) “Abundance of Prayer” hour of prayer via YouTube Live, beginning at 7 p.m. (see below)

Tuesday, Sept. 15: “Holy Imagination + Race: How the Church Can Be a Healing Force in America’s Racial Divide”, a webinar presented by Presbyterian Outlook at 2 p.m. For more information and to register:

Wednesday, Sept. 16: “Midway Down the Road: Building Spiritual Resilience in Difficult Times”, a Zoom presentation at 7 p.m. by Jan Bickford and Anne Taylor of FPCB (see below)

Sunday, Sept. 20: Congregational meeting at 10 a.m. via Zoom, between our 9 a.m. Contemporary service and 11 a.m. Traditional service.

Sunday, September 27: Combined worship service outside in front of the church building and livestreamed; note the new time of 11 a.m.

Monday, Sept. 21: Hi Neighbors speakers bureau will offer a special Zoom presentation by Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure, and the county’s Registrar, Amy Cozze, on mail-in ballots (see below)

SAVE THE DATE: Sunday, Oct.11: CROP Hunger Walk; you can walk that day or another day of your choice. More details to come!
Midway Down the Road: Building Spiritual Resilience in Difficult Times

Wednesday, Sept. 16
7 p.m.
Facilitated by Jan Bickford and Anne Taylor

Via Zoom: Please let us know that you plan to attend on this online form

A recent article in Christian Century magazine suggests that the pandemic has made people into “unintentional monastics”. It likens the shelter-in-place to the monastic life of solitude and self- examination.  These last six months have presented many struggles. They may also have offered unexpected graces.

A reasonable question to ask: “Is it possible to both flourish, and simultaneously experience a roller coaster ride including intermittent loss of control/purpose, grief, anger, vulnerability and disconnection?” Like Jacob, we wrestle with going beyond acceptance of, to meaning in this difficult time.

Using both scripture and the two articles listed below, we invite you to reflect on the development of spiritual resilience in 2020.  Participants will share their unique personal stories that capture those moments of struggle and grace. Join others in the FPCB faith community who seek to give voice this season to the growth of spiritual wisdom and resilience that has informed both our sense of self and our relationship with God.

Suggested readings:

To join the Zoom gathering online: (Meeting ID: 825 9431 2931)

To join via phone (audio only): call 929-205-6099; when prompted, enter the Meeting ID (825 9431 2931), followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.

We’re excited to share that Hi Neighbors, our popular speakers bureau, will return for the new semester in a new format – we’ll be going virtual!
Everyone is welcome to join us on Monday, Sept. 21 via Zoom for:

Voting in 2020: A Guidebook
A presentation by Lamont McClure, Northampton Community Executive and
Amy Cozze, County Registrar 
This is a timely topic and we look forward to our speakers sharing up-to-date information about registering and the options for voting (mail-in, drop off, and in-person). Next week we will share the Zoom information. 

If you are interested in lively discussion about social justice, what the Bible says to us, and thoughtful, meditative readings, then the adult education group Hearts N Minds might be for you.

Over the years, the group has studied many different writers and subjects and we will continue on that path of respectful exploration starting Sunday, September 13. We will be gathering via Zoom until further notice.
Discussion leaders throw out questions to discuss as a whole or in breakout groups. Our first book is Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans (Nelson Books, 2018; ISBN - 978-0-7180-2231-0). It is available new in paperback for $17 or there are plenty of used copies to buy.

Evans was a newspaper columnist (and best-selling author) who challenged conservative Christianity and gave voice to a generation of wandering evangelicals wrestling with their faith, before she died last year at a tragically young age.
Our book choice headed the best seller list for many months. Evans’ colleague wrote, “... (Rachel) proclaimed a more just and expansive vision of God’s love, to encourage others, and to amplify voices that are typically marginalized in the Church and in the world.”

We will then pick up Peter Enns's The Bible Tells Me So (Harper One, 2014; ISBN 978-0-06-227202-7). There are used hardback (preferred) and paperback copies available. 
From the dustjacket: “Christians have had it drilled into them that their job is to defend the bible against any challenge. But is this really God’s plan? What if God wants us to debate and wrestle with what we read in scripture? (In this book) you will find a revolutionary guide that will liberate Christians so they can truly engage with God’s Word.”

Both books examine the authors’ spiritual journeys. We are all on a spiritual journey and our hope is that these books can act as guideposts.

You may remember the work of "Mask Force 2000", a community group that has been coordinating volunteer sewers and materials to supply masks in the Lehigh Valley.
First Pres is once again serving as a pick-up location for materials/drop-off finished masks location. It will be open:

1-3 p.m.

The efforts focus on making masks with a clear vinyl insert that are easier for folks with communication challenges.
If you are interested in picking up kits to sew the masks, come to the front of church to come inside and pick up. If you have questions or concerns please direct them to

The Congregational Life team has planned another outdoor “Parking Lot” Trivia Night for Thursday, Sept. 17 (rain date: Thursday, Sept. 23). NOTE OUR NEW STARTING TIME: Gather beginning at 6 p.m. for dinner/snacks – we will BEGIN THE TRIVIA at 6:30 p.m.

Here’s the set up:

  • Each party’s vehicle will be directed to park in a designated parking space in the back (east) parking lot. There will be a vacant spaces adjacent to it – this is your space to use for lawn chairs, to hang out outside your car if you like. You are asked to stay in your designated space, except when delivering your trivia answers to the tabulator.
  • Masks are required, as is physical distancing of at least six feet.

  • You are invited to gather, starting at 6 p.m. for BYOF (bring your own food). Bring along your dinner or snacks; there will be no grills and no tables, so plan accordingly!
  • The trivia will begin at 6:30 p.m. We will have an emcee who will read the questions over a loudspeaker. Each team (vehicle) will confer on the answer, then submit their answer to the official tabulator – the teams with the correct answer will be announced.

  • Points will be awarded – the winner gets bragging rights!

In case of rain, we will postpone the event to Thursday, Sept. 23 and put the announcement on our website ( and on our Facebook page.
Have you been ‘religiously’ stashing away your plastics and wondering about donating them to our recycling effort?
You can bring your donations to the South entrance (by the Main Office) and put in the container there (if too large, set next to the container). We are getting close to our goal of 500 pounds, when we’ll receive a new bench for our campus.
Check this list (above right)! NOT ACCEPTED: candy bar wrappers, bags that produce comes in (the kind with holes), chip bags and frozen food bags. If in doubt, leave it out!
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**
* * *
And follow us on Facebook: @FirstPresBethlehem
Your likes / comments / shares help us spread the word about First Pres!

THIS SUNDAY (print bulletins, above) - COMMUNION SUNDAY*

  • 9:00 a.m.: Contemporary Service – join us on our Facebook page for the live service
  • 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

*If you would like to participate in Communion, please prepare your elements beforehand: a simple bread or gluten-free substitute (cracker, pita, bagel, bread, roll, etc.) and grape juice, wine or water.

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 staff will not be working on Monday, Sept. 7 in recognition of Labor 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;

Marianne Zarillo, Business Manager: email:

Cindy Matthews, Bookkeeper: email:

Carol Burns, Communications Manager; ext. 238;

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