Friday, March 20, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 
NEW TIME! 11:00 a.m. Traditional
A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Just Getting Started!

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday, in our first digital worship service together, I said that church is not getting cancelled; church is just getting started. I’m pleased to tell you that, less than a week later, we are already well on our way in living that out as a congregation!
First, as you hopefully saw in our new “Mid-Week Update” (emailed to you on Wednesday), there are some new changes to our worship life. We will continue to worship together digitally; there will be no in-person worship or any other church activities for now.

But we are ready to restart our Contemporary service in a digital format, so this Sunday, there will be a digital Contemporary service livestreamed at 9 a.m . on the church Facebook page (go to our website for a link, in case you don’t have a Facebook account).
In addition , there will be a digital Traditional service, but at the new time of 11 a.m., NOT our regular time of 10:30 a.m. This is to allow time for our broadcast team to complete the livestream from worship in the Kirk Center, break down necessary components and relocate them to the Sanctuary, and rebuild the system in the Sanctuary to livestream that service.

As with last week, both services will be available afterwards as a recording, but I encourage you to join the livestream in “real time.” One of the best moments of worship last Sunday, which I frankly wasn’t sure was going to work, was when we digitally passed the peace of Christ at the beginning of the service. As David Macbeth said afterwards, “the Facebook page lit up like a Christmas tree!” as people posted words of peace and encouragement in real-time during the service.

Because we cannot be physically together, it is all the more important for us to worship together in “word and spirit,” as Jesus put it in John’s Gospel last Sunday, so I hope you will join one of the services Sunday morning with that in mind.

At the same time, the rest of church life is adapting to this new reality as well. Our primary platform for gathering outside of church during this time will be ZOOM videoconferences (ZOOM is the name of the company that provides a particularly reliable videoconference platform). The Hearts N Minds adult education class met last Sunday using ZOOM and will continue to do so going forward (see the article below) ; the weekly staff meeting and committee meetings are already using it, and the Lenten Conversation on Wednesday night was held, gathering via ZOOM (see article below) .

If you have never used ZOOM, the good news is that it is quite simple (and free). All you need is an Internet-capable device (e.g., computer, smartphone, tablet) and a Wi-Fi connection. You simply click on the link we provide for the event, and the first time you will be prompted to download either a free interface for your computer or an app for your phone/tablet.

Then you will be connected to the videoconference, where you can see others and be seen, speak, ask questions, etc. just as if we were all sitting in the same room!

( NOTE: There is also an option to ‘listen in’ by calling a special phone number – so you can use your landline or non-smartphone.)

If this all sounds a bit overwhelming or intimidating, we are doing two other things to try and help. First, the Deacons are organizing a “congregational check-in” to touch base with every household in the church to make sure we have your correct contact information and find out how you’re doing.

If you do not receive a call by next Friday, March 27, please contact us to let us know, so that you can share your current contact information, as we may not have that; you can either email it to or call the Church Office and leave a message (the voicemail is being checked daily).

Second, we are recruiting “Tech Buddies” who are familiar enough with computers, the Internet, and/or social media to help others get online. It’s important to say that the best way by far that you can stay connected and informed is by being online with us, so this is a great time to become at least “tech literate” so you can do so. If you need a Tech Buddy, or if you are willing to serve as one, please also send an email to or call the Church Office (see article below) .

Friends, we are just getting started, and there is more to come and to do as we seek to be faithful in these current circumstances. But we have already come a long way in a short time, and I am profoundly grateful that we are on this journey together.

“See” you in worship on Sunday!

Grace and Peace,

Scripture lesson:
Ezekiel 37:1-10

·     This week's sermon:   Catching Our Breath by Rev. J.C. Austin             

·       We post each week’s sermon
(audio and text) on our website:
FOR THIS SUNDAY: Both Services “Live” on Facebook
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 on Monday:
  • Visit our website and look for the link on the homepage
Stay tuned for more information as we plan for digital services
and gatherings

Wednesdays, March 25 & April 1 from 6:30-7:30 p.m.: Lenten Conversations
(see article, below)
Sunday, April 5: Palm Sunday (Communion Sunday)
Thursday, April 9: Maundy Thursday
Friday, April 10 at 8 p.m.: Tenebrae service
Saturday, April 11 at 7 p.m.: Compline - contemplative, candlelit service
Sunday, April 12: Easter Sunday (Contemporary and Traditional services)

Love it or hate it, digital technology is here to stay – and it’s frankly a wonderful resource to keep us connected (and to reach the bigger world) while we’re embracing social distancing.

Pictured: Rich Gorton shared this photo of wife Becky watching our service last Sunday – “together in spirit”!
However, we recognize that not everyone has the same resources, devices, and comfort level/expertise in using technology – so we are here to help!

We have recruited several volunteers who are willing to serve as “tech buddies” for neighbors needing help to set up a Facebook account, access our services online, and participate in a ZOOM gathering. (If you are willing to help in this new ministry, please contact us.)
A few points:

1. If you need help, contact us at or 610-867-5865 and leave a message. And remember, there is no such thing as a ‘dumb’ question – if something’s tripping you up, we’re here to help!

2. You can participate in ZOOM gatherings by listening on your phone – you can use your landline or cell phone that doesn’t have ‘smart’ capabilities.

3. Our Facebook page and website are the go-to’s for current information – see the article below about using Facebook.

If you are interested in getting a group together using ZOOM, please contact Cristy Mette – she can walk you through the process (Hearts N Minds is already using this method to continue their Sunday adult ed conversations – see article below ).
We’re using Facebook to bring you current information – church-related and some ‘just for fun’, while we keep our social distance. Including both of our Sunday services, so we hope you’re connected (although you don’t need a Facebook account to watch our services – visit our website at to get the link).

(If you need help setting up an account or other tech questions, see article above.)

  • We have almost 1500 people following our page but Facebook doesn’t send every one of our posts to every person. This means a couple of things:

  • To make sure you see all of our posts, you can set our Facebook page to be ‘seen first’ in your feed. Go to our page and look for “Following” – click on the down arrow to this drop-down menu and click “See First”. (NOTE: You are limited to 30 pages that you can ‘see first’.)
  • You can help our posts go to more followers by hitting “Like / Comment / Share”. Making a comment is better than liking, but sharing is best. And when you share, add a short comment (even the word “Sharing…”) – that will push it out even further. Let’s get more folks involved!

  • Facebook isn’t just for our news and announcements. If you have something to share (an uplifting story, appropriate photos or cartoons, your own reflection, kids’ artwork, other online resources, etc.) please send to us at with a note to share it on Facebook.

  • Those of you who are involved in our various ministries, please consider how you can use Facebook (and/or ZOOM) to engage our congregation. If you have an idea or just want to brainstorm, contact us at

First Presbyterian Church is all about building community, and this is another way we can do that!
Consider inviting your ‘online’ friends to join us for these new options
in worship and learning!

Use these Facebook Event invitations (under the cover photo, click "Share"
then "Invite friends" - you can choose who you'd like)

What’s on our Facebook page
We featured this beautiful photo by
FPC member Laura Huffard to welcome spring! Look for more inspiring images from her and others, to connect us while we need to be apart.
Lenten Conversations: “Having the Mind of Christ”
Wednesdays from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

We've gone ONLINE with our Lenten Conversations! Enjoy your meal at home and join us via your computer, laptop, iPad or phone (does not have to be a smartphone). We had about 25 people join us Wednesday’s inaugural online gathering.

You can participate in the conversation by clicking here for the link or just 'listen and learn'. Rev. Steve Simmons (below, right) will be continuing the discussion on 'Having the Mind of Christ'.
In next Tuesday’s “Mid-Week Update” (which we will email to you), we’ll have an overview of next Wednesday’s topic, and copies of handouts.

We’ll also include the instructions on how to connect to the meeting using your computer, tablet or phone (landline too). This information will also be available on our website.

Hearts N Minds is continuing their weekly discussions using the ZOOM tool to connect. You can go here for information about how to connect to that virtual gathering.
They are now studying The Last Week by Marcus Borg and
John D. Crosson - a commentary about the last seven days of Jesus in Jerusalem. The reading assignment is pages 121 through just the top of 126 (Thursday); the scripture reference is Mark 14:26-52.

The class will then return to Sister Joan Chittister’s book, For Everything a Season , on April 18.

All are welcome, whether you have read the books or not, or attended any of the previous sessions.
We’re still collecting!

clean out your closets and cupboards while you're at home

·         Gently used shoes (men’s, women’s, kids and toddlers)

·         Plastic bags and film, bubble wrap, bread bags, dry cleaning plastic, cereal liners, etc. – clean and dry, please!

Hang on to your donations for when we return to church!
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 Melody Engel at to keep us up to date.
Send us your news and photos to share:
**Deadline for next week's newsletter: Wedneday 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 Service – join us on our Facebook page for the live service
  • 9:00 a.m. - Adult Education, Hearts N Minds (provided online via ZOOM – click here to get link to join the gathering)
  • NEW TIME! 11:00 a.m. - Traditional Service -  join us on our Facebook page for the live service

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.
NOTE NEW CONTACT INFO: 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: Melody Engel, Hospital Ministrants ( ) or Phil Fair, Prayer Ministrants ( ).

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;