Friday, November 13, 2020 Newsletter


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

It is hard to believe it, but as I write this, Thanksgiving is two weeks from today, and Advent begins the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend! As we head into what will obviously be a very different kind of holiday season, I want to talk about two kinds of ways that we will be doing worship a bit differently in the next six weeks.

First, we will be doing digital versions of all of our typical special services in this season, starting with the Thanksgiving Eve service on Wednesday, November 25, at
7 p.m. That service will be a Zoom service, not a Facebook livestream, because that will allow us to be a bit more interactive than we have been in the past. 

Similar to how we worshipped on Maundy Thursday last spring, the service will have familiar elements of prayer, Scripture, and music by worship leaders. And it will also have some breakout rooms for small group reflection as part of the service itself.

On Christmas Eve, we will be doing our Traditional Candlelight Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. and a Christmas Communion service at 11 p.m.; but we will also be doing a hybrid (both digital and outdoor/in-person options) Intergenerational Christmas Eve service that will be focused on an interactive telling of the Christmas story that directly engages children and their families. We’ll have more to say about this as we get into December. 
And second, we are experimenting with some new ways to expand our digital worship experience.

At the Traditional service last week, you saw one example of that with the hard work of the Chancel Choir in producing a digital choral anthem for worship. There will be more of that in the future. 
This past Sunday we utilized the technology to bring the first of our Stewardship messages – many thanks to Jeanne and Bob Hunsicker for bringing an important message to us ‘from their living room’. (see below)

We are also going to reintroduce “lectors,” or people to read Scripture, for both services. This will require people who not only are good at reading publicly (or are willing to learn!), but who can prerecord the reading, either by coming into the church the week before (and using our well-established physical distancing practices for worship leadership while there), or doing it themselves from home.

We don’t want to exclude people from leadership who are not comfortable coming onsite for that. If you are interested in potentially doing this for either Sunday service, please send an email to and a coordinator will contact you.

We are doing a different kind of experiment out of necessity this Sunday, as well: I will actually preach the sermon for both services from my home, where I will be a little over halfway through a 14-day quarantine with my family. We are all fine so far, but a student in my son’s classroom at school (he’s in a hybrid program with two days a week of in-person learning) has tested positive for COVID-19, which necessitated a quarantine for all the students and their households in that class.

(In case you didn’t realize it, you should complete a 14-day quarantine if anyone in your household has been in close contact with someone who has the virus regardless of whether you subsequently test negative for COVID; check out CDC guidance for more info.)

Thankfully, nobody in the class, including the original student, is symptomatic so far, and nobody besides the original student has yet tested positive that we know of. But this will unfortunately be a pattern than some of us will go through, especially with infection rates surging, until a vaccine or treatment is widely available.

And I will also take this opportunity to remind you how important it is, both practically and spiritually, to fulfill Jesus’ command to love our neighbor by wearing our masks (over mouth AND nose!) and maintain physical distancing anytime we are outside our own homes.

So: I’m continually grateful for this technology that allows us to be nimble and creative in how we worship together, and for all our adaptability and creativity in using it! I look forward to being with you in worship this Sunday through the livestream, and (after my quarantine period has been completed) at our next combined outdoor/in-person service on Sunday, November 22 at 11 a.m.*

Grace and peace,

*see the notice in the Calendar section below for details and to sign up if you're planning to attend

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·   This week's sermon: A Sure Thing 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

If you – or a loved one – served in the military, we would like to acknowledge that service in our Sunday worship services.
Please send the name(s), their rank and branch of service, as well as a photo of them in uniform (if you have it) to by Saturday at noon. 

Yes, it's time to think about our annual stewardship campaign. If all goes according to plan, you will receive a letter next week inviting you to consider your gifts to the church for the coming year.

Jeanne and Bob Hunsicker brought us a peek of the conversation at their house in last week's worship services:

Elder Rich Hjorth filed this report on Tuesday’s Evening Prayer Service, held outdoors on the east side of the building. We will repeat these services for the next three weeks, through December 1 from 6:00-6:25 p.m.

About a dozen people gathered with JC (Rev. JC Austin), Sue (Rev. Sue Bennetch), and our tech and facilities team members on a beautiful fall evening under clear skies. Although a small group, everyone seemed to get a lot out of it.
I asked people what they thought of the service, and they were very positive. Among their quotes: “very peaceful”, “a great space for real worship”, “we’ll be back”, “it’s beautiful outdoors looking at the steeple” and “we needed this with the ongoing turmoil in the country.”

Sue did a wonderful job, adding some pauses in between so we could think and settle down. She chose good scripture, and the prayer was meaningful as always.
I liked the way she even did a little relaxation exercise, asking us to feel the gentle breeze on our faces. The songs that Dave and crew chose were meditative ones that Sue was able to fit into her narrative.

Early weather predictions for next Tuesday indicate clear but cool – so bundle up, wear your mask and bring your chairs for a special time of Scripture, prayer, reflection and music!

The word Advent comes from the Latin word ‘adventure’ which translates as “coming" or “arrival". Advent is a time of preparation; a time of joyful anticipation, looking towards its fulfilment at Christmas. It is used in the Christian tradition to refer to the four Sundays before Christmas, when people prepare for the birth of the Christ child. 
However, this seasonal observance has been kept by people around the world from all paths and beliefs; as autumn gives way to winter, we prepare for the return of the sun, the lengthening of days, and for the insights that we can gain from reflection on the year that has been and on what may be to come. Indeed, finding light in the darkness.
(The photo shows an example of an illuminated Advent spiral walk.)
On the four Sundays of Advent – beginning on Sunday, November 29 - from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. in the FPCB Memorial Garden, the Discipleship Committee invites you to balance the outward excitement of Christmas with the calm, quiet sense of presence created during the walking of the Illuminated Advent Spiral.

Your walk will be supplemented by scripture, meditation resources and questions that center on a weekly theme of Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. These materials will additionally appear in the weekly newsletter for weekly Advent devotions. Guides will be present to assist walkers, if desired, during the two hour period. Rain dates will be on Monday of each week.

Beginning Sunday, November 29 through Christmas, the Memorial Garden will be open during daylight hours for anyone seeking to simply appreciate a meditative walk through the garden, considering the celebration of the birth of Christ. There will be no guides available except during the stated times on Sundays.

Hold these dates. Prepare ye the way. Return to your church home, experiencing Advent with both contemplation and wonder.

Earlier this summer, Lehigh Presbytery offered a Zoom webinar to offer information about the pandemic and how churches can deal with it. A follow-up Zoom call has been scheduled with the same three scientists for next Thursday, November 19, from noon to 1:15pm.

They will share the most current information on coronavirus transmission rates, treatments, and vaccines, as well as further insights related to safely re-opening church buildings. The call will be recorded; we will share that information with you in next week’s newsletter. 
One of the three speakers will be Dr. Rich Hjorth, an Elder at FPCB, is a retired virologist with 35 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. He is a recognized expert in vaccine development and is currently working with InvVax on a coronavirus vaccine. He will be joined by
Dr. Lisa Allgood and Dr. Bill Bartlett.

(Rich, pictured far right, with a colleague) 
The Science of COVID-19: Part 2
To join the Zoom Meeting: 
To join via phone (audio only): call 833-548-0276 / Meeting ID: 818 9203 7143
You can make our Sunday School program work for your family’s schedule with our two options: attend a Sunday morning Zoom gathering from 10:15-10:45 a.m. - or - each week we provide a prerecorded series of videos and related resources that you can access when convenient.
This week's story is from Luke 17:11-19, where Jesus heals ten men.

Consider joining us for the Sunday morning Zoom session; to access the prerecorded videos look for the Sunday School logo on the homepage.
To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.:
Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 
Password: 369116

Our adult ed class, Hearts N Minds, continues its weekly discussion about social justice, what the Bible says to us, and thoughtful, meditative readings. Everyone is welcome and you can join at any time. We meet every Sunday at 9 a.m. via Zoom. The first book is Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans.
Reading for this week: pages 141-164 in Inspired; John 4:1–42; John 9; Acts 8:26–40

Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450

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

Our popular speakers program returns on Monday, November 30 at 10 a.m. via Zoom. We will explore the topic of “Close to Home – A Human Trafficking Story”, by Emmy-award documentary winner Laura Shelton.

Most people think that sex trafficking is something that happens in big cities or foreign countries. This documentary brings to light the fact that this horrifying crime happens right here in the Lehigh Valley.

To join Zoom online: Meeting ID: 889 4647 5793

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 889 4647 5793, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – press the # key again.
Thanks to everyone and their generous donations, we were able to collect and distribute dozens and dozens of personal care items for local organizations.

Under the leadership of the Congregational Life Team, the many bags and boxes of shampoo, toothbrushes, deodorant and much more were shared with Northeast Community Center (right) and the Salvation Army.
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!

  • 9:00 a.m.: Hearts N Minds adult education class (see more information above)
  • 9:00 a.m.: Contemporary Worship Service – see instructions in blue box, below, to join us online
  • 10:15 a.m.: Sunday School for K-5, 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 below to join us via phone
FOR THIS SUNDAY: Our Two Services are “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!
  • 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.
  • 6:00-6:25 p.m.: Evening Prayer Service, east side of church building (no sign up; bring your own chairs and wear masks) In-person only; not livestreamed

  • 7 p.m.: Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group weekly meeting, via Zoom (Meeting # 380 435 9056 / Password: overcomer)

  • 11:00 a.m.: Combined outdoor worship in front of the church building; this service will also be livestreamed on Facebook and our website. Please let us know if you plan to attend. NOTE: There is no 'bad weather' date for this service.

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;

Marianne Zarillo, Business Manager: email:

Cindy Matthews, Bookkeeper: email:

Carol Burns, Communications Manager; ext. 248;

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