Friday, May 22, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary 

NEW TIME! 11:00 a.m. Traditional
(also available to hear it via phone - see below)

Next Monday's issue of Spotlight will be sent on Tuesday,
due to the Memorial Day Holiday.
The word “evangelism” has acquired a negative connotation to many people in the last few decades; certainly beyond the Church, but even within it. That’s mostly because evangelism became associated with particularly visible and influential elements of Christianity in the United States that often use fear, shame, judgmentalism, and exclusion to motivate existing members of their churches and attract new ones.

And that is a tragedy for two reasons. First, it has made many, many people assume that such beliefs and tactics are an inherent part of Christianity itself. But that’s not even true for large segments of evangelical Christianity, much less other forms of the Christian faith.

And second, such forms of Christianity are actually in deep conflict with some of the most basic convictions of our faith: that we receive the gift of abundant and eternal life in Christ through God’s grace, not anything we are or do to earn it; that we are called to love God and our neighbors, even our enemies, in response to that grace; and that we are called to do so by emulating Christ’s ministry that deliberately included and served those whom the rest of the world prefers to exclude or ignore.

Such convictions are at the very heart of the good news that Jesus proclaimed and entrusted the church with, which is actually where the word “evangelism” comes from: a Greek word that means, literally, “a good message; good news.” So by definition, the gospel (a word that also literally means “good news”) that we share through evangelism is supposed to be good news
Now, more than ever, our world is desperate for good news. John Krasinski, the popular actor and director, even started a delightful, hilarious, and sometimes even moving YouTube series from his house during the pandemic which he called, simply, “Some Good News.”
It became instantly and wildly popular precisely because it was offering, in a light-hearted but authentic way, a message of connection and solidarity and a conviction that there is good and beauty to be celebrated in the midst of all that is terrible right now.

We need to be at least as intentional about sharing the good news that we have as Christians, and as members and friends of First Presbyterian, as the pandemic continues and perhaps even especially as it seems we may be soon entering a phase of the pandemic that promises a bit less danger but even more uncertainty, which always breeds anxiety.

So I urge you to practice “e-vangelism:” engaging and sharing our livestream worship and other church Facebook activities through your own Facebook account, so that people in your network who aren’t involved in the church may hear some good news through our worship and ministry together. Engage in the “liminal space project” that our Visual Arts Team is launching to help us to be faithful and attentive in this time of sheltering in place ( read about it here ).

And continue to check in with neighbors and friends, not simply to say hello and offer well-wishes, but to truly listen to their joys and struggles in a ministry of presence, which does not require physical proximity to be powerful. This, too, is sharing the good news through actions rather than words, following Christ’s example and imitating his love.

And as you do these things, look and listen for the good news of Jesus Christ coming back to you even as you share it; for we all need some good news!

Grace and peace,

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·     This week's sermon: The Grammar of Grace 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
SERVICES : 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 after the services have aired:
  • Visit our website and look for the link on the homepage

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 SCHOOL for this week

Stories! Songs! Friends!  This week’s Sunday School experience will be a combination of a live Zoom gathering on Sunday morning from 10:15-10:45 a.m. AND pre-recorded videos that you can access at your convenience.

The videos are on the church website ; scroll to the bottom of the homepage.
To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.: / Meeting ID: 859 8632 3119
A FUN SERVICE PROJECT – for all ages!
Our Sunday School kids have been encouraged to find rocks and paint thoughtful messages on them. They’ve been asked to put
them on the porch/in the yard of a friend or neighbor, or maybe along a walking trail - the idea is to brighten a little corner of the world with a random act of kindness.

This is a great idea to share with your kids, grandkids and young friends as well. Or maybe to do yourself!
Please send us photos of your completed rocks and where/with whom you shared them: . Thanks to the Benway kids for sharing their creations!
by Kristen Benway, APNC Chair

The Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (APNC) is excited to announce that we have finalized our church’s Ministry Information Form (MIF) and we are ready to start receiving applications! The Ministry Information Form is a document that describes the position needs, our churches vision, and future goals. This document is available on our church website,  Prospective candidates for the associate pastor position can use this information to learn about the position.

The committee is also eager to review applications submitted via referrals made from friends of the church as well as the congregation. If you are aware of any candidates, we invite you to share our committee email address to that person to submit their application. The email address is . In order for our committee to review an application, we require a PIF and Attestation Assurance.
We appreciate all referrals, but please note that in order to honor confidentiality, we are unable to share the current application status of any prospective pastor. 

We are excited to move forward in our work to find out who God is calling to be our new associate pastor!

Our Session (the group of elders who direct the workings of the church) has been busy. Click here for a report of their actions since March.

The Kingdom of God in Song and Symbol – a two-part series

We had a lively discussion in the first session, “Slave Quilts and Their Symbols”, on Wednesday. The presentations are ‘hands on’ and family-friendly! (The recorded video is here on our website .)
The Social Gospel in Hymns
Wednesday, May 27 at 7 p.m.
Led by the Rev. Dr. Steve Simmons

“Jerusalem, my happy home, when shall I come to thee?” From the songs of Zion in the book of Psalms to St. Augustine’s “City of God” to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “beloved community,” people of faith have looked in hope to the fulfillment of God’s purposes in history. Is the New Jerusalem a fond, future hope or a call for people of faith to help restore God’s creation?

Meeting ID: 980 5183 5548
To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099. When prompted, enter the Meeting ID, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.

READ MORE ABOUT THESE PRESENTATIONS... (this webpage also has videos of our previous Discipleship presentations)
After a brief hiatus, our Optimism 101 group is back on Wednesdays at noon, via Zoom.

As we work our way through these changing and challenging times, we all struggle from time to time with feelings of isolation, loneliness and the loss of personal connection. 
In response to this ongoing issue, the Optimism 101 group will be changing the focus of weekly meetings to address the current issues related to the sudden loss of our familiar patterns, our social/in person connections and the ways we can support each other as our neighborhoods open up. This loosening of restrictions is fraught with concerns for ourselves and others and yet, so welcomed and needed by many.

We urge you and welcome you to join us for these free flowing and supportive conversations. There is no need to have been part of the group previously and there is no expectation that you need to attend weekly. We are encouraging anyone struggling with any issue related to being sequestered to drop in for a chat and support. We hope to hear from you soon. 

To join the Zoom meeting: / Meeting ID: 881 8442 8633

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

Questions? Please contact us at
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 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)

  • 9:00 a.m.: Contemporary Service – join us on our Facebook page for the live service
  • 10:15-10:45 a.m.: Sunday School via Zoom (see details, above)*
  • 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

*NOTE: There will also be an online, pre-recorded video Sunday School lesson available on our website beginning on Saturday.
  • 12:00 – 12:30 p.m.: Midday Reflection (led by one of our pastors – a short time of reflection and prayer via Zoom: /Meeting ID: 335 481 050; via phone: call 929-205-6099 and enter the Meeting ID when prompted, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again)
  • noon - 1 p.m.: Optimism 101 support group via Zoom (see details above)

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;

Carol Burns, Communications Manager; ext. 238;

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