MAY 12, 2021
Living our Core Value #2: An Inquiring Faith
Discipleship Committee supports our journey

“A reader and a learner.”

That’s how Gail Watts describes herself, and those traits are beneficial in her role as chair of FPCB’s Discipleship Committee. Discipleship is charged with providing faith formation opportunities to all members of the congregation, from the youngest to the oldest.

With a charge to grow and sustain our congregation’s faith, in community, Gail has led a group of “very talented people” in offering a wide variety of learning opportunities.
For the smallest ones this took on a traditional Sunday morning format. When the pandemic hit, the Sunday School teachers swung into high gear to produce a number of videos they dubbed “Driveway Sunday School” because they were literally recording them in a driveway, safely distanced.

(RIght: teachers JoAnne Turcotte, Ted Rewak and Steve Samuelson, rockin' it in the driveway)
These took the place of meeting in person, and were later replaced with a Sunday morning Zoom gathering, along with ‘anytime Sunday School’ – a library of professionally-created lessons based on monthly themes. 

In addition to the weekly Hearts N Minds adult education class – which often uses a book as a basis for its discussions – Discipleship has provided an almost year-round calendar of stand-alone programs and series. The themes of theology, social justice, relational issues, prayer and spirituality are among those that have been explored.

Constructive conversations – “faith in living color’ – the poems of Mary Oliver – the social gospel reflected in hymns – presentations about prayer – living spiritually in a material world - different faith traditions. This is just a sampling of the many diverse offerings.
And it goes without saying that when Gail took the helm, that schedule of programs was offered in person. Then they had to take a fast pivot to online programming last March – literally in the middle of their popular Lenten Supper Series.

After a fast learning curve - for both the presenters and the learners - the ‘silver linings’ of online presentations included reaching a wider audience, and having videos of all the programs.
As a new resident of Bethlehem, the committee’s newest member, Jennifer Cole, had planned to ‘shop around’ to a short list of area churches. “Unfortunately,” she smiled, “I visited First Pres first and was so impressed that I didn’t want to visit any others.”

She made it to the two in-person Lenten Suppers in 2020 before the series went online. “Even coming to those programs and helping clean up was fun,” she remembered. “After that, if Discipleship offered it, I was there.” 
Jennifer especially enjoyed the Advent Walk, offered in December on the church ground’s Memorial Garden. This innovative program, which featured a self-guided meditation through the beautiful space, was especially well-received by participants. “I’m still using the readings and meditations from that experience,” she noted.
That model serves as inspiration for Discipleship’s next offering: part 3 of its “Pray Without Ceasing” series. The first two sessions were held online earlier this month, and the last will be held this Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Memorial Garden, and will also feature a self-guided meditation.

“As a group we’re currently looking ahead to the programs we’ll offer in the fall, for all ages,” Gail shared. “We’re always open to ideas, and welcome them all.” (Gail can be contacted at discipleship@fpc-bethlehem.org)

“We try to say ‘yes’ – let’s see if we can make it happen.”

Members of the Discipleship Committee include Gail Watts, chair; Jan Bickford, Jennifer Cole, Elizabeth Conard, George Maunz, Sue Oeschle, Don Robertson, Steve Simmons, Anne Taylor, and JoAnne Turcotte; J.C. Austin and Lindsey Altvater Clifton staff the committee. It currently meets via Zoom at 4 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month.