Friday, February 23, 2024 Newsletter

For Sunday

9:00 a.m.: Holy Ground Contemporary Worship Service
in Fellowship Hall (in person only)

11:00 a.m.: Traditional Worship Service in the Sanctuary
(in person and livestreamed on Facebook and our website)

“I feel kind of… disconnected from God.” “I want to be more intentional about my spiritual life.” “My faith seems too compartmentalized from the rest of my life, and I don’t like it.” “I want to learn more about how to pray. I feel like the only time I really pray is when I need something and have exhausted all the other options.”  

These questions and so many others like them are ones that I hear regularly in my pastoral conversations with people. What they all have in common is a desire to move further or deeper in their journey of faith, and an uncertainty about how to do that.
If at least one of those sounds like something you might say, then I have some good news for you. First, you’re not alone. Most people I know who take their faith seriously are interested in how to deepen and strengthen their faith, how to better connect their faith with everyday life, how to better sense God’s presence and purpose in their lives and the world around them. Not only do those feelings not indicate a lack of faith, they actually indicate a vibrant faith that is seeking to live more fully and clearly, sometimes especially in times of disconnection or confusion.
Second, the Christian Church has long and rich traditions of helping people be more intentional about seeking God in their lives and becoming more aware of what God is already up to in them. One of the best of these traditions is called spiritual direction, in which a spiritual director works with you over time to help you grow in your faith by becoming more aware of God, becoming more responsive to God as your awareness grows, and to use that awareness and responsiveness to address decisions or challenges in your life.

Here at First Pres, we have begun to offer spiritual direction through the guidance of two of our Parish Associates, the Rev. Dr. Ginny Smith and the Rev. Dr. Richard Smith, as well as Elder Jan Bickford. Ginny and Richard will be in both worship services this Sunday to talk more about what spiritual direction is and how you can try it out for yourself.
I encourage you to listen to what they have to say with curiosity, and consider whether spiritual direction might be a good Lenten discipline for you to pick up and follow for a season. This ministry is being offered as part of the mission of First Pres, so there is no charge for spiritual direction sessions, though a gratitude offering to support this work would be welcome if you are able. If you have questions about spiritual direction, you can reach out to them directly or simply send a question or a request to connect with them to

I want to express my thanks to Ginny, Richard, and Jan for imagining and organizing this ministry of spiritual direction in the life of our church; their generosity of time and spirit is a wonderful addition to our work as a congregation. And I hope you will consider participating as part of your Lenten discipline or simply part of your faith journey!

Grace and Peace,

  • This week’s sermon: Losing Isn't Everything by the Rev. J.C. Austin

  • We post the video of each week’s services and sermon text on our website:
TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT on 8.5" x 11" paper for Sunday:


Wednesdays: February 28, March 6 and 13
6:00 – 7:30 p.m. 
Fellowship Hall 

The core of Jesus’s message can be found in his many striking (and often perplexing) descriptions of “the kingdom of heaven,” a realm that is both within us and among us, in which the roles of the high and mighty and the low and humble are flipped, and in which the king reveals his glory by dying on a cross. 

For the next three Wednesday evenings, over a light supper, we will explore this extraordinary and world-changing kingdom as it is depicted in Matthew’s gospel, using a variety of activities including discussion, storytelling, and visual art (no talent required!).
Jim Stahl, Janet Stahl, Ginny Smith, and Steve Simmons will serve as our tour guides as we deepen our journey into Lent and look forward to Holy Week and Easter.   

NOTE: We're looking for folks to bring salads and desserts, and to help with set up / clean up.
And please let us know if you're planning to attend. You can contact us at or call the church office at 610-867-5865.
for those who have donated to FPCB
If we have an email address for you, your statement has been emailed to you.
If we don’t, your statement has been mailed to you. If you don’t receive it by Tuesday, please contact us at or 610-867-5865.

Millions of people lack access to sustainable food sources, clean water, sanitation, education, and opportunity.
The three programs supported by One Great Hour of Sharing - Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program, and Self-Development of People - all work in different ways to serve individuals and communities in need. From initial disaster response to ongoing community development, their work fits together to provide people with safety, sustenance, and hope.
Please consider a gift to this important ministry. Special envelopes are available at both worship services, and for those who have pledge envelopes, there is one in your packet.

You can also donate online at – be sure to write “One Great Hour of Sharing” in the notes field (under the payment information), or you can mail a check to the church’s Finance Office (with a note in the memo field).
Please respond to the survey by next Thursday, February 29.
We’re continuing to gather public feedback through the end of February for our “Building Community” initiative. You can see the concept designs and 3D models at our Project Headquarters in the North Link (pictured, right). You’ll also find a QR code to access the digital survey along with paper copies to share your feedback. 
The survey includes all the needed information about each of the three concepts, and it may be found online here:

You can also visit the church website to see additional contextual information shared on posters at Wednesday night’s meeting. The survey link is posted there, as well. Responses are being accepted through February 29, so feel free to share with other folks in the Bethlehem community!

Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6: 9, CEB)

Bread for the World is a Christian citizens’ advocacy organization celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Founded by the Rev. Art Simon in 1974, Bread has been instrumental in successfully pushing for legislation to provide food security in the US and worldwide. Well-respected on both sides of the aisle, Bread staffers work closely with our elected representatives to draft and pass legislation on agricultural policy and food assistance. 
One of Bread’s most effective tools in advocating for food security is its annual Offering of Letters, which our congregation will receive after worship on the Sundays through March 24 (Palm Sunday) as part of our Lenten discipline. The focus of this year’s offering is the congressional Farm Bill, which was scheduled for its five-year renewal in 2023, but which has yet to be approved. 
Major provisions of the bill include disaster assistance for farmers, rural development, conservation and environmental stewardship (think organic farming and biofuels), forestry management, and a wide range of nutrition assistance programs for food-insecure households, including SNAP, Meals on Wheels, and WIC (you may be surprised to know that at present 53% of the nation’s infants are WIC recipients).

With food insecurity on the rise in many parts of our country, it’s especially important that the Farm Bill be moved through Congress speedily. If it isn’t renewed, some programs will have their funding frozen at 2018 levels or cut further, and others will simply cease to exist.

You can use these links for more information on the Offering of Letters and a sample letter that you can customize with a personal message. We will have a table set up in the Narthex during Lent where you can pick up a printed sample letter, drop off your completed letters, and write handwritten notes (which are particularly effective).

We’ll forward them to our elected officials, as we join the 300,000 people who write, email, and call their members of Congress every year to speak up about hunger through Bread for the World. Thanks to you, it’s working!

The intergenerational faith formation group has begun exploring a new curriculum titled Current: Seeking Justice Together! 

They explore stories of justice from the Old and New Testament scriptures. Through story, song, prayer, and activities, they discover and practice ways to name injustice, speak up and care for the vulnerable, and make things right when injustice or harm occurs. 

The curriculum includes materials and activities for ages from preschool to adult, making this hour welcoming to all. Drop in as you are able, or join for the full series. The group meets in Fellowship Hall between the two services from 10:10 - 10:45 a.m.

The Hearts N Minds adult education class will meet this Sunday in the Parlor. We gather at 9:45 a.m. and end at 10:40 a.m. (if you attend the 9 a.m. Holy Ground service, you are welcome to leave early to attend this class).

The group will discuss Fr. Richard Rohr's Falling Upward, chapter 3: “The First Half of Life.” This class is open to all; you don't have to have participated in earlier discussions to join in.
Sanctuary Flowers: We appreciate the donation of flowers for use in our Traditional worship services in the Sanctuary. This is a wonderful way to honor a loved one, or their memory. Please sign up for your requested date using the form in the Narthex (or you can call the church office at 610-867-5865).

We will order the flowers on your behalf. The cost is $75, payable to First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem; send your payment to the Finance Office or use the flower envelope that is with the sign-up form.
You can also use this easy online sign-up form.
FPCB friends are invited to meet at The Clubhouse Grill (400 Illick’s Mill Road) this Tuesday for dinner (which is optional – it starts at 6:00 p.m.) and trivia (7:00 p.m.).

If you’d like to join a church team, please email us at or call 610-867-5865. You’ll need to sign up whether you come to dinner or not.
Last time we fielded two teams, and did pretty well – we hope you’ll consider coming out on a ‘school night’ for some fun and fellowship!

We’re finalizing plans for our next series of interesting topics offered by our popular Hi Neighbors speakers program! All are welcome to attend – no registration or fees required.

We’ll be back on Monday, March 18 with a social time at 9:30 a.m. and the program starting at 10 a.m. in Fellowship Hall. Kicking things off will be a return visit by Dr. Micah Sadigh, who shared information about “Sleep” in a popular fall session – this time he’ll take a deep dive into “Dreams.” 

Watch for the complete schedule of programs that run through Monday, May 20 (no session on Monday, April 1) - with a special "field trip"!
For your consideration: the next Helping Hands trip to New Bern, NC, will be held the week of April 6 – 13. Work will focus on getting families back into their homes following storm damage. (right - Jamie Henry repairs a ceiling on a recent trip)

These trips are open to high school age and older - no experience needed! For more information contact Kevin Kehoe at or 610-867-5865.
Saturday, March 23 (rain date: Saturday, March 30): Easter Egg Hunt & Spring Festival (10-11:30 a.m.)

All of the following services (except 9 a.m. on Sunday) are offered in person and via livestream on the church Facebook page and website:

  • Sunday, March 24: Palm Sunday (two services, at 9 a.m. in Fellowship Hall and 11 a.m. in the Sanctuary)
  • Thursday, March 28: Maundy Thursday (service at 7 p.m. in Fellowship Hall)
  • Friday, March 29: Good Friday Tenebrae (service at 8 p.m. in the Sanctuary)
  • Saturday, March 30: Holy Saturday Compline (service at 8 p.m. in Sanctuary)
  • Sunday, March 31: Easter Sunday (two services, at 9 a.m. in Fellowship Hall and 11 a.m. in the Sanctuary)

Save the Date: You may want to get this date on your calendar – on Saturday, May 4 there will be a special Discipleship retreat, “Through the Roof: And Other Moments with God.”
If you are hospitalized, please tell the hospital our church code is 724. Also, please call the church office at 610-867-5865 to let us know as the hospitals do not always collect this information.  After hours, leave a message or call our answering service at 610-778-7003.

Send any prayer requests to or call 610-867-5865 and leave a message.
Send us your news and photos to share:
**Deadline for the next newsletter:
WEDNESDAY at noon**
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Your likes / comments / shares help us spread the word about First Pres!

  • 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 - click on the "Watch the Service" button
  • Please check in with a comment so we know you’ve joined us!
  • 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 archives

  • Child care will be available from 8:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. this Sunday morning; please ask an usher for directions.

  • Your children are a joy in our worship services, and should the need arise, “kid bags” are available for their use. They are in the Narthex.

  • We offer nametags for folks to wear – these are for everyone! You can pick up as you enter the worship space; please clearly PRINT your first name.

  • 8:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.: Child Care (ask ushers to direct you)
  • 9:00 a.m.: Holy Ground Contemporary Worship service, in-person in Fellowship Hall
  • 9:45 a.m.: Hearts N Minds adult ed class, Parlor - all are welcome
  • 10:10-10:45 a.m.: Current: Seeking Justice Together!, an intergenerational faith formation offering, Fellowship Hall – all ages are welcome
  • 11:00 a.m.: Traditional Worship service, in-person in the Sanctuary and livestreamed on Facebook and on our website

WEDNESDAYS: 7 p.m. - Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group weekly meeting, via (NEW! meeting #: 868 2214 2960; passcode: OO-Beth)


Regular office hours are Monday - Thursday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Many of the office staff are working remotely for some of the time, so please make an appointment if you need to see someone specific. The answering service (610-778-7003) can take your urgent pastoral concerns, 24 hours a day. 

IN CASE OF BAD WEATHER: Look for updates on our website (, Facebook page, and WFMZ (channel 69 and We will also put the info on our church phone message, 610-867-5865.
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. Lindsey Altvater Clifton, Associate Pastor for Justice and Community Impact;

The Rev. Suzanne Trump, Pastoral Associate for Formation and Compassion;

David Macbeth, Director of Music Ministries: ext. 202;

David Crook, Director of Church Administration; ext. 210;

Kevin Konczyk, Facilities Manager;

Carol Burns, Communications Manager: ext. 238;

Tracy Leszcynski, Preschool Director; phone: 610-867-2956;

Marianne Zarillo, Finance (interim); ext.