Friday, February 16, 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)

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent, one of the most important seasons of the Christian year. But unlike Advent, which has some similar themes of preparation, the observance of Lent has a particular history and some variety in practices between different traditions in Christianity. So I thought I’d review some answers to common questions that often come up about Lent, and hope to see you Sunday as our Lenten journey gets underway!
What is Lent?

In the early Christian church (starting about the 4th century), Lent was developed primarily as a period of preparation for people seeking to be baptized into the Christian faith. This is why Lent was characterized by themes and practices of repentance, fasting, self-examination, prayer, Bible study, and so on.
People would then be baptized on Holy Saturday and take Communion for the first time as part of the Easter celebrations. By the end of the first millennium, when most people were born into the Christian faith, this practice began shifting to be an act of general repentance and spiritual reflection and renewal for the entire church.

What do Presbyterians think about Lent?

Presbyterians are part of the Reformed tradition, the stream of theology and church life that originated in the Protestant Reformation in 16th century Geneva, led by John Calvin. Calvin and his followers were suspicious of many of the new practices that had emerged in the medieval Catholic Church, and Lent was no exception.

In particular, they felt that many of the observances of Lent had less to do with deepening one’s own faith and more to do with a sort of spiritual competition to demonstrate one’s holiness (especially compared to others).

They also disliked the idea of making such observances mandatory, because they felt that this encouraged formal obedience without spiritual commitment. So they argued that if one chose to observe Lent, one should do so in a way that was both voluntary and focused on deepening your own practice and understanding of the faith.

What should I give up for Lent?

Actually, Presbyterians have not historically encouraged “giving something up for Lent,” mainly because of the concerns described in the previous question. However, we haven’t specifically opposed it, either. Rather, we have emphasized “taking something up for Lent”: engaging in deeper spiritual disciplines and practices such as additional Bible study, worship, and prayer; acts of service; additional giving; and so on. Practices such as these go directly to enriching one’s own faith, and continue to be the heart of Lenten practice for Presbyterians.

Okay, how is the church going to help me “take something up for Lent,” then?

I’m glad you asked! In addition to the regular ministries of education that the church offers, here is a way we are trying to support your Lenten disciplines: we are doing a special mid-week series throughout Lent that would be a great opportunity for you to use in taking on an additional spiritual discipline.

Each Wednesday during Lent, we will have a program and a simple supper from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. See more details below. I hope you can make that part of your Lenten discipline!

Grace and Peace,

  • This week’s sermon: Wandering Heart: A Lenten Journey by the Rev. Lindsey Altvater Clifton

  • 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 21 and 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. 

Over the next four 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.
Beginning with Ash Wednesday and continuing through the Second Sunday of Easter, we invite you to engage with this weekly devotional that follows the scriptures.

Each week of the Wandering Hearts series offers: commentary, poetry, visual art, written reflections, hymns, and reflection prompts.

Our friends at A Sanctified Art have provided a special e-reader version of this year’s Lenten devotional, which you can access on your computer and mobile devices.

You might also enjoy this collection of 62 daily devotional cards for Ash Wednesday through the second week of Easter. Each card has a weekly centering practice, a question for reflection, and a short prayer.

NOTE: In order to protect the work of A Sanctified Art, please do not share these links or post them on social media.
Thanks to everyone who supported this effort, we collected almost $950 that will be sent to Second Harvest Food Bank to help feed our neighbors.

Eagle Scout candidate Logan Pierson-Balik’s Bake Sale raised $416 towards the cost of the repairs and upgrades he’s planning to make to the Preschool playground.

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.
This Sunday

Please join us for the final session of our discussion about the lessons we learned from the COVID pandemic this Sunday from 9:45-10:45 a.m. in room 400. You do not need to have attended any of the previous sessions to participate.
We have enjoyed lively discussions in our first sessions and we will continue to focus on some of the intangible things that we lost and those we gained as we learned to navigate the “new normal”.

All are welcome!

The Hearts N Minds adult education class is on hiatus until Sunday, February 25. When it returns they will continue the discussion of Father Richard Rohr’s book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

For February 25, please read chapter 3, pages 25-51, "The First Half of Life".
We are pleased to welcome David Crook to the new position of Director of Church Administration. This is a full-time position where he will have oversight over many of the non-pastoral functions of FPCB.

David holds a BBA from the University of Michigan, and did postgrad work at Wayne State and Columbia College. After 30 years' service in the U.S. Navy, David served as Chief Financial Officer at Cedarbrook Nursing Home in Lehigh County.
David and his wife Sharon have raised five children, and now share their home with their two dogs, Bailey and Finnigan (Cavalier King Charles spaniels).

We look forward to David sharing his extensive experience and expertise with us!
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.

The Lehigh Presbytery’s Helping Hands program has been working at Camp Lackawanna (in Tunkhannock, a two hour drive) on the weekends during the month of February. Tasks include painting, fixing and making picnic tables, creating exits in cabins, and repurposing two bathrooms. Minimal skills needed! 
Folks are welcome to come for any or all days (Thursday – Sunday) of any of the weekends. Bunk beds, showers and meals are provided; the only cost for volunteers is their personal transportation (carpooling may be available). Open to high school age and older.

NOTE: If you can donate any food to help feed the volunteers (breakfast or lunch items, or casseroles/soups) please contact us at

And for your consideration: the next Helping Hands trip to New Bern, NC, 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)
More details will be coming. For more information about either opportunity, contact Kevin Kehoe at or Carol Bennicoff at
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!
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**
* * *
And follow us on Facebook: @FirstPresBethlehem
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.: Navigating a New Terrain: Learning from the Pandemic adult ed class, Room 400 – 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;

Kevin Konczyk, Facilities Manager;

Carol Burns, Communications Manager: ext. 238;

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

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

Marianne Zarillo, Finance (interim); ext.