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Pastor’s Message 9-21-18

Last Sunday, we announced some very exciting news for First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem! We have been selected as one of only 12 churches nationwide to be part of the Community of Practice of the Log College Project, an initiative of Princeton Seminary’s Institute for Youth Ministry.

As you may remember, we applied for this groundbreaking initiative last spring and had been selected as one of 50 congregations (out of more than 200 applicants from many denominations) to participate in the first phase of the program, which used the Project’s design process to begin identifying and exploring innovative ways of doing ministry WITH youth, not simply for youth. This most recent news means that, based on the work we did in that process (read more), we are part of the small group of churches with whom the initiative will work in-depth over the next two years.

What does that mean? It means that Princeton is supplying a whole range of resources and support as we build up our youth ministries. For starters, we are receiving a $15,000 grant as seed money to start our work when we are ready to implement it. Even more valuable, though, is the support that comes before that grant: 1) curriculum to inform and stimulate our thinking and to provide process and guidance for conceiving, designing, and implementing our ministries; and 2) a “Design Lab” gathering at Princeton in the summer of 2019 with representatives from each of the twelve congregations, along with a Research Fellow from Princeton who will both help us and learn from us as we go through the process. As I said to the initiative’s Director, this is quite literally an answer to prayer, and a more generous answer than any of us could have imagined six months ago!

It is also a powerful affirmation of where we are and where we’ve come as a congregation in a short period of time. The project staff told us that they were engaged by our congregational story from the first materials they read from us. They were particularly impressed by our resilience, resourcefulness, and creative spirit in emerging from the schism here with such vitality and faithfulness.

So I want to reflect that back to you and thank you for embracing the invitation to be an “experimental church” in our congregational life and ministry in the last eight months. And I want to celebrate that others are not only noticing the fruits we are bearing for Christ as a result, but are coming alongside and partnering with us because of how you’ve lived into that invitation.

As I consider all that, and the remarkable leadership of the youth and adults on our Design Team, I am more thrilled and humbled than ever to be your pastor, and I am grateful to be in this ministry with all of you. Thanks be to God!

Grace and Peace,
J.C.

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