A MESSAGE FROM PASTOR J.C. AUSTIN: Reaching Out to All
- Christ-Centered – In everything we do, we strive to follow Jesus Christ faithfully through the authority and insight of God’s Word and Spirit, to imitate Christ in how we treat others.
- Welcoming to All – Because our unity is in Christ, we strive to be a community of Christian faith where people of all backgrounds, identities, and orientations are welcomed, supported, engaged, and empowered in their individual faith and our common life and ministry.
These two core values, as well as the other two core values and the mission statement recently adopted by the Session, form the foundation for all we will do together in this next chapter of the story of the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem. These two values in particular, though, are sometimes seen to be in tension or even opposition to one another.
So one of the things I am most grateful for is that our church is making a strong statement that being Christ-centered means being welcoming to all, and vice versa. It is true that the witness of Scripture makes that connection undeniably clear. But is still important to state those twin commitments as core values because these statements do not simply declare what we believe, but help guide and challenge us to live up to them in our life and ministry together.
With that in mind, I am pleased that our Deacons are organizing an important program in early May to help us be more Christ-centered and fully welcoming as a congregation. Specifically, they have recognized that while our members are committed to being welcoming, we – like so many congregations across the country – are not entirely sure how to offer the best hospitality to those who are LGBT-identified. There is a sincere desire to learn more.
The Deacons reached out to The Rev. Beth Goudy, pastor at Metropolitan Community Church of the Lehigh Valley in Bethlehem, who has been a friend of First Pres. MCC is a church where a majority of worshippers are LGBT-identified. Rev. Goudy actually teaches on these very issues and offered to come do an educational program for us.
So: we are excited to welcome Rev. Goudy to First Pres, where two sessions will be offered on “How to Support LGBT Spirituality” on Wednesdays, May 1 and May 8. Both sessions will run from 6:30-8:00 p.m. in Fellowship Hall.
You are welcome to come to one or both. The first will focus on educating attendees about LGBT issues, while the second will address more specifically, “How do we as a church become more hospitable?” We think this is an important topic to address, especially at a time when organized religion is – across the board – perceived as being exclusionary and/or anti-LGBT.
These sessions are appropriate for middle school and older. Your friends are welcome to attend. Please pre-register by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-867-5865.
We hope that you will take this opportunity to learn, and then to discuss how we can continue to move our church forward as a loving and hospitable community, as Christ directed us.
Grace and Peace,