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Pastor’s Message: March 13, 2020 (Updated)

CHECK OUR MID-WEEK UPDATE FOR WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18

A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: IMPORTANT UPDATES

As I write this important update to all of you, I can’t help but wonder what will be different by the time you read it. Things are changing very quickly in the world as the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread.

Given that, I think I should begin by saying what is not going to change.
Regardless of what developments come our way, our church is going to continue fulfilling its mission, which we describe as exploring “ how God’s gracious love gives meaning to our lives and faith and inspires us to address the needs of our world. Through our worship, learning, and service, God fills us with purpose, compassion, courage, and hope.”

This is the reason our congregation exists: to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ in this way and to share it with others in everything we say and do. That will not change.

What will change is some of the ways in which we fulfill our mission; some of those changes will be stopping some things that we have been doing, and some of those changes will be taking up new forms of ministry.

UPDATED ON MARCH 14: We will be offering one combined worship service tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. ONLINE ONLY.

If you have a Facebook account, go to our Facebook page and look for the post with our live feed.

If you do not have a Facebook account, go to our website ( fpc-bethlehem.org ) at 10:30 a.m. for a link that will be there.

At the same time, we are considering what new ministry we are being called to take up in light of our mission and the current situation – not simply within this church, but with our neighbors in the Lehigh Valley. The Board of Deacons, for example, is working on possibilities for us to reach out in loving service to those who are engaged in social distancing and/or self-quarantine.

We want to ensure that they not only have adequate food and supplies and also continue to be in emotional and spiritual community with others. We will have more to say about that and how you can help, as plans unfold. And if you have decided to self-quarantine, please notify Pastor Sue Bennetch ( sbennetch@fpc-bethlehem.org ) so we can stay in touch with you.

With all this in mind, I want to conclude with a theological reflection. In just a few weeks, we will observe Maundy Thursday, the day on which Jesus gave a “new commandment” to his disciples on their last night together before his arrest. The word “Maundy” comes from Latin for “mandate,” or commandment.

After the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” In saying this, Jesus called his disciples to a literal Christ-like love: “ just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” That is our calling and our blessing, in these days just as in any other day.

The actions the Session has taken so far, in terms of what we are maintaining and stopping and starting, are all designed to fulfill that mandate in light of current events. How we do that will probably continue to change as events do, but loving one another, especially those who are most vulnerable in our congregation and our community, will remain our constant purpose and focus, as we continue to pray and live the words of the classic hymn: “God of grace, and God of glory…grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour…for the living of these days…lest we miss your kingdom’s goal…serving you whom we adore.”

Grace and Peace,
JC

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