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Pastor’s Message: March 20, 2020

A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Just Getting Started!

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday, in our first digital worship service together, I said that church is not getting cancelled; church is just getting started. I’m pleased to tell you that, less than a week later, we are already well on our way in living that out as a congregation!

First, as you hopefully saw in our new “Mid-Week Update” (emailed to you), there are some new changes to our worship life. We will continue to worship together digitally; there will be no in-person worship or any other church activities for now.

But we are ready to restart our Contemporary service in a digital format, so this Sunday, there will be a digital Contemporary service livestreamed at 9 a.m. on the church Facebook page (go to our website for a link, in case you don’t have a Facebook account).

In addition, there will be a digital Traditional service, but at the new time of 11 a.m., NOT our regular time of 10:30 a.m. This is to allow time for our broadcast team to complete the livestream from worship in the Kirk Center, break down necessary components and relocate them to the Sanctuary, and rebuild the system in the Sanctuary to livestream that service.

As with last week, both services will be available afterwards as a recording, but I encourage you to join the livestream in “real time.” One of the best moments of worship last Sunday, which I frankly wasn’t sure was going to work, was when we digitally passed the peace of Christ at the beginning of the service. As David Macbeth said afterwards, “the Facebook page lit up like a Christmas tree!” as people posted words of peace and encouragement in real-time during the service.

Because we cannot be physically together, it is all the more important for us to worship together in “word and spirit,” as Jesus put it in John’s Gospel last Sunday, so I hope you will join one of the services Sunday morning with that in mind.

At the same time, the rest of church life is adapting to this new reality as well. Our primary platform for gathering outside of church during this time will be ZOOM videoconferences (ZOOM is the name of the company that provides a particularly reliable videoconference platform). The Hearts N Minds adult education class met last Sunday using ZOOM and will continue to do so going forward; the weekly staff meeting and committee meetings are already using it, and the Lenten Conversation on Wednesday night was held, gathering via ZOOM.

If you have never used ZOOM, the good news is that it is quite simple (and free). All you need is an Internet-capable device (e.g., computer, smartphone, tablet) and a Wi-Fi connection. You simply click on the link we provide for the event, and the first time you will be prompted to download either a free interface for your computer or an app for your phone/tablet.

Then you will be connected to the videoconference, where you can see others and be seen, speak, ask questions, etc. just as if we were all sitting in the same room!

(NOTE: There is also an option to ‘listen in’ by calling a special phone number – so you can use your landline or non-smartphone.)

If this all sounds a bit overwhelming or intimidating, we are doing two other things to try and help. First, the Deacons are organizing a “congregational check-in” to touch base with every household in the church to make sure we have your correct contact information and find out how you’re doing.

If you do not receive a call by next Friday, March 27, please contact us to let us know, so that you can share your current contact information, as we may not have that; you can either email it to
info@fpc-bethlehem.org or call the Church Office and leave a message (the voicemail is being checked daily).

Second, we are recruiting “Tech Buddies” who are familiar enough with computers, the Internet, and/or social media to help others get online. It’s important to say that the best way by far that you can stay connected and informed is by being online with us, so this is a great time to become at least “tech literate” so you can do so. If you need a Tech Buddy, or if you are willing to serve as one, please also send an email to info@fpc-bethlehem.org or call the Church Office.

Friends, we are just getting started, and there is more to come and to do as we seek to be faithful in these current circumstances. But we have already come a long way in a short time, and I am profoundly grateful that we are on this journey together.

“See” you in worship on Sunday!

Grace and Peace,
JC

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