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Pastor’s Message: Oct. 2, 2020

A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: AN INDIVIDUAL MINISTRY

One of the things I have heard the most from people over the last six months is their surprise about how effective digital versions of worship and education have been for our church.

I don’t mean that we’re doing a version of digital worship or education that is so much better than others; I mean that digital worship or education could ever feel compelling, communal, spiritually fulfilling. This is particularly the case when it comes to the sacrament of Communion, which we are celebrating this Sunday as we do every first Sunday of the month.

And I must say that, surprisingly, that has been one of the most meaningful aspects of our church life together in the pandemic for me personally: continuing to celebrate Communion even as we cannot be in the same room, and experiencing the power of being joined together in the Holy Spirit in a whole new way as we participate from the tables in our homes that all become part of Christ’s boundless table.

All of us need that spiritual community and communion more than ever these days. As we continue through the pandemic and the upheaval in our social and political life as a nation, isolation and loneliness continue to exact a heavy toll on people’s mental and emotional and spiritual well-being.

That is why I want to ask you to take up a new ministry as individuals, a ministry of invitation and welcome by inviting others to join us in worship and education and our other ministry. I believe First Pres is doing remarkable ministry as we continue to live out our Core Values of being a congregation that is Christ-centered, welcoming to all, and cultivating an inquiring and active faith. There are many people in the Lehigh Valley and beyond who are hungering for just such a community, and thanks to our digital presence, can participate more easily in a number of ways.

One of the best ways we can expand our ministry and community, then, is if you actively engage our digital work and share it with others. You can like, comment on and share our church Facebook posts. You can share the livestream of our worship services on your own Facebook page, or even host a “watch party” (Google the instructions on how to do that; it’s not hard!). You can text or call a friend and invite them to participate in a worship service or an educational offering with you. If they don’t have Facebook, they can access our worship services on our website homepage (fpc-bethlehem.org) or through the Zoom “phone only” audio link (instructions below).

Our Sunday School programs for children in Kindergarten – grade 5 are also available online: as a ‘live’ Zoom gathering on Sunday mornings, and via prerecorded videos that families can watch at any time together. There are many churches that are not offering any kind of church school – and other families may be new to the idea of children’s religious education. They would likely be happy to know about these great resources!

And one of the ‘silver linings’ of our services, classes and programs moving to online platforms is that we have an easy way to record them. Check our website for the many videos that are available, and consider who you can share them with.

All of these help us to expand our work not only with the individuals that you know, but specifically by boosting our visibility on Facebook; the more a post gets engaged through likes and comments, the wider it gets pushed out by Facebook’s algorithms.

So, I hope that you’ll make an intentional and sustained effort in this “ministry of amplification and engagement” as we seek to live out our calling as a congregation in the digital and the physical world!

Grace and peace,
JC

We offer the TRADITIONAL SERVICE (at 11 a.m. on Sunday) with an ‘audio-only’ option so you can listen to it on your phone.

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID:
955 325 387,
followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – press the # key again.

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