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Pastor’s Message: April 23, 2021

A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Going forward

“It’s time to talk about what we learned today.” That’s the question that generally gets asked at the end of an episode of VeggieTales, the animated TV series that uses anthropomorphic vegetables to teach Bible stories and Christian moral lessons to children.

Surprisingly, the show generally does quite well in both entertainment value and theological integrity in a genre where I generally count myself lucky if I find even one of those things to be true. Even this somewhat clichéd habit of reviewing what we learned today at the end of a children’s educational show gets subverted sometimes because of Bob the Tomato’s disdain for the trite song that starts playing whenever anyone says, “it’s time to talk about what we learned today.”

Those are particularly great moments because they capture what we sometimes feel about reviewing what we’ve learned, whether that’s in a TV show or an episode or season of our lives. Part of us simply wants to move on to the next thing, but part of us recognizes that if we don’t pause for a moment to remember and review what we’ve learned, we’re likely to forget it and not apply it to our lives going forward.

Here at First Pres, it is time to talk about what we have learned over the past 13+ months of the pandemic. Yes, the pandemic is not over yet, but with the vaccination rate climbing in Northampton County and around the country, there is a growing sense that this long and difficult season of pandemic life may finally be starting to shift.

As one of my favorite poets, Wendell Berry, puts it in a favorite poem of mine that talks about nature as hints of spring are just becoming discernable in late winter: “The trees, the hills that were stark in the old cold become now tender, and the light changes.” So before the spring of life after the pandemic is fully upon us, now is the time to talk about what we have learned so we will not forget it and fail to apply it to our life as a congregation going forward.

So, as a spring spiritual discipline (in addition to thinking about what “good words” you might want to hear a sermon about, as I asked a few weeks ago – send to info@fpc-bethlehem.org), I want to ask you to think about what you and we have learned about what it means to be a faithful and effective congregation of Christ’s disciples in the pandemic.

What have we learned that we want to make sure we don’t forget, but rather apply to our life going forward? For example, we have learned that there are some real benefits to having the option to attend committee meetings and the like by Zoom.

Therefore, we are applying that learning to the future by already working on plans to enable church meetings to function well in a “hybrid” format in terms of both in-person and online options, once we are able to return to in-person indoor meetings. We have learned that this is a helpful and even preferred option for some, particularly parents of young children, those who don’t want to drive at night, and people whose work or retirement plans have them traveling away from the Lehigh Valley regularly and/or for an extended period.

So: what have you learned through your own experience or from others that we should be making sure we do not forget, but rather attempting to apply going forward? It might be something that you want to make sure we do, or do not do, or do differently than we have before.

Whatever it is, we’d like to hear about it! So please send any thoughts you have along these lines to info@fpc-bethlehem.org so you can help inform our leadership as we continue to prepare for an end to the season of the pandemic and the start of a new way of being in life and ministry with each other.

Grace and Peace,
J.C.

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