About Our Church
First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem is a warm community of faith with an
expansive welcome. We’re part of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and Lehigh Presbytery. We pride ourselves on trying new things to deepen our worship experiences,
nurture intergenerational relationships, cultivate spiritual growth, and
build meaningful connections to create change in our community.
As a diverse and joyful community of Christ’s followers,
we explore 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.
Congregational Core Values
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
An Inquiring Faith
Following Christ’s example in Scripture, we believe that curiosity and questioning are essential practices of faith, and that
some of our most important work as a congregation is helping each other to ask better questions about faith and life,
and to seek more faithful answers together.
An Active Faith
We believe faith is not simply a set of beliefs, but a way of life. Faith is lived out in the daily practice of those beliefs through concrete actions of love, justice, mercy, kindness, repentance, reconciliation, and peace.
Who We Are
First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem is a ‘member-driven’ church, and as such depends
on the talents, time and commitment of numerous lay leaders. Along with a dedicated staff,
they assure that this congregation continues to grow and thrive.
The Rev. J.C. Austin
Senior Pastor / Head of Staff
J.C. served the Presbyterian Church (USA) as pastor, educator, and leader at every level of the denomination for nearly twenty years before receiving his call to First Pres Bethlehem.
A lifelong Presbyterian, he was ordained to serve as Associate Pastor for Evangelism and Stewardship at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, where he helped lead a historic but declining congregation into its first experience of significant growth in vitality, resources, and size in several decades.
Following that experience, he was a vice president at Auburn Theological Seminary where he built a national reputation as an expert on innovative congregational leadership for the 21st century, conceiving and establishing a range of new initiatives to build personal resilience, entrepreneurial spirit, and practical wisdom in pastoral leaders.
For the five years before coming to Bethlehem, J.C. served as a Parish Associate at
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, where he preached, taught, and provided pastoral coverage on a regular basis. In the Presbytery of New York City, he chaired the Presbytery Cabinet, task forces on the Presbytery’s mission statement and strategic plan, and the Grants Committee of the 9/11 Disaster Relief Commission following the September 11 attacks. At the General Assembly level, he was appointed to the Assembly’s Special Committee on the Belhar Confession.
J.C. received his Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1998, with concentrations in New Testament Studies and Homiletics. At graduation, he was awarded several prizes including the prestigious Graduate Study Fellowship in Parish Pulpit Ministry, which allowed him to spend a year as a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cape Town, studying the theological dimensions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa.
The Rev. Lindsey Altvater Clifton
Associate Pastor of Formation and Justice
Lindsey is a self-proclaimed nerd who enjoys life’s simple pleasures: hammocks, a good book, playing outside, Vietnamese iced coffee, laughing until it hurts, kayaking, board games, ice cream, and writing liturgy. Before being called to serve as the Associate Pastor of Formation and Justice at First Pres in March of 2021, she served as Co-Pastor of Forest Hills Presbyterian Church in High Point, NC.
She was born and raised in Greensboro, NC, and is an alum of Elon University (B.A., 2009) and Wake Forest University (M.Div. 2016). Her faith journey has been rather ecumenical (ask her about it sometime), so she has served as a lay leader and staff person in a few denominational traditions. She also taught high school English for four years (and loved it!) before going to divinity school. These experiences have taught her the value of curiosity and openness, humility and playfulness.
Since her ordination in 2017, Lindsey has served on the Executive Council and the Committee on Representation in Salem Presbytery. She was a planning team member and primary worship leader for the Southeast Regional Festival of Young Preachers (Academy of Preachers) in 2018 and the Presbyterians for Earth Care Annual Conference in 2019. Lindsey also had the privilege of being a Teaching Associate for the Introduction to Homiletics course at WFU’s School of Divinity in 2018.
Lindsey is happily getting to know the Lehigh Valley with her wife, Laura, and their sweet, goofy dogs, Maggie and Harvey. She enjoys learning about new spiritual practices and exploring them with others. Lindsey is passionate about creative intergenerational ministry and community engagement, faith formation and missional outreach. She loves worship planning and preaching, and she finds joy in helping folks of all ages connect to the life of the church – both within the congregation and in the wider community. And she’d love to have coffee or lunch with you sometime!
The Rev. Sue Bennetch
Serving the church as a Pastoral Associate, Sue lovingly visits members who are in the hospital, homebound, or living in nursing facilities. In addition, she works closely with the Deacons Ministry that includes Hospital and Prayer Ministrants. Together they reach out to our church family, providing compassion and a listening ear through phone calls and visits.
Sue is no stranger to our church. A member since 1986, she has always used her pastoral care skills to minister to the congregation. She completed her Stephen Ministry training and served as a member of Session and the Congregational Life and Care Ministry. She was the Program Director for The Center for Christian Ethics, led new members classes, and worked as Gareth Icenogle’s assistant.
Sue attended Moravian Theological Seminary, graduating with a Master of Divinity Degree in 2011. One of the highlights of her seminary experience was a two-week trip to Israel where she was part of an archeological dig; she also took a memorable trip to Nogales, TX, where she was part of the group Borderlinks, a non-profit organization that studies the immigration issue. An ordained minister in the PC(USA), Sue is a member of The Shared Gifts Committee for the Lehigh Presbytery.
She was born and raised in Bethlehem, PA, and has three grown children and ten unique and wonderful grandchildren. She was married to Brad Bennetch for 32 years until his death in August, 2016. She lives in Bethlehem Township with her miniature schnauzer, Buddy.
Psalm 51:6 – You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Director of Music Ministries
David serves as the Director of Music Ministries and Choirmaster at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem.
He leads our Chancel Choir and directs the music for both traditional and contemporary services.
A founding member of the faculty at the Lehigh Valley Charter High School of the Arts, David is vocal department artistic director, conducts three of the school’s five choral ensembles, and teaches classes in advanced placement (AP) music theory, music history, keyboarding, and applied vocal techniques.
David holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in music education, vocal performance and choral conducting from Westchester University. He minored in piano and organ performance and graduated magna cum laude.
While at Westchester, David was awarded numerous merit and performance scholarships. In 2013, he achieved the American Guild of Organists Choir Master certification, ranking third nationally among that year’s applicants.
In 2015 David was awarded a choral conducting fellowship with the Yale School of Music Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, studying advanced choral conducting under Simon Carrington. He has conducted choral ensembles at such world-class venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall, the National Cathedral in Washington, DC., King’s Chapel, Boston, and the Dome Cathedral, Riga, Latvia.
The Session is comprised of twelve Elders, who are nominated and elected annually by the church membership and serve as the decision-making body of the church. They recommend and approve all program and policy implementation and modifications in the church. These standing committees have been established by Session:
The Elders are elected for a term of three years; the current slate of Elders (and their term’s year of expiration) are:
Susan Farber, Clerk of Session
The Rev. J.C. Austin, Moderator
Lindsey Chadbourn (2021)
Phil Clauser (2021)
Mark Ferguson (2022)
Richard Hjorth (2022)
Kari Keyock (2023)
Kim Miner (2023)
Joanne Kelhart (2021)
Alvin Philpotts (2023)
Steve Samuelson (2023)
JoAnne Turcotte (2023)
Phyllis Walker (2021)
Gail Watts (2022)
The Deacons are the caregivers of the church, ordained lay members of the congregation who are best described as the church’s ‘ministers of mercy.’ They minister to the individual members through home communion and visits, hospital and prayer ministries, and providing support to those in difficult situations. Deacons are under the supervision and authority of the Session.
The Deacons are elected for a term of three years; those currently serving (and their term’s year of expiration) are:
Jeanne Hunsicker (2022), Moderator
The Rev. Sue Bennetch, Pastoral Associate, Staff
Jeff Csatari (2023)
Melody Engel (2024)
Phil Fair (2024)
Richard Gorton (2022)
Elena Helmuth (2022)
Barbara Hjorth (2023)
Jane Masters (2024)
Pam Swank (2023)
Trustees oversee all financial and property matters in the church including the budget, building renovations and repairs, planned giving, and investment funds. Trustees meet monthly and members also serve on one additional committee, such as the property or finance committee, which also generally meet monthly.
The Trustees are elected for a term of three years; the current slate of Trustees (and their term’s year of expiration) are:
Mark Swank (2021), President
Belle Marks (2021), Vice-President
Susan Mowrer-Benda (2022), Recording Secretary
George Bickford (2023)
Robert Hunsicker (2023)
Maurice Kasmiroski (2023)
Harold (Bud) Newton (2022)
Melinda Stitt (2021)
2344 Center Street
Bethlehem, PA 18017
610-867-5865, ext. 238
Senior Pastor/Head of Staff: The Rev. J.C. Austin
Associate Pastor for Formation and Justice:
The Rev. Lindsey Altvater Clifton
Pastoral Associate: The Rev. Sue Bennetch
Director of Music Ministries: David Macbeth
Preschool Director: Laura Hawk
Rentals/Facility Usage: Cristy Mette
Facilities Manager: Rebecca Angione