“Summertime… and the living is easy…”

I know it’s not technically summertime yet, but since it’s June, and we seem to be past an unusually cool and rainy spring, many folks are busy planning or already anticipating short getaways, longer trips, special projects, camps for children and grandchildren, and so on. That said, the ministry and life of First Presbyterian continues with worship, fellowship, service, K-groups, and so on.

I always have that song from Porgy and Bess in Rev JC Austinmy head at this time of year, and yet I’m always aware that while parts of the church’s ministry take a summer break, much of our life and work continues, even if in a slightly altered shape for the summer months.

Worship is probably the most notable shift for summer: at this point, we are almost a month into our Summer Worship format. As always, we are looking for feedback on how people are experiencing worship and what ideas you have that can make that ministry more effective, so please don’t hesitate to let myself or the Worship Committee, chaired by Rich Hjorth, know what you’re thinking and feeling. Part of the reason for that shift, of course, is that many people’s schedules become much more fluid in the summer months, and often involve travel away from Bethlehem and, therefore, from participating in worship in person.

With that in mind, I want to invite you to engage in two practices of worship ministry this summer, regardless of where you find yourself. First, a reminder that we livestream Summer Worship every Sunday, which you can access either from Facebook or from the church website at 10 a.m. each Sunday. With a reminder that the prelude music typically begins shortly before 10 a.m., so you don’t miss it!

Second, that livestream is also recorded, which means that if you cannot join the service in real time at 10 a.m. EDT from wherever you are, you can access it at any time after and experience the service through the recording. You can find the recorded services at this link. That will enable you to stay part of the worship life of this congregation throughout the summer, and I encourage you to take advantage of that in whatever way works best for you.

I also want to urge you to set up an automatic payment or debit (usually known as an ACH payment, or Electronic Funds Transfer or EFT) to continue fulfilling your pledge to support the church financially even when you cannot be physically present. Traditionally, we encounter some struggles with our cash flow in summer months because people who put their gifts in the offering plate fall behind in their giving when they are away because they cannot put their offerings in the plate while they are gone! While you can certainly mail in a gift, the U.S. Mail is experiencing ongoing struggles and delays with service, so it is not uncommon for mail to take ten days or more just to get from one part of the Valley to Bethlehem.

Setting up a recurring electronic payment with your bank is actually a fairly simple process that your bank can help you with; if you are already doing online banking, you can do it in a few steps on your bank’s payment transaction page. The forms that you need to complete are on our website at fpc-bethlehem.org/give.

If you are not comfortable with online banking, your local bank account services desk can do it for you if you go in and ask. Doing this would be of enormous help to the church as we worship, learn, serve, and support one another through the summer months!

I hope your summer plans are coming together well, whether that involves extensive time away, “staycations” here in the Valley, or a continuation of normal life. And whatever those plans may be, First Pres will be continuing its mission and ministry throughout the summer, so I hope you will take every opportunity to continue your part in our life and work together this summer as you are able!

Grace and Peace,


I want to thank everyone who turned out for the Community Open House last Thursday, May 23, in which we presented the preferred concept design for the campus redevelopment project to the public. I will admit to some nervousness when I found that Center Street was still closed off on both sides just an hour before the Open House began! However, the teams working on storm damage to trees and powerlines were able to open things up just in time, and we ended up having well over 200 people attend!

The design itself is both an exciting and an excellent one, I think; if you were not able to attend the Open House, you can find information on what was presented here:

It was very gratifying to see so many supporters of these efforts from the community turn out and affirm what we have done. Even more so, though, were the folks who turned up with ongoing concerns about density, aesthetics, etc. and found them addressed in the design. Over and over again, I heard from people who were saying some version of, “I really wasn’t sure about this, but it turned out quite well.”  As I said to one of the reporters covering the event who noticed that the tone of attendees was much more positive this time and asked me about it, I think people were pleasantly surprised to find that we meant what we said about incorporating their feedback into the final design.

Because of congregational and community feedback, we reduced the scope of the project down to 200 units; we created a 200-foot “green zone” between Center Street and the start of any development; we preserved 50% of the acreage for open green space; and we simultaneously increased the available parking for church needs. All but four of the buildings are only two stories tall, and only one is four stories (i.e., the same height as Kirkland Village’s buildings).

I want to commend our design consultants at Collabo for their wonderful work in not only helping us organize such a successful community engagement program, but in producing a design that is beautiful, sustainable, impactful in terms of our mission goals, and directly responsive to the needs and concerns of our neighbors.

The Steering Committee is already returning its primary attention to the adaptive reuse project for the South Wing of the church buildings. As you know, we have two parallel strategic mission projects going, and with the initial concept design for the campus redevelopment complete, we have space to focus on forging an agreement with a nonprofit partner and focusing on a design for being able to incorporate them into the South Wing.

Before we do that, however, the Steering Committee intends to do two more things. First, committee members will be informally available next Sunday, June 9, during Lemonade on the Lawn, for debriefing what you’ve seen and heard in the community meetings and in general about our design and our process. So we encourage you to write down your experiences from the last community meeting in particular and come on the 9th to share those with the committee.

In addition, this will be yet another opportunity for you to reflect on what we’ve done and where we’re going, particularly if you were not able to attend the May 23 meeting. Second, we will have a more formal wrap-up meeting for the concept design phase of the campus redevelopment project in July (exact date TBD), so please keep your ears open for news on that.

Finally, I want to express my profound thanks to the Mission Strategy Steering Committee for the extraordinarily good and faithful work they have done for well over a year at this point. To have gotten as far as we have, as fast as we have, in exploring the possibilities of these two initiatives is a testament to their leadership and commitment to this ministry.

So please express your own thanks to Don Robertson and Donna Taggart, our co-chairs, and to the members of the committee: George Bickford, Jim Halkins, Bob Hunsicker, Belle Marks, and Kim Miner, and to Pastor Lindsey who has provided amazing and invaluable leadership and support throughout this process.

Grace and Peace,