March 25, 2020

Dear Bethlehem Family,

I want to thank you for being part of Bethlehem. It is a blessing to be part of this Christian community and to know that there are people praying for and serving one another all the time. May we continue to be the church.

Here is the latest update on how Covid-19 is effecting Bethlehem. I decided that until further notice we are going to move our worship service to an entirely on-line format. The service will stream at 10:30am on Sundays.

Here is how to do that:

  1. Go to our Facebook page or YouTube channel (search Bethlehem Church Austin, MN), and then find the livestream link).
  2. This service will be shorter, knowing that it is not the same as being together in person. We will have: announcements, songs, sermon, prayer time, and a closing song. I encourage you to take time to find other elements to your family worship time such as more singing and communion.
  3. As much as is possible, our goal is to help you keep Sunday morning a priority by having our church worship together, only online.
  4. Nightly prayers are at 8pm on our Facebook page, please join me as we pray together.

All regularly scheduled and special activities at Bethlehem Church that occur throughout the week are cancelled until further notice. The church building will be closed but contact us by phone or email.

What will church look like going forward? Expect to see increased contact from us. We will be sending you emails with updates, links to Pastor Paul’s ponderings, and prayer requests . Expect to see more video content. Some meetings will be held using Zoom, as well as some fellowship groups and small groups. Our goal has always been getting the gospel into the community.

Your role during this time is critical. Be the hands and feet of the church. Ask your neighbors how they are doing. Remember, many of them are going through a severe time of uncertainty and confusion, only they are doing so without the hope of Christ.

Additionally, should you or someone you know in the church experience financial hardship or personal difficulty during this health crisis, we want to be aware of your need so that we can help. Please know that you can contact myself or Dan from the church to discuss your need.

Reach out to your brothers and sisters in our Christian community. Ask them how they are doing, what they are reading, and if they need prayers. Make time to call, text, and encourage each other. If you are faithful to do that, I’m confident that the Lord will bring our church through this trial in a better position even than we would have been without it.

I also want to address the issue of “giving.” While we will be striving to have a worship experience  on-line, we also have to remember that giving is part of worship. Bethlehem has the option to give online at bethlehemchurchaustin.com/give, or you may mail your offering to the church.

I want to thank you for your faithfulness to Jesus and Bethlehem. While we are deeply concerned about the effects of a world-wide pandemic, our greater concern are for the souls who are lost and in need of the saving knowledge of Christ. This could be the time when God uses Bethlehem Church in a greater way to invest in the community of Austin.

At a time when some might now describe as the “worst of times,” God is providing us with a unique opportunity to bear the image of Jesus. May we accept this challenge to make Him known; so that in years to come, we might look back on all that He did through us and describe it as “the best of times!”

In closing, I encourage you to be mindful of the encouraging and comforting words of our Lord, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20; NLT)

God Bless,

Pastor Paul

March 17, 2020

Bethlehem Church will be moving to online only Worship Service for March 22 and 29. We will evaluate things after that to make sure we are doing what is best for our community.

MidWeek is also canceled for the rest of March. We encourage you to stay home and be with family. If you need food, or know of families that need food, here is information about what is available in Austin: Austin Public Schools  and The Salvation Army.

Remember we are a Christian community that glorifies God. In this time of social distancing we need be intentional in how we maintain our community. We are God’s people, may we continue to live like it.

March 14, 2020

Bethlehem Church will have our regular Sunday Morning Worship at 10:30 on March 15. During this time of uncertainty it is good to have some normalcy.

In order to create a safe and welcoming community there are a few modifications we will make to our service.

  1. We will not have a greeting time. You are encouraged to wave, smile, and say hello to people, but we also want to maintain a distance barrier.
  2. We will not pass the offering plate, rather there will be two baskets in the back of the for your tithes and offerings.
  3. We will have a few bottles of hand sanitizer available for people to clean their hands.
  4. We will leave the doors open for people so there is one less common area for people to touch.
  5. 9:00 Coffee time will be canceled, but we will still have Sunday School at 9:30. The women will be able to use the Fellowship Hall and the men will be able to use the Sanctuary, this way people will have more room.

Before you attend worship on Sunday, I am asking you to:

1. Stay home if you are sick. While we do not know of any cases of COVID-19 in Austin, we want to make sure that we are doing what we can to keep one another healthy. If you stay home, you can watch the sermon via Facebook.
2. Wash your hands.
3. Give one another space.

Bethlehem Church is part of bigger fellowship of churches called the Free Methodist Church. Here is the official statement from the FMC: Convid-19 Statement 

We also want to stay up to date with what is happening with this virus. Here is the link to the Minnesota Department of Health information: Minnesota Department of Health

Jesus told us, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1; NLT)

These are troubling times, yet through it all we continue to trust in Jesus. That means we continue to love and create community. That means we don’t get caught up in all hype, but continue to pray as we focus on what God has called us to this day. Most of all, we don’t live in fear, but we live by faith.

Since we are are Christian community that glorifies God, we need to do what we can to take care of one another. One way we will do this is to continue to meet in small groups. These form the back bone of our community, and that is why we want to encourage people to attend as long as they are healthy. A second way is to make the effort to check up with each other, so that people know they are not alone.

Thank you for being part of Bethlehem.

Pastors Paul and Jenny Steele and the Leadership Team