This article about Lehigh Valley Meeting started with an emailed photo of Wendy Kane, Bucks Quarterly Coordinator, and meeting member John Marquette during a (masked & distanced) visit with members of the community. Then one email led to another and this story on the Meeting emerged. Assembled with thanks to John Marquette, our Lehigh Valley Meeting correspondent.
What is it like to host a Quarterly Coordinator visit at this particular time?
Wendy made the visit because this felt like a relatively safe time to get out and visit buildings. She’s been busy hosting quarterly meetings, publishing the Bucks Quarter monthly newsletter, and looking at ways to facilitate Monthly Meeting worship however she can. I like her energy and her strategy. Wendy assumed Holly Olsen’s role in Bucks Quarter in the fall of 2019, and brings an open attitude and good nature to the challenges we face.
How did you cope with the onset of the novel Coronavirus?
Members of our Care and Concern and Worship and Ministry Committees recognized a deep need to maintain continuity in our spiritual community. Luckily, enough members had been using Zoom-like technology to allow us to resume a form of First-Day worship by the end of March.
At first, we used Zoom accounts lent to us by members, and soon realized we needed to spend the $25 or so per month to have the flexibility of offering not only Meeting for Worship, but monthly committee meetings and ad-hoc gatherings. Our Zoom subscription allowed a Wednesday knit-and-crochet group to resume working together.
As the months progressed, we felt the loss of some of our beloved summer traditions like potluck picnics at the homes of members after Sunday worship. We mourned the loss of physical community and even our handshakes (the topic of an article by Steven W. Angell in the August 2020 issue of Friends Journal).
What about outdoor worship?
In July, in response to reports of a few members going to the grounds of the meetinghouse at our usual worship hour, Care and Concern convened a small group to plan for several weeks of outdoor worship on our two-and-a-half acre site. Outdoor worship began in August, using the guidelines of Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health and the CDC.
Our first outdoor meeting for worship took place under drizzly skies and was concurrent with what has become our normal Zoom meeting for worship. The two groups share announcement time at rise of worship, and Lehigh Valley expects to offer concurrent indoor and outdoor worship as long as weather permits. We have resumed Wednesday evening meeting for worship as well, and have begun publishing a weekly summary of announcements as a supplement to our monthly newsletter.
How have you embraced Testimony with technology?
We couldn’t have maintained our testimony of community without a willingness to accept and even embrace the technological tools available to us. At first, not everyone felt comfortable with entering into worship on a screen. Our deep need to sustain our community and to nurture our members and attenders in an unprecedented time helped us accept the changes caused by the pandemic.
While we can’t foresee the downstream impacts of the pandemic, we recognize that some kind of hybrid worship will remain once it is safe for us to return for First-Day worship. Not everyone has transportation on Sunday mornings. Some of us will begin traveling again, others will return to Lehigh Valley who live at a distance. We even are seeing people new to Quakerism who have found us through our website. Technology may be enabling new outreach as well as nurturing our existing community.
I can’t wait to see what’s next!
A little bit of history – a building designed by the son of the Dixie® cup inventor.
What sets Lehigh Valley apart from many other monthly meetings in PYM is its mid-century modern building designed by the architect Hugh Moore Jr., son of the inventor of the Dixie cup. The original foursquare skylit structure was completed in 1961. Several current members are now grandparent-aged children of the Meeting’s founders.
As the metropolitan area’s only Quaker meetinghouse, Friends chose a location equally convenient to people coming from Easton and Allentown as well as nearby Bethlehem. The two-and-a-half-acre lot was part of a farm when purchased. Today, the now-wooded and native-plant-landscaped lot sits aside a busy distribution center route with offices on two sides and a new Dunkin’ Doughnuts rising to the south.
The meetinghouse is filled with original art by local artists and artisans associated with the meeting over the years. Margaret and Joseph Cantieni, Barbara Kozero, and others contributed prints, sculptural works, and mosaics since Friends first occupied it.
Lehigh Valley Friends have always been deeply involved in social justice, including care and visitation of prisoners and offering alternatives to cash bail. More recently members have turned their attention to matters of systemic and institutional racism in the Lehigh Valley and the nation.
Lehigh Valley Friends Meeting is one of the 14 monthly meetings in PYM’s Bucks Quarter.