On March 27, Lehigh Valley Monthly Meeting opened its doors and welcomed Friends back to the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania meetinghouse after months of Zoom hybrid worship. Over 50 returned to benches from long-laid-down meetings in the 62-year-old mid-century meetinghouse. Twenty-five more Friends joined via Zoom, arriving from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Mexico, and Ireland, all of whom have become a familiar, beloved presence. Older and younger Friends alike greeted children and young people in the restored First Day School. After worship, Friends gathered outdoors and continued fellowship amid late-March chill and flurries.
Louise Young, Meeting Clerk, and members of the Reopening Committee met regularly to discern a date for reopening and what conditions would provide reasonable safety for young and old. They used data from the Centers for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to establish the conditions necessary for indoor worship. There was unity on requiring vaccinations and masking inside. The meetinghouse’s original attic exhaust fan, dormant but functional since air conditioning was installed 25 years ago, enhanced ventilation by increasing the number of air exchanges per hour.
Many Friends expressed gratitude for the technological advances which, as in other Friends meetings in PYM, sustained community. Several Friends who join through Zoom, most new to Lehigh Valley and to the Religious Society of Friends, have become active in the meeting’s committees. They are broadening and deepening their faith through working together. Other Friends move effortlessly between remote and physical presence, depending on location and schedule.
Lehigh Valley Friends recognize that they cannot predict the direction of public health over the next months or years. Whether people enter worship at their homes, at the meetinghouse, or at other locations, First Day Worship will continue, with Friends welcoming all in search of Divine Light.
Lehigh Valley Monthly Meeting First Day worship is at 9:30 am Eastern Time from September to June and at 10:00 am in July and August. Zoom information is at www.lehighvalleyquakers.org.