It is hard to believe it, but Thanksgiving is two weeks from today, and Advent begins the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend! As we head into what will obviously be a very different kind of holiday season,  I want to talk about two kinds of ways that we will be doing worship a bit differently in the next six weeks.

First, we will be doing digital versions of all of our typical special services in this season, starting with the Thanksgiving Eve service on Wednesday, November 25, at 7 p.m. That service will be a Zoom service, not a Facebook livestream, because that will allow us to be a bit more interactive than we have been in the past.

Similar to how we worshipped on Maundy Thursday last spring, the service will have familiar elements of prayer, Scripture, and music by worship leaders. And it will also have some breakout rooms for small group reflection as part of the service itself!

On Christmas Eve, we will be doing our Traditional Candlelight Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. and a Christmas Communion service at 11 p.m.; but we will also be doing a hybrid (both digital and outdoor/in-person options) Intergenerational Christmas Eve service that will be focused on an interactive telling of the Christmas story that directly engages children and their families. We’ll have more to say about this as we get into December.

And second, we are experimenting with some new ways to expand our digital worship experience.

At the Traditional service last week, you saw one example of that with the hard work of the Chancel Choir in producing a digital choral anthem for worship. There will be more of that in the future.

This past Sunday we utilized the technology to bring the first of our Stewardship messages – many thanks to Jeanne and Bob Hunsicker for bringing this important message to us ‘from their living room’.

We are also going to reintroduce “lectors,” or people to read Scripture, for both services. This will require people who not only are good at reading publicly (or are willing to learn!), but who can prerecord the reading, either by coming into the church the week before (and using our well-established physical distancing practices for worship leadership while there), or doing it themselves from home.

We don’t want to exclude people from leadership who are not comfortable coming onsite for that. If you are interested in potentially doing this for either Sunday service, please send an email to info@fpc-bethlehem.org (or leave a message at 610-867-5865) and a coordinator will contact you.

We are doing a different kind of experiment out of necessity this Sunday, as well: I will actually preach the sermon for both services from my home, where I will be a little over halfway through a 14-day quarantine with my family. We are all fine so far, but a student in my son’s classroom at school (he’s in a hybrid program with two days a week of in-person learning) has tested positive for COVID-19, which necessitated a quarantine for all the students and their households in that class.

(In case you didn’t realize it, you should complete a 14-day quarantine if anyone in your household has been in close contact with someone who has the virus regardless of whether you subsequently test negative for COVID; check out CDC guidance for more info.)

Thankfully, nobody in the class, including the original student, is symptomatic so far, and nobody besides the original student has yet tested positive that we know of. But this will unfortunately be a pattern than some of us will go through, especially with infection rates surging, until a vaccine or treatment is widely available.

And I will also take this opportunity to remind you how important it is, both practically and spiritually, to fulfill Jesus’ command to love our neighbor by wearing our masks (over mouth AND nose!) and maintain physical distancing anytime we are outside our own homes.

So: I’m continually grateful for this technology that allows us to be nimble and creative in how we worship together, and for all our adaptability and creativity in using it! I look forward to being with you in worship this Sunday through the livestream, and (after my quarantine period has been completed) at our next combined outdoor/in-person service on Sunday, November 22 at 11 a.m.

Grace and peace,