Last Sunday was a new experiment for us as a church, as over 70 people gathered outdoors in front of the church building for our first in-person worship service since early March!

If you were not able to attend, I hope you saw the photos in the Spotlight (attached to this newsletter) that went out earlier this week to give you a feel for how the service went. While this was certainly not a “return to normal,” given the safety protocols we needed to observe (not to mention being outside, which we’ve done only one other time in recent years!), it was a joyful day to be physically near one another in worship.

In fact, the Session has already decided to proceed with holding outdoor in-person services on at least September 27 and October 25, and will be looking at whether and how we might be able to do services beyond that as the weather gets colder.

So first, I want to invite you to mark your calendars for those dates if you are able to join in person on those days; the digital livestream will be available for those who cannot attend for whatever reason. Second, please note that those services will be at 11 a.m., not 10 a.m. like last Sunday.

Traditionally, we have held combined services at 10 a.m. as “splitting the difference” between the earlier and later Sunday morning services. However, it takes our tech team considerable time on Sunday mornings to set up for outdoor services (which is part of why we are doing a once-a-month schedule), and beginning at 11 a.m. gives them a little more breathing room.

Second, we are going to expand our experiment by encouraging people to remain and socialize while maintaining physical distancing after the service. We will say more about the protocols for that later, but given how well people abided by the distancing and mask requirements this past Sunday, we want to take the next step to provide for some in-person, informal time as a community in addition to worship.

Finally, if you are willing to serve as an usher or parking lot volunteer in the future, please send a message to info@fpc-bethlehem.org with your availability and contact information. We have most of the team from August 30 returning on September 27, but we don’t want to rely on them for every outdoor service and so are looking to expand our roster! So please let us know if you are interested in serving in this capacity at all, and then we’ll worry about scheduling you on a specific day.

On a personal note, I have been delighted by how powerful the sense of community has been in our digital services, but I must say it was particularly “well with my soul” after the service to have been able to see so many of you in body as well as spirit on Sunday.

I am so grateful for each of you as we continue to journey through these days, and look forward to being with you again in worship this Sunday as we celebrate Communion in digital worship at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. (so don’t forget to prepare your elements and post a picture on Facebook if you can!).

Grace and peace,