Thank you so much everyone for your responses! I've been reading them silently & came up with a homebrew option that everyone seemed content with during session 0 today.
We have 6 players in the group, so I had everyone (including myself as GM) roll 4d6, rerolling ALL 1's, then dropping the lowest, 6 times total.
Then I had everyone do that a second time.
*I had a final step where everyone would have to reroll IF they had more than 1x18, 2x17+, 3x16+, 4x15+, or 5x14+, but it never came into play (I wanted this to enforce balance).
After we all had 2 sets of stats I made everyone choose 1 of them to submit to a party "pool".
Finally they worked as a GROUP to assign 6 of these 7 sets to the 6 character concepts they walked in with, scrapping the last one (if I didn't make it clear in the initial post, this was their largest issue as everyone had an idea of who they wanted to play but didn't want point buy/random roll stats screwing up their concepts).
I'm happy with the balance amongst them (my biggest concern) & the fact that no one "lucked out" with a 18/17/16/15/14/13 character "maxed out". They were happy with various arrays between 6 & 18, most of which felt "heroic" & only slightly above average. After gaming biweekly for the last 20 months, I know the 4 returning pretty well. They're not powergamers. The 2 new players I'm sure will be a great fit too & don't appear to be that way either. All around I think this method will be great for our group going forward, & I want to personally thank all of you for the inspiration!