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Churches adapting to new executive order limiting gatherings

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(WKOW) -- Churches continue bringing their communities together to worship during the pandemic, even on the first Sunday since Governor Evers' new order restricting indoor gatherings to 25 percent.

But churches were exempt from that ruling.

Church congregations have had to be creative throughout the pandemic to keep people safe, like hosting church outside as many did during Easter, or even live streaming as many are now still doing.

"There's a huge range of things we've learned over the past seven months and people are really taking advantage of all of the things they've learned, which I'm really proud to see in the church," Rev. Kerri Parker, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, said.

When the governor's new order came down early in the week, exempting churches from the gathering restrictions, they were relieved there were no restrictions being placed on them.

"We have the freedom to worship in whatever way we want to," Parker said. "However, that doesn't mean we have the right to ignore the concerns of the wider community."

She says their advice was to do what was best for their communities, and not necessarily ignore the order all together.

"If we have the opportunity to go back to fully-remote worship for several weeks, given what the public experts are saying, we really need to take that seriously," Parker said.

As an example, she said some of her members include the Diocese of Green Bay and La Crosse, which both got rid of their mass obligations this week for congregants because of the spike in cases in those communities.

In other smaller communities, spread isn't as drastic and they're allowing people inside.

"Those who have moved indoors are taking head counts, things like that, having reservations," Parker said.

The Diocese of Madison is not a member of the council, and hasn't removed a Diocese-wide Mass obligation, but a spokesperson tells 27 News they are leaving that up to individual pastors.

"We trust the discernment and good sense of people to make prudent decisions about attending Mass," Brent King, with the Diocese of Madison, said.

One church in the Diocese says they're social distancing, with seating every other pew and mask wearing.

Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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