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Many Milwaukee-area churches stay open to provide comfort during uncertain times, others move services online

NOW: Many Milwaukee-area churches stay open to provide comfort during uncertain times, others move services online

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Like other large gathering spaces, churches and places of worship across the Milwaukee area are being forced to make tough decisions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Milwaukee has canceled several events, but is continuing to hold Sunday mass.

"One of the reasons is the longing that people have to connect with their faith, especially during uncertain and kind of frightening times. That's especially when people need their faith," said Auxiliary Bishop Jeffrey Haines.

Earlier this week, Archbishop Jerome Listecki freed Catholics in the Milwaukee area from the obligation to attend mass for the next two weeks and said they could watch the services online or on TV, or listen to them on the radio.

But parishioners who chose to attend mass Sunday morning said the church is a home and provides a sense of comfort.

"When somebody is anxious or somebody's afraid, you just want to have some peace, and that's one of the places that you can find the most peace," said longtime parishioner Jill Olen.

Haines said the church is making changes to its routine amid concerns about the virus. Parishioners are receiving communion by hand instead of the chalice, and they're being asked to show the sign of peace without touching.

"People were very conscious. They were nodding heads rather than shaking hands, and they kind of dispersed themselves and scattered around the church," Haines said of the mass Sunday morning.

Several of the largest worship centers in the area have decided to close because of concerns about the virus. Oak Creek Assembly of God also canceled all worship services and other activities, and moved its services online. On social media, church officials said it was a difficult "difficult decision."

The Elmbrook Church in Brookfield is closed for the forseeable future and temporarily moved its services online.

"You may be joining us today from your living room couch or your kitchen. Or you may be streaming on your device in your car," said Lake County Campus Pastor Andrew Johnston in a livestream of the service posted on Facebook.

The Ridge Community Church in Oak Creek posted a message on Facebook saying its services this week would be digital

"This decision is being made in response to a request from the state’s department of public health that gatherings of 250 people or more do not meet. We’ll evaluate next week’s services as we learn more," the post read.

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