RHINELANDER - Many churches in the Northwoods had to react quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic. They had to find new ways to reach their congregations when social distancing requirements went into effect.
Leaders at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Rhinelander say they were already working on getting their services online even before coronavirus pushed their efforts into high-gear.
Many churches around the viewing area have "services canceled" signs on their door. With face to face services called off for now, churches had to move to the internet to reach their congregation.
"It took us awhile," said St. Mark Lutheran Church Pastor Richard Miller. "We needed to do more things essential to the service here, but more recently we added an audio system and also video capability."
They had the capabilities going throughout the church, but they had to get it on the internet.
"We were looking for something to do beyond what we could do live," said Miller. "[We] found that we were able to bring in someone and do some videotaping as well."
The next step was something they didn't plan on approaching so quickly.
"We kind of just got settled and gotten things into place, and then the pandemic hit and we were forced to rush into the next level to livestream and share to the masses that way," said St. Mark Lutheran Church Elder Andy Wyss.
The pews in St. Mark Lutheran Church do sit empty during this pandemic, so another problem many churches may encounter is an offering shortage.
"I think it'll be a challenge for any congregation including ours," said Miller. "Although I am confident that God's people will respond. They have been so far and they'll continue. We might catch up after we all get back here in church physically."
Wyss has advice for those that want to help their church function now and when normal operations resume.
"Try to be involved, try to see what's going on," said Wyss. "See what options there are to get involved. If you're seeing things that are missing, maybe that's your opportunity to make those things happen that aren't happening."
Pastor Miller encourages everyone to pick up the Bible during this time.
"Look at one of the gospels, said Miller. "About a third of the whole Gospel's message is the last week of Jesus' suffering, death, resurrection."
Many local religious institutions have started streaming services online.