Churches needed fast reaction to move church online when social distancing requirements kicked inSubmitted: 03/26/2020
Devin Biggs
Devin Biggs
Weekend Meteorologist/Reporter

Churches needed fast reaction to move church online when social distancing requirements kicked in
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.

St. Mark Lutheran Church are posting their services on the home page of their website. That website is http://www.stmarkrhinelander.org/.

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Drive to the entrance at Rib Mountain State Park and you usually have to stop there to pay.

That's no longer the case, after the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) waived entrance fees at all state parks and trails to encourage sensible outdoor activity.

"We want folks to use those responsibly and travel within their own communities and maintain social distancing in small groups," said recreation partnership sections chief Missy VanLanduyt

Getting rid of the fees is meant to cut down on potential overcrowding problems at the parks.

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ANTIGO - For Tapped Maple Syrup co-owner Jeremy Solin, harvest season usually means enjoying the outdoors with his four employees, neighbors and family.

"Maple syrup is a big family and community time for us usually," said Solin. "We love to have people out in the woods with us, tapping trees and collecting sap and being part of the cooking process. We just can't do that this year and so its kind of a lonely maple syrup season.

But the growing fears of coronavirus shrunk the team down to just five - making his farm in Antigo eerily quiet.

"I think we'll be okay," said Solin. "It just means a lot more work for fewer people essentially to try and keep up and more stress in a sense during the process of the season."

It's more work for Solin, but still same volume of syrup.

Supply won't be the issue - Solin is concerned about the demand.

"We work with a lot of restaurants, bars, coffee shops who are obviously really struggling at this point," said Solin. "We're concerned about their survival as a small business and partner of ours and friends of ours so as we lose those businesses that's going to affect our business as well."

Coronavirus does not discriminate between essential and non-essential businesses.

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RHINELANDER - The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic forced schools and colleges around the world to shut their doors.

It's been hard for most students. But seniors are especially concerned 

They worried they may miss out on important milestones. 

"When we are in school it's a whole lot easier to go down the hall, call a classroom to get a kid, talk to them in the hallways, go to the performances and games and all that to just be more present in their life," Tienhaara said.

Rhinelander High School counselor Ryan Tienhaara is doing his best to make sure students are getting the support they need during the Coronavirus pandemic.

"It's important to talk about those frustrations if you are frustrated," Tienhaara said.

Tienhaara says while most seniors have some idea of what's next after high school, some students, including juniors will have to make big decisions remotely.

"Most schools are closed down for who knows how long so it could be lots of virtual visits," Tienhaara said. 

For kids feeling lonely, stressed or anxious, Tienhaara urges students to lean on family and friends.

"Open up those lines of communication with everybody because we are all kind of struggling through this together," Tienhaara said.

While many are worried about missing out on certain experiences, counselors suggest seniors to create new ones by capturing this moment in its own milestone.

"All seniors across the U.S. essentially have lost their spring semester. Not necessarily that that's a good thing but to know that they are not alone while going through these emotions and feeling the frustrations," Tienhaara said.

In the meantime, Tienhaara hopes education is prioritized from here on out and nothing is taken for granted.

"I hope that it will kind of provide a sense of privilege that it is to get an education, go to school and to just kind have a normal life that we used to have. You know it's that saying you don't know what you got until it's gone. I think we are all feeling that right now," Tienhaara said.

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MARATHON COUNTY - In a press release, the Marathon County Public Health Department confirms that a fourth person tested positive for COVID-19.

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WASHINGTON - Former Vice President Joe Biden took his virtual presidential campaign to the next level Monday when he launched a podcast as the coronavirus forces him to get creative in reaching voters otherwise distracted by a global pandemic.

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MADISON - Gov. Tony Evers asked President Donald Trump on Tuesday to issue a major disaster declaration for the state of Wisconsin due to the coronavirus pandemic, as unemployment claims hit a daily high and the state's health secretary warned lawmakers that Medicaid enrollments were going to increase dramatically.

Evers said he hoped the declaration, which also would cover Wisconsin's federally recognized tribes, would allow the states to access critical programs to support its response, including community disaster loans, public assistance, direct assistance and crisis counseling.

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RHINELANDER - Every single community across the country is trying to hold the pieces together during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce is doing their part in trying to rally the community together. 

The Chamber's mission during the safer at home order is to be a source of valid information. 

You can find resource pages on its website and positive stories and missions on its social media. 

Rhinelander Chamber Director Lauren Sackett says she believes the community will come out even stronger after the pandemic. 

"Its exciting to see the different changes people have made to their businesses as well. So I think that things can only go up from here and I think our community is really great for times like this," Sackett said.

This week the chamber is hosting a virtual Rhinelander Spirit week. 

Its asking people to post fun, new pictures each day to keep positivity in our lives. 

Some of the topics are Medical Monday to support healthcare workers, Twining Tuesday and Flowery Friday. 

You can find the link to the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook page down below. 

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