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La Crosse area churches announce service cancellations due to virus
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La Crosse area churches announce service cancellations due to virus

Several places of worship are cancelling or advising non-attendance to services and programs for the next few weeks due to the coronavirus.

The Diocese of La Crosse released a statement on Friday saying parishioners had the option to stay home and worship in alternative ways, instead of attending Sunday services.

“It is only appropriate that with many of our parishioners in the vulnerable categories,” a statement from the Diocese read, “that we relax the obligation.”

This lift of its Sunday service obligation is in effect indefinitely, until further notice.

English Lutheran Church of La Crosse is cancelling all services and educational programs until Palm Sunday, according to Senior Pastor Mark Solyst.

“I’m eager to support the community effort,” Solyst said. “It’s not just our own little corner of the world that we’re concerned about, but it has to do with that larger effort to keep our community safe.”

First Free in Onalaska also has cancelled all programs and events through March 27, aside from regular office hours and its weekly Tuesday food pantry. It will still livestream a Sunday service at 10:30 a.m. both weekends.

Officials with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in La Crosse had no official statement on Friday, saying they maintain that each individual church should decide whether to close.

The Shrine of Our Lady Guadalupe is still open as usual, and has no plans to close or cancel any events or services as of yet.

“We still are inviting people to come out,” said Elizabeth Westhoff, the communications director for the shrine. “If you aren’t sick come on out, if you are, know we’re praying for you.”

Other churches, including Living Word Christian Church and Olivet Lutheran, have no plans to cancel yet, saying they don’t gather crowds of more than 250 people. Living Word said it will offer live stream services as well, for those not wanting to participate in-person.

Both the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend cancelling all gatherings with more than 250 people in attendance.

Several facilities have indicated that they will be live-streaming services online or over the radio in lieu of in-person events. Worshipers are encouraged to contact their churches to see whether events are cancelled.

“If we can make good decisions at the front end,” Solyst said, “it greatly enhances the likelihood that there will be a mild outbreak in La Crosse, in our Coulee Region.”

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