'We're really excited:' Suburban Milwaukee County churches prepare to hold in-person services

NOW: ’We’re really excited:’ Suburban Milwaukee County churches prepare to hold in-person services

MILWAUKEE COUNTY (CBS 58) -- Churches in Milwaukee suburbs are preparing to reopen for in-person services, while those in the city can’t gather because of restrictions.

For more than two months, faithful members of Harvest Community Church in Oak Creek have been worshipping through online services, but they’ll finally be welcomed back on Sunday.

“We’re really excited for what Sundays gonna be and in time, we look forward to the whole church being able to gather in-person,” said Mark Widmer, pastor of care and administration at Harvest Community Church.

However, things will be a lot different than before the pandemic. Widmer says attendance will be limited to 100 people, which is 25-percent capacity. They’ll also have safety measures enforcing social distancing.

“All the chairs -- we have just 100 set up, 6 feet apart,” he said. “Before the service, during and after we’re going to limit congregating. Have people arrive 15 minutes before the service and then when it’s over, ask them to leave.”

The church is also asking members to register online ahead of time.

Despite some gathering, not all suburban churches will be ready. Andrew Steinke, senior pastor of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Wauwatosa says his congregation is preparing. “It’s gonna take a little time for us to ramp back up, to have the volunteers, make sure that there’s precautions in place taking seriously COVID-19.”

On a typical Sunday, Our Redeemer has about 650 visitors and three services. Steinke says once they reopen on June 7, they’ll have a reduced capacity by at least 50-percent. The church also plans to rearrange service times to sanitize.

Athough suburban health departments in Milwaukee County have allowed religious institutions to reopen, those in the city remain restricted to 10 people.

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