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Some local churches hesitant to reopen

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - Many worshippers are wondering when they'll be able to walk through those chapel doors once again.

The Diocese of La Crosse has set a date to welcome parishioners back on May 31st, but some local congregations are apprehensive about coming together too soon.

"The Supreme Court of Wisconsin is not the highest authority for decisions on when churches and synagogues are going to gather again. There's a higher authority than that," said Brian Serle, spiritual leader at Congregation Sons of Abraham.

Despite the striking down of the Governer's Safer at Home Extension, some local faith leaders say their pews will remain empty for now.

"We're going to do what's right for our people. We're not going to put our people at risk," said Pastor Mark Solyst of English Lutheran Church.

Solyst says it could be weeks if not months before his congregation meets in person again.

"We have chosen to keep our people safe. To prioritize people over traditions."

One issue congregations continue to face is how to maintain social distancing.

"Four or five people sitting in a pew, you've got to have nobody in front of you sitting in a pew. Nobody behind you in a pew. Nobody next to you," said Serle.

For Serle it's just too soon.

"We want to see two weeks of declining case counts in the state of Wisconsin which has not happened yet. We want to see widespread availability of testing which ain't happening either."

Churches and synagogues have had to make many changes during the pandemic, some for the better.

"We had an online Passover-Seder dinner. 40 people joined us from all over and it was amazing. It never would have happened without this crisis." said Serle.

Online services have often drawn in a larger, more diverse crowd.

"Perhaps this is pushing us to think more creatively about how we can reach out to another generation," said Solyst.

For many congregations there's been no shortage of goodwill.

"By and large finances are doing pretty well at churches. Giving is up," said Solyst.

For more information on the online services offered by English Lutheran, such as daily devotional and church services, visit

For activities and services offered by Congregation Sons of Abraham visit

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