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Churches in the area will worship remotely this coming Sunday and likely into the foreseeable future due to concerns over the novel coronavirus.

A number of congregations will attend religious services and meetings via livestreams on Facebook, on individual websites and through video-chatting platforms like Zoom. Some churches are encouraging members to help out those who are at high-risk for contracting the virus and need to stay at home. Funerals are being postponed.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommended earlier this week a nationwide canceling of all gatherings of 50 or more people. Bars and restaurants are shutting down dining areas, schools are moving online and long-term care facilities are prohibiting visitors.

In a time of social-distancing, Pastor Steve Schmidt with Hope Lutheran Church wants to keep his congregation connected.

“We still want to be a community even if we can’t physically be together,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the church did a test run of livestreaming a service last Sunday, and although the audio was clear, the video was a little shaky. He said staff will try to fix that before this Sunday.

Hope Lutheran has suspended all other on-site gatherings like Bible studies, youth activities and choir practices. Some of those can move online through video-chatting or over the phone. The church has also organized a call-list to have volunteers check-in weekly with elderly members and those who need help while self-quarantined.

Church leaders are taking calls from anyone in the congregation who might want to just talk.

“We need to be there for each other in all kinds of different ways, and the church will be there for you,” Schmidt said.

Reverend Glover Wagner with Pilgrim United Congregational Church has had conversations with members of his congregation who are feeling anxious about the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.

“It’s the unknown and the uncertainty,” Wagner said.

Wagner said no matter someone’s faith or spirituality, it’s important to find an “inner resource” to lean on when dealing stress and anxiety, especially when living in isolation.

“You have to have faith — faith in each other and faith that people will come together,” Wagner said.

Wagner is also connecting with his congregation through livestream on social media, which began last Sunday. There were more than 300 views of the service on Facebook. Small groups like Bible study will be held through Zoom.

“It went well. We’re going to continue it,” Wagner said.

Catholics around the world have been dispensed from gathering for mass, an obligation under canon law. The Diocese of Helena released a news release March 17 saying all masses are suspended in coordination with the Diocese of Great Falls/Billings.

The release said all parish activities are suspended and that the bishop will livestream masses at

According to the Holy Rosary Parish’s website, the church is closed, although office staff are available by phone in the event of an emergency. The website says Father Leo Proxell is still evaluating how to move forward with local services.

Journey Church, which meets at The Commons in Bozeman, is also suspending in-person worship gatherings. The situation will be assessed on a weekly basis. The band will still play and church leaders will speak to members on Sunday through a livestream posted to at 9 and 11 a.m.

The livestream is also available through Journey’s app.

In a video message to members, Pastor Bob Schwahn said the decision was not made out of fear, but to protect others.

“We realize that there are vulnerable among us in our community, and if us not gathering together puts less people at risk, we want to do what we can to love and serve those people,” Schwahn said.

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Shaylee Ragar can be reached at or at 582-2607.