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story.lead_photo.caption Parishioners of The Oasis United Church of Christ attend Sunday morning's worship service in a parking lot adjacent to the church. Photo by Gerry Tritz / News Tribune.

For a few area churches, outdoor services have provided a way for worshipers to congregate while still social distancing amid the continuing pandemic.

"When COVID came on, we pretty well had to remove ourselves from indoor worship," said John Howland, of First Presbyterian Church.

Church leadership made the decision to hold services outdoors, with music from Howland's bluegrass Gospel group, Missing Pieces.

With the blessing of the city, the church has blocked off the 300 block of Madison Street for its 9:30 a.m. Sunday service.

The services have gone well, with generally nice weather and up to about 150 people attending each week.

"Occasionally, a Sunday morning entourage of Harleys comes up the street and it kind of takes awhile" to quiet down, Howland said. "But other than that, the sounds work well in this little canyon."

For those who don't wish to attend in person, the service is also livestreamed.

With the COVID-19 pandemic persisting, church leaders have elected to continue the outdoor services through at least August.

"I think it's been great," Sue Duncan said. Presbyterians, she said, are sometimes called the "frozen chosen." But the outdoor services have loosened people up, who come to church in casual clothes.

Pastor Angela Madden leads the services from atop the steps at the front of the church. Families bring their own lawn chairs and space out as they like.

Madden said hand-made protective masks are available for anyone who wants them, and the services last about 35 minutes.

"I think there's been nothing but positive response," Duncan said.

"Churches are struggling doing things the way they've always been done," she said. "I hope some people read this article and come check us out."

The Oasis United Church of Christ held its third outdoor service Sunday, after suspending in-person services in mid-March.

"People were getting a little antsy to get together again, and this setting kind of works," Pastor Rushan Sinnaduray said.

Their services are held in the parking lot beside their rented building at 2017 William St., under coverings with solar panels.

"It's been an interesting experience figuring out how to be a church in a slightly different context," he said, adding the only downside if having to set up a sound system and music equipment, he said.

Nancy Luehrman attended Sunday's service at The Oasis. She said the church offers livestreams of its services, but being there in person is much more satisfying because of the sense of community.

"It's going really well. I missed being together with a group of people to worship, and this allows us to at least see people once a week," she said.

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