Pastor Scott Erickson of the People’s Church in Salem, Oregon, began his Mother’s Day sermon by addressing the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in his church and across the state.
“Over the past few days, it is evident that the voices in our community and our region want the Church of Jesus Christ to be silent and closed,” Erickson told those in attendance at the church and others who were watching a broadcast. live online. us, not here, not now. This is not what we do. “
Peoples Church was among 10 churches in Oregon that came together to file a lawsuit in May 2020, asking the Baker County Circuit Court to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the governor of Oregon , Kate Brown, to enforce executive stay-at-home regulations against churches. The lawsuit argued that Brown’s restrictions on churches violated constitutional protections for religious freedom.
In December, Brown lifted restrictions on religious gatherings, changing them to “guidelines.” Brown’s decision came shortly after the United States Supreme Court banned New York from applying strict attendance limits to churches in areas designated as COVID-19 hotspots.
Erickson, 70, who has pastored Peoples Church for 21 years, said his decision to keep the church open was, in his view, not an act of defiance.
“We will continue and honor what Jesus said in his word. He said, ‘I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.’ I believe his word is true, ”Erickson said.
The pastor’s Sunday sermon came after the Oregon Health Authority announced Wednesday that it had launched an April 6 investigation into the coronavirus outbreak in the church that had left 74 members infected.
Erickson has linked the church’s outbreak to one that has spread across the state over the past month, including Marion County, where Salem is located.
On Saturday, the Oregon Health Authority reported 833 new cases of COVID-19 and seven other virus-related deaths in the past seven days.
Since the start of the pandemic, Oregon has reported a total of 190,804 cases statewide, including 2,528 deaths.
“Thousands of people in our area were afflicted with symptoms of the virus,” Erickson said. “Some of our staff and some who adore among us were the ones who experienced challenges that came with the virus. “
Erickson has said little about the battles with COVID-19 he and his wife have endured.
“The first time in 48 years of ministry that I have had to call sick,” he said. “So it’s a very strange feeling to have missed three Sundays in a row. “
On April 18, an assistant pastor at the church announced that Erickson and his wife, Bonnie, had been hospitalized after being diagnosed with COVID-19 and the pastor had developed pneumonia in his left lung.
Sunday marked Erickson’s return to in-person services since diagnosis.
“The Church of Jesus Christ is the only hope for our community and for our region and our state,” Erickson said. “And so we continue to magnify Jesus here as a church, and we are not a challenge. We are here just to share the good news with people that Jesus loves our city and loves the people of Oregon. “
Erickson added, “So we remain cautious here at Peoples Church and continue to provide a safe and anointed environment where people can experience God’s presence and tap into His power.