Salem, OR

Portland Area Church COVID-19 Outbreak Infected 74 Members, Pastor Says Services To Continue

Samantha Kemp-Jackson

Church Remains Open Despite Congregation Becoming Ill

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Even though he, his wife and 72 members of his congregation became infected by COVID-19 at his church, Pastor Scott Erickson of the Peoples Church in Salem, Oregon, remained defiant. In his Mother's Day service on Sunday, Pastor Erickson vowed to continue to remain open, despite the spread of the virus.

“In the last several days, it is apparent that voices in our community and region want the church of Jesus Christ to be quiet and to be closed," Erickson said to his congregation, and to his lifestream audience.

“Not us, not here, not now. That’s not what we’re doing."

In the last several days, it is apparent that voices in our community and region want the church of Jesus Christ to be quiet and to be closed. Not us, not here, not now. That’s not what we’re doing. - Pastor Scott Erickson

The Sunday sermon in which the Pastor proclaimed his decision to remain open came on the heels of the Oregon Health Authority announcement the previous Wednesday. At that time, the OHA revealed that it was launching an investigation into the coronavirus outbreak at the church that left 74 members infected.

VIDEO: Churches See Rise in COVID-19 Transmission

Covid Surge in Oregon Shows U.S. Fight Against Pandemic Not Over

Erickson, 70, has led the Peoples Church for 21 years. His decision to keep the church open is rooted in his adherence to his beliefs.

"We'll press on 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.

We'll press on 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 - Pastor Scott Erickson

"The church of Jesus Christ is the only hope for our community and for our region and our state," he continued. “And so we continue to magnify Jesus here as a church, and we’re not in defiance. We are here just to tell people the good news that Jesus loves our city and he loves the people of Oregon."

“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 draw on his power,” Erickson added

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The People's Church in Salem, OregonGoogle Street View

Pastor Erickson is not alone in his decision to defy the stay-at-home executive regulations that dictate the closing of churches. The People's Church was just one of 10 churches in Oregon that coalesced to file a lawsuit in May 2020. The purpose of the action was to ask the Baker County Circuit Court to issue a temporary restraining order blocking Oregon Gov. Kate Brown from enforcing the existing stay-at-home regulations. Churches are governed by these executive rules.

The basis of the lawsuit was that Brown's restrictions on churches violated constitutional protections for religious freedom.

This past Saturday, the Oregon Health Authority reported 833 new COVID-19 cases and seven more COVID-19 related deaths over the past seven days.

GRAPH: Oregon COVID-19 Statistics: Cases are Spiking in Oregon and Washington State

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Oregon cases of coronavirus surgeU.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

“Thousands in our region were afflicted with symptoms of the virus," Erickson said. "Some on our staff and some that worship among us were those that experienced challenges that accompanied the virus."

About his experience with the coronavirus, he explains "first time in 48 years of ministry that I had to call in sick, so it’s kind of a very strange feeling to have missed three Sundays in a row."

On April 18, an assistant pastor at The People's Church revealed to the congregation that Pastor Erickson and his wife, Bonnie, were in the hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19. The pastor had developed pneumonia in his left lung as a result.

Sunday marked Erickson's return to in-person services since the diagnosis.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Portland and Oregon COVID-19 Cases

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I write about Lifestyle content with a focus on Parenting, Society and Trends. I also talk about how things have changed on my podcast, "Parenting Then and Now."

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