Pastor Resumes Services at Oregon Church Linked to 74 COVID Cases

An Oregon church has refused to close even after it was linked to an outbreak of COVID-19 which affected 74 people, including the pastor and his wife.

Pastor Scott Erickson, of the Peoples Church in Salem, continued with his usual Mother's Day sermon on Sunday despite the house of worship being listed as the source of a coronavirus outbreak by the Oregon Health Authority's weekly report on May 5.

Addressing his audience during the service, which was also live-streamed online, Erickson described how he was determined to keep the church open amid continuing pressure to close it.

"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, via ABC News.

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

During the sermon, none of those on stage, including Erickson, were wearing masks, which goes against Oregon's COVID-19 health guidelines to allow indoor church services. A number of people in the audience were also not covering their faces inside the church.

A number of high-risk counties—including Marion County where the church is located—also only allow 25 percent capacities inside places of worship, or 150 people depending on which is smaller.

The church previously said that they regularly sanitize inside the building and encouraged those joining them inside to social distance from one another.

Elsewhere in the service, Erickson denied that keeping the church open was an act of defiance.

"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.

The church confirmed that Sunday's service would still go ahead despite the COVID-19 outbreak affecting 74 people

"We are concerned about the COVID-19 surge in Oregon. This statewide increase has impacted our entire region, including our church family," Brent Kintz, who runs the church's family life and communications, previously told the Salem Reporter.

"Pastor Erickson is looking forward to sharing a Mother's Day message in our online and in-person worship services this Sunday."

The service was the first one that Erickson took part in since he and his wife were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 in April, resulting in him being hospitalized and developing pneumonia.

"First time in 48 years of ministry that I had to call in sick," he said during the Mother's Day service. "So, it's kind of a very strange feeling to have missed three Sundays in a row.

"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'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."

The Peoples Church has been contacted for comment.

peoples church
(File photo) Altar Server Christopher Coker participates in prayer outside the Basilica of San Albino on May 2, 2020 in Mesilla, New Mexico, amid the coronavirus pandemic. A pastor of an Oregon church said he will not close despite the place of worship being linked to 74 cases of COVID. PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images