(The video in this story is from the 2018 Portland Pride Parade.)
Pastor Adam Ericksen is going viral for the messages he is putting out front of Clackamas United Church of Christ... again.
The church saw some viral fame in 2018 but it's a new year and new messages have graced their sign thanks to Eriksen. But for the pastor they aren't just words it's a philosophy: no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you’re welcome here.
Twitter took notice with a tweet gaining over 100,000 interactions. The person who posted the following tweet is not affiliated with the church, just spreading the good word:
For Ericksen, the idea of inclusion in religion began with his mother.
"Well, my mom died, when I was 20, after a 10-year battle with cancer," he said. "I remember asking her, about 5 years into it, if she was afraid and she said, 'No.' because she knew Jesus would save her and it just kind of blew me away because my mom was not religious and not spiritual. She had the mouth of a sailor and she only went to church because my dad wanted all of us to go to church."
For Ericksen, his mother leaning on religion while she was ill helped illuminate him to the idea that religion is for every person who wants it.
"It was my first experience of like, oh my gosh, God loves everyone, despite the things that happen to us, God is here with us going through it with us and leading us toward healing and love in the world."
When Ericksen began at the United Church of Christ a year and a half ago he said membership was down to just 30 or so people.
"I’m just convinced that one of the many reasons people aren’t coming to church, churches like ours, is because they don’t know that we’re there and they don’t know our message and so I was just like how are we going to get the message out?" He asked. The church did a fundraiser to purchase the message board.
"I just decided that we need to be bold with our message of love and inclusion, especially for those who are marginalized especially by religion," Ericksen said.
Ericksen wants people who feel they are marginalized by religion to know that accepting churches can be places of healing and love. "Really what my goal is is to be part of a larger movement that is reframing or redefining Christianity so that it's based on God's love for all people, but especially those who are marginalized."
And that message is bringing together people of all backgrounds, according to Ericksen. He has received messages of support from atheists, Jewish people and Wiccans who all share the same goal.
"There are so many of us who are trying to get this message out and whether we do it in the name of God or the name of humanity or the name of God and humanity -- I say amen, let's do this."
Some of Ericksen's signs have a political lean to them but he believes God loves everyone, even people who seem to be acting against the messages he is putting out into the world. He says it is important to attack policy and not people.
"I just want people to know that God loves them and we love them and we’re for them. That’s basically it. It sounds so cheesy but that’s the basic message!"
Beginning June 16, service at the United Church of Christ will begin at 10:00 a.m. The switch comes, in part, so the church can participate in the local pride parade.