Love, faith, hope, and wit are what keep us going when all other lights go out. They’re a quintessential part of being a human being. And there’s always room for a smile, a word of praise, and a dash of optimism. Especially during the most difficult of times.
Openness, wholesome support for everyone no matter their journey, and light comedy are exactly what the Clackamas United Church of Christ preaches, showing that religion can be radically inclusive, not just divisive. Masterminded by Reverend Adam Ericksen, the church spreads its Christian message through witty and heartwarming signs.
Reverend Adam told me that his goal is to show that they're a church that believes that "God loves all people and invites us to work for a more just world as we share that love with others." Read on for Bored Panda's full interview with the pastor about the church's goals, how the flock has adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic, and people finding faith in difficult times.
It sounded only fitting to do this after Easter, so we’ve collected some of the best new signs from the Milwaukie-based church to share with you, dear Pandas. You’ll also find Bored Panda’s earlier article about the church right over here. Spread love, not hate.
For Pastor Adam, the belief that we should be building a more just world is inspiration enough to come up with new messages for the sign in front of the church. "Sometimes, the messages are about including people of other faiths or no faith. Sometimes it's about lifting up a justice issue. And sometimes it's quoting the Bible in a life affirming way toward immigrants, along with our LGBTQIA and BIPOC siblings. Other times we make political commentary with a Christian twist," he shared.
The reverend found adapting to the global pandemic both easy and difficult at the same time. "The difficulty is that our local community hasn't seen each other face to face in more than a year. We miss being physically present with each other. Phone calls and Zoom calls are the best we can do, but it isn't enough. At the same time, our online worship service is growing, allowing us to form a community with folks from Alabama to Toronto to Spain to Australia looking for a progressive Christian congregation," he said that they've been able to reach out to more people worldwide, but that the locals are feeling down after spending so much time apart.
Pastor Adam believes that the last 5 years "have increased faith for many," but thinks that this 'faith' isn't exactly what the church has been accustomed to. It's more of a longing to belong to a community. "For example, I find that people of different faiths and even people of no faith are looking for a sense of community. Faith is moving much more towards what I think Jesus had in mind—a trust in something bigger than yourself. Sometimes, we find that trust in community, realizing that all communities are flawed and make mistakes, but that participating in something bigger than ourselves makes life worth living. I think people are finding that especially in these most difficult times, faith within a community is something we need more than ever."
The Clackamas United Church of Christ marries tradition with modernity by embracing progressive issues. The congregation believes in upholding the rights, dignity, and equality of all people under God. They also think that “Jesus is awesome.”
Clackamas UCC, a Just Peace congregation, is open to everyone. And they live by those words. “We are open and affirming of our LGBTQ siblings and believe God calls us to love all of our neighbors, including those who are black, brown, white, rich, poor, religious, atheist, documented, and undocumented.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the church has moved their Sunday morning worship online. You’ll find their live services on their Facebook page, as well as their website. “We also have online bible study, prayer group, and anti-racism events throughout the week.”
In an earlier interview with Pastor Adam, Bored Panda learned about how the reverend came to Clackamas UCC and decided to get their message out into the neighborhood. “People saw our building but didn't know what our values were. So we started a fundraiser for the sign and I started posting those messages. People began to stop as they drove by to thank me for the messages. But I didn't know it would have an online impact, too,” he shared.
The reverend firmly believes that “God loves you relentlessly and eternally because God is love” and he lives by the same principles. He hopes to share these same values with others in the local community.
"Amidst the pain of the world and all the hate, people are thirsty for something deeper. The truth of the Gospel is that all people are loved. The sin is when we start treating certain people and groups as if they are not loved. Jesus was most critical of those who used religion as an excuse to marginalize others. We are merely seeking to follow Jesus in the best way we can,” the pastor explained.
When Reverend Adam first arrived at the church in 2018, the congregation was incredibly small, down to only around 30 or so people. After coming up with an idea to spread their message through the sign out front, they started up a fundraiser and set it up. It paid off. Spiritually.
"I decided that we needed to be bold with our message of love and inclusion, especially for those who are marginalized especially by religion. 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."
Pastor Adam said that even though the basic message about God loving everyone might sound cheesy, it was vital that they got it out in the community. "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."
Fortunately, negative reactions toward the message board have been few and far between. "One guy stopped as I was changing the sign and told me I didn't understand the Bible. But that's been most of the criticism. Everyone else honks, or says 'great job!' It's been very supportive. There is a big movement, not just in my generation but in all generations, of people looking for a more inclusive faith. We find it in Jesus."
According to the church’s website, Reverend Adam enjoys writing, coaching his son’s soccer and basketball teams, making breakfast, and long walks on the beach. We also have in common the fact that our favorite dessert is chocolate chip cookies and milk. Sometimes, the classics are eternal. Just like the wisdom on Adam’s signs.