Marjorie Erickson has a passion for all of humanity and lives life through the words of one of her favorite people, Desmond Tutu: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good together that overwhelm the world.”
Erickson is one of the good people who makes the world a whole lot better. Her genuine love for humanity resonates in her smile, in her eyes and in her life’s work.
In her hometown of Lewistown, Mont., Erickson enjoyed playing the clarinet in band, and playing basketball as a member of the Girls’ Athletic Association.
Her lifelong friend Ron was a neighbor, and by high school they became sweethearts, marrying after graduation. She spent her early married life moving to where Ron was called to serve as Baptist pastor. She says, “I loved my years as a pastor’s wife so very much.”
In 1961, they moved to Beatrice, Neb., where Ron was called to be the pastor for the First Baptist Church. Erickson became the director of the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) of Beatrice from 1963-1966.
“One of the thrusts of the YWCA was the elimination of racism. The organization was an avenue for women to express societal concerns about racism and sexism,” she says. “It was a major challenge to find equitable fitness class time for women. The men’s locker rooms were huge, and women’s by contrast were quite small.”
Two years later they moved to Oconomowoc, Wisc., where Erickson worked in marketing and public relations for the Town and Country YMCA. During these years Erickson simultaneously pursued her passion for international mission work.
In 1970 she and Ron, as delegates for the Baptist World Alliance, traveled to Tokyo, Japan. After their meeting, they also visited missions in the Philippines, Hawaii and Hong Kong.
In 1973, at the age of 39, she attended college for the first time at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, while she and Ron were also raising two young sons. She earned a degree in recreation administration in 1979.
Erickson continued her traveling and volunteering for mission work and assumed the role as chairperson for American Baptist women as well as taking on the leadership in summer women’s retreats.
She published a lot of leadership material and help to raise money for mission work. In 1979 she was executive director at YWCA in Winona, Minn., for 2 years. During her tenure a new gymnasium and tennis courts were constructed.
She then became the executive director for the YWCA in La Crosse from 1980-1989.
“This was an exciting time as our facility was quite a large physical fitness facility operating a domestic violence shelter, swimming pool, gymnasiums, fitness programs and a nursery program.”
While working at the YWCA she also served on the National Board of American
Baptist Churches of the USA for 8 years.
Once again, her interest in mission trips led her to a role as board president for International Ministries of American Baptist Church, USA. “We traveled extensively in Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico,” she says.
Of her responsibilities in her mission travels, she says, “From the time Ron first attended seminary school in our first 3 years of marriage, I also felt a calling to the church. While on the board of International Missionary, I attended a meeting in Philadelphia.
“There I met a gentleman from Burma. He was a pastor who left his home for 3 years to study at Princeton Theological Seminary. In doing that, he inspired me, and I realized in that moment I could follow my own calling, as well. On my return trip from that meeting, I wrote my letter of resignation to the YWCA while I was on the airplane. The timing was good, because Ron had just completed his doctorate degree.”
Erickson attended United Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and was ordained in 1993, earning a Master’s Degree in theology of spirituality.
During her seminary training she traveled with a delegation of 20 for 2 weeks into Cuba to visit Protestant churches there.
“We were the first group in 35 years to do so,” she says. “We visited hospitals, churches, sporting facilities, camps, retreat centers, museums and seminaries.”
Following her graduation from seminary school, her first assignment was in Bangor, Wisc., where she pastored for 2 years. This was followed by becoming Crossroads Ecumenical Campus Minister from 1993 to 2006 at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. “I led Protestant services for students who were Methodist, Presbyterian, American Baptist, Episcopalian, and United Church of Christ,” she says.
“In the late 1990s,” she says, “there was a new wave of writings in Celtic Spirituality. Ron and I traveled to Norway, Sweden and London. While in London, I visited a Celtic Bookstore in Trafalgar Square in St. Martins in the Field.
“I perused so many books on Celtic spirituality and they ignited a new passion in me. Thus began my quest into Celtic spirituality learning. It really opens up your heart to all of creation—into the open spaces away from the crowds,” she said.
Erickson says she and Ron have enjoyed two pilgrimages to Ireland to learn about the roots of Celtic Spirituality and the historic monastic communities.
She credits her mother with her love of learning. “My mother was a teacher from a Scottish/English background. She instilled the love of learning in me and and said, ‘Anything worth doing is worth doing well,’ and ‘to do your best always.’”
Erickson retired in 2006. “Our son Paul had lived and worked in the valley here as a raft guide, in building construction, and developed an appreciation of ranchers, especially with Frank and Connie McMurry. Paul built a beautiful home for us on a piece of McMurry property, and it was the reason we moved here.
“However, my father had worked as a miner for two summers in the Lamartine Mine near Idaho Springs when I was a child, so Colorado was already in my blood from an early age. Living here has been, in a sense, a return to familiar roots. And to live here in retirement, with Ron—who is the love of my life—has been wonderful.”