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Church Under Scrutiny After Crowd Size ‘spiraled out of control’ at Event With Sean Feucht

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A church in Maine that hosted a worship event over the weekend featuring Sean Feucht is now under scrutiny for potentially ignoring that state’s social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Pastor Jamie Dickson said attendance “spiraled out of control” at three events held at Kingdom Life Church in Oakland, Maine, this weekend. 

“Obviously, this has the potential of being a superspreader, so we’re trying to figure out exactly what to do and how to move forward,” Town Manager Gary Bowman told reporters. Bowman also expressed his desire to avoid a situation like what happened in Millinocket, Maine, where a wedding reception led to an outbreak and several deaths.

A local news outlet reports Dickson has been communicating with local officials following the events. “Pastor Dickson expressed a desire to work with the Oakland Police Department in the future to keep his congregation and the community safe,” Deputy Chief Rick Stubbert of the Oakland Police Department said in a statement. 

Kingdom Life Church: ‘Pray with us for wisdom’

While it’s unclear how many people were in attendance and whether the Kingdom Life Church staff was able to enforce social distancing protocols, the reaction of the town authorities indicates there is cause for concern. The church implied they had learned from the event. In a statement posted to its Facebook page on Monday, church leaders wrote “we need to go back to the drawing board and look internally to our administrative systems to ensure we can continue to do what we are doing safely.” The full statement is here:

Statement from KLC and Pastor Jamie:

This past weekend KLC hosted two worship nights in replacement of our canceled Tenacious Love conference. People were encouraged to stay home and watch on a broadcast and our local community was invited to take part. We withheld promotion online to avoid a large crowd. We set up multiple locations in the building that people could engage and social distance. We provided personal hand sanitizers and masks at the door. We posted CDC guidelines and reminded people for anyone with any symptoms of sickness at all to stay home. We informed the PD of our plans and sought council from many involved on how to do this safely. Despite our best efforts to limit the gathering size and focus online we were inundated with hungry Christian believers looking for the opportunity to worship and seek God. It was not our intention to break guidelines but to fulfill them while leaving our door open for people to worship as it has been for nearly 20 years. We discovered two things from this weekend. #1- People are hungry for God and God is moving in peoples lives through all that our nation has been through! and #2- That we need to go back to the drawing board and look internally to our administrative systems to ensure we can continue to do what we are doing safely. 

We are asking for believers to pray with us for wisdom. We are asking our local community to trust that we will pivot from this weekend and make powerful decisions to continue to have church safely. As we work with our PD and as a staff we make decisions, we want to invite our local church community to partner with us in these decisions that must be made. We know that many will attempt a narrative that says rebellion, carelessness, and disregard. But this could not be further from the truth. We at KLC pray for our governor, serve our community, and value your safety. No matter the public opinion we will continue to be who we have been and lay our lives down in service for all. Be blessed and keep your eyes on Jesus.

The fact that Kingdom Life Church held the worship services took many by surprise. A previously scheduled event, the Tenacious Love Conference, had been scheduled for September 24th through the 27th. However, on September 11th, the church announced it had decided to cancel due to COVID-19 restrictions and an “abundance of caution”:

The conference was originally planned to feature Sean Feucht, Kim Walker-Smith, Robby Dawkins, Jerame Nelson, Pastor Dickson, and the Kingdom Life Church worship band. This would have been the fifth year the church has held Tenacious Love. 

In a video posted to Facebook on September 1st, Dickson addressed fears some in the community expressed regarding the event. The pastor said he had spoken to the town manager and police chief who apparently had fielded calls from concerned citizens who feared “thousands of people” would be allowed into the building. Dickson dispelled this idea as a myth and went on to explain how the church was preparing to host the event.

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Megan Briggs is a writer and editor for churchleaders.com. Her experience in ministry, an extensive amount of which was garnered overseas, gives her a unique perspective on the global church. She has the longsuffering and altruistic nature of foreign friends and missionaries to humbly thank for this experience. Megan is passionate about seeking and proclaiming the truth. When she’s not writing, Megan likes to explore God’s magnificent creation.