Senior Pastor Jamie Dickson at Kingdom Life Church in Oakland on Thursday. Dickson is preparing for the four-day Tenacious Love conference later this month at the church. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

OAKLAND — The four-day Tenacious Love conference to be held indoors at Kingdom Life Church in Oakland, which at least 70 people have said they plan to attend, is still scheduled for later this month, with modified safety regulations driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

The event is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 24, through Sunday, Sept. 27. Its Facebook page has 70 attendees listed as “going” and 90 more who are “interested.” Tickets are also being sold online.

In a lengthy emailed statement, Senior Pastor Jamie Dickson outlined the safety protocols and lengths, saying church officials considered canceling the event this past June.

Jamie Dickson, senior pastor at Kingdom Life Church in Oakland, speaks in a video posted online about safety precautions in place for the church’s four-day Tenacious Love conference to be held indoors later this month. Facebook screenshot

“But Gov. Janet Mills, in the address of the three-phase plan, stated that the state hoped to lift the gathering restrictions in September, when Phase 3 was expected to come to an end,” Dickson wrote.

Asked for a specific number of people per seating area, Dickson wrote organizers plan to meet the 50-person limit for buildings holding indoor gatherings, including religious services, as outlined by the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

“Safety is in such high regard for us hosting this conference,” Dickson wrote. “We based our planning in hopes that this would be so. On September 1st, when it became evident that was not the plan of our local Maine government, despite conflicting suggestions from the CDC,  we immediately went back to the drawing board to discuss strategically how we could move forward with Tenacious Love, all the while maintaining the State of Maine’s requests.”

Robert Long, a spokesman for the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, declined to comment on the Oakland event and, instead, provided general guidelines.

Dickson later wrote organizers are considering numerous alternative plans, including cancellation. Registration has ended, Dickson wrote. He referenced the Millinocket wedding, which is now linked to more than 140 cases of COVID-19 infection, including three deaths, and outbreaks at Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford and the York County Jail.

Dickson posted an explanatory video Sept. 1 on Kingdom Life’s Facebook page outlining safety protocols for the event.

Oakland Town Manager Gary Bowman said he has received a couple of telephone calls with concerns about it.

“We did ask Jamie to come down and talk with us, and shared with him the concerns,” Bowman said. “He assured us he’s just as concerned about safety as everyone else. I have to trust that he’s going to do it right.”

Even so, the coronavirus outbreaks coming out of the Millinocket wedding have Oakland officials concerned and cautious.

“I think it freaks everybody out,” Bowman said. “It’s a concern whenever you have people gather, and the last thing you want to see is infection rates in the town of Oakland go up. Like I said, he’ll do a good job, I think.”

Oakland Deputy Police Chief Rick Stubbert said the department served as “a resource” for organizers.

“From what I understand, they’re following all the state guidelines and will involve a safe function,” Stubbert said. “Really, they’ve got a handle on it, and I think they’ll be fine.”

In the video and statement to the Morning Sentinel, Dickson provided details of the church’s safety plan: The number of attendees will be capped, guests will be registered for contact-tracing purposes, hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout the building, the building will be sanitized after each session and symptom screening and other safety precautions will be followed.

Masks will be offered to attendees, but not required.

“I’m here to dispel some rumors, friends,” Dickson said in the video. “There’s a little rumor riding around that we’re going to have thousands of people at Tenacious Love, and I just want to say, ‘I wish.’ That’s not going to happen.”

The building normally can hold a couple of hundred people, Dickson said in the video. However, the registration was capped at “an incredibly safe” gathering size.

Dickson wrote in the statement that Kingdom Life closed for three months, pivoting to a community resource center distributing food, masks and personal hygiene products. Services are still streamed online.

“Through it all, we have been flexible and strategic in finding creative ways to be a solution in the midst of uncertainties,” Dickson wrote.

Dickson repeatedly wrote and said in the video he hoped Mills will turn to Stage 4 of her Restarting Maine’s Economy plan by the time Tenacious Love happens.

The state plan has been in Stage 3 since July 1, and no start date has been announced for moving to Stage 4.

Senior Pastor Jamie Dickson of Kingdom Life Church in Oakland stands in a grassy area where a large tent will be set up later this month for the four-day Tenacious Love conference. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.