Vehicles fill the parking lot Saturday night at Kingdom Life Church in Oakland after police received reports the church was violating rules for gathering size during the coronavirus pandemic. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

OAKLAND —  A crowd packed Kingdom Life Church in Oakland on Saturday night for an event featuring a California Christian worship leader and singer who has been traveling the country, preaching and protesting government restrictions on religious gatherings during the pandemic.

Reports of the church’s actions Saturday night come after the church had previously announced plans to cancel its 2020 Tenacious Love indoor conference that had been planned for this past weekend, citing an abundance of caution related to crowd sizes at indoor events.

The church wrote in a Facebook post it was canceling the conference “due to ongoing state regulations and safety concerns,” and “ticket holders have been emailed, notified, and refunded.”

But the church announced prior to the weekend a “Worship Night” would be held there instead, and it would be live-streamed while also welcoming an in-person audience.

“There will be an overflow room downstairs and seats available in the balcony and sanctuary,” a church announcement read.

It also read, “Please avoid posting this online as you want to be very sensitive to COVID policies and general community concern for larger gatherings.”

Sean Feucht, 37, the pastor and featured guest from Redding, California, told the audience at “Night of Worship” on Saturday he had traveled to 33 cities across the United States recently, holding outdoor concerts and worship events.

“This is my first time leading worship in a church in probably four to five months,” Feucht said during the live stream.

At 6:57 p.m. Saturday, a caller reported to the Oakland Police Department the church at 191 High St. was violating an emergency ordinance. Police said they responded and monitored the situation.

Police also responded to the church Friday night after a caller, who asked to remain anonymous, reported being concerned about the church’s violating Maine Center For Disease Control & Prevention guidelines for gathering sizes during the pandemic.

Women walk from the parking lot Sunday morning to the main entrance of Kingdom Life Church in Oakland. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Current rules under the state’s “Phase 2” protocols, last updated Aug. 5, limit gatherings to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.

“We responded (Friday night). We observed and saw the parking lot was full of cars,” Deputy Chief Rick Stubbert of the Oakland Police Department said in a telephone interview. “We obviously couldn’t take any enforcement action and we didn’t take any enforcement action. We just observed.”

Stubbert said police were aware before the weekend event that it was planned for Friday and Saturday, and they spoke with church officials about the need to follow guidelines.

“They assured us they would,” he said.

At about 7 p.m. Saturday, vehicles filed into the parking lot and people were directing drivers where to go. A man with “SECURITY” written on his T-shirt objected when a Morning Sentinel reporter took cellphone photographs of the parking lot from across the road, in a public space.

Stubbert said by telephone Saturday night that police were in the area of the church on another call and were aware of what was happening at the church.

“We’ve been watching it, monitoring it,” he said.

It is unclear how many people attended the event. Police plan to address the matter Monday “to see if there were any violations,” according to Stubbert.

He said the parking lot of the church appeared to be full Friday and Saturday.

“There have been a lot of out-of-state plates coming and going,” he said.

Contacted Sunday for comment, Jamie Dickson, senior pastor at Kingdom Life Church, said in a Facebook message that he was not sure how many people attended the weekend events.

“What a crazy time,” Dickson wrote. “We had canceled an annual conference and decided to do two worship nights for our local community and chose not to promote them to limit numbers and stream something online.”

Asked what the church did not prepare for a safe event, Dickson wrote the church sent a plan to local officials and informed police about what we were going to do.

“We have been in great dialogue for weeks with them,” Dickson said. “We set up three locations throughout the church that could leave room for social distancing and we streamed the service to them.

“Every person that came was offered a mask if they didn’t have one and given a personal hand sanitizer bottle and a sticker that said they were practicing social distancing. Space limitations were posted on bathrooms. Arrows on the floor directing people. And CDC guidelines were posted through the church.”

Dickson wrote he did not know how many people attended the events.

Vehicles fill the parking lot Saturday night at Kingdom Life Church in Oakland after police received reports the church was violating rules for gathering size during the coronavirus pandemic. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

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