Women walk from the parking lot Sunday morning, Sept. 27, to the main entrance of Kingdom Life Church in Oakland. The church will not hold in-person services this week after a Colby College student tested positive for COVID-19. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file Buy this Photo

An Oakland church that drew concern last month after holding large indoor gatherings decided to hold remote services last Sunday and this coming Sunday because a person who attended a recent in-person service later tested positive for COVID-19.

Kingdom Life Church’s senior pastor, Jamie Dickson, notified congregants via video on the church’s Facebook page that he decided to livestream last Sunday’s services because the church was notified Oct. 22 that a female college student who attended services at the church Oct. 18 tested positive for COVID-19 and was in quarantine.

“We have been praying and conversing as elders and staff today about how we should move forward after taking this week off,” the church posted on Monday. “Despite our original plan (and our want!) to be back together, we felt it was the wisest decision to take one more week of livestream only. … This allows for KLC to fully take 2+ weeks away from in-person gatherings to completely avoid any sharing of germs and sickness and allows for people to genuinely quarantine their families the appropriate amount of time if necessary.”

Jamie Dickson, senior pastor at Kingdom Life Church in Oakland, speaks in a video posted online in September. Facebook screenshot

Dickson said in a video posted Saturday night that the student was not actively involved in the church and does not attend small meetings there.

“This is somebody who has very minimal contact with everybody in the church, who was visiting that Sunday,” he said, adding that he has no reason to believe that the case of COVID-19 has any connection to the church or has spread. “Right now,” Dickson continued in Saturday’s video, “I can confidently say currently there are no cases of COVID-19 connected with Kingdom Life Church.”

Later in the video, he identified the student who attended the church Oct. 18 as a Colby College student.

Contacted on Wednesday about the incident, Colby issued the following statement:

“In accordance with the law, Colby College does not reveal the personal health information of its community members. This includes COVID-19 tests, which are considered medical procedures and legally protected health information.

“However, when a Colby community member tests positive we carefully follow Maine CDC guidelines and trace back where the individual has been and with whom they have been in close contact. Community members who were in contact with the individual that tested positive are then contacted and required to go into quarantine for 14 days per Maine CDC guidelines.”

Dickson did not immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment, but responded later to a Facebook message asking questions about whether the church will hold services this coming Sunday, whether the church has had any cases of COVID-19, how many people the balcony seats, as that is where the student sat, and whether congregants wear masks and sit 6 feet apart.

“I think I’m just gonna point you back to what we’ve posted. I don’t have anymore or new to add,” Dickson’s Facebook message says. “No in person services this week or last. We are just making really cautious decisions to keep everyone safe. We want everyone to be wise and we are following all the CDC guidelines on our end to do that and preach caution and vigilance to our people in the fight against COVID.”

Indoor gatherings were held at the church, located on High Street in Oakland, from Sept. 25-27, and appeared to involve more people than state rules allowed. The events featured a Christian worship leader, activist and singer, Sean Feucht, from California who had been traveling the country for events.

Feucht was with hundreds of people in Washington on Sunday for his “Let Us Worship” tour in which he argues for reopening churches despite state and federal health guidelines related to COVID-19. He was with Vice President Mike Pence last month at a gathering in Washington. Feucht typically draws thousands of people, many of whom do not wear masks or maintain social distance.

In the immediate aftermath of the Oakland church events at which Feucht sang and gave a lengthy sermon, Oakland Town Manager Gary Bowman said he feared the gatherings could become a “superspreader” of COVID-19. 

Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention spokesman Robert Long told the Morning Sentinel in an Oct. 21 email that the CDC had “not opened an outbreak investigation” with Kingdom Life Church, nor had any COVID-19 cases been linked to the Sept. 25-27 events. An outbreak is defined as having three or more cases within 14 days.

Dickson told a reporter that day that he was thankful there had been no sickness as a result of the gatherings and the church was doing everything it could to keep it that way.

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