An Alfred pastor who ran a Christian ministry catering to Biddeford’s homeless and poor has been stripped of his ordination and could face jail time after his arrest over the weekend on charges of possessing child pornography.

James Napier, 60, has been ordered to appear in Springvale District Court on Oct. 23 after his arrest for allegedly having more than 100 images of child porn on his home computer. The pictures showed what appeared to be children younger than 12 engaged in sex acts, making it a felony.

News of the charges startled those who know Napier and have benefitted from his spiritual guidance and his compassion for poor people.

Amy Sutton is homeless and has attended services at New Beginnings Christian Mission.

“We did a lot of singing and prayers and he would do the sermon,” she said. “There was food, it was pretty warming.” She has not attended in over a year she said but still sees Napier.

“He really tried to extend his hand to people in need,” she said. Sutton said when her ex-boyfriend had to appear in court, Napier gave her and family members a ride, and he recently gave her $5 to get a sandwich.

But Sutton, who is 24, said she has been abused throughout life and is intolerant of sex crimes targeting children.

“How can anybody look at a child like that? How does it do anything for them?” she asked.

John Holman, interviewed at a local drop-in center, said he had attended the meetings on a couple of occasions, describing them as a low-key ceremony attended by 15 to 20 people.

“He always was well-liked. If I wanted spiritual help I’d go there,” he said. “It was a good experience.”

Judd lives in Alfred with his wife. There are no children in the home.

Napier notified the board of directors for New Beginnings about his arrest over the weekend and resigned from his post, said board chairman the Rev. Barry Judd.

“The James Napier we knew was very devoted to this mission and had great compassion for this ministry,” Judd said in news conference held at the storefront mission on Main Street in Biddeford. Asked to reconcile that compassion with the allegations, Judd said, “People are tempted by sin and it is sad and unfortunate when we give in to temptation.”

Judd said about 75 to 80 people attend the ministry’s different meetings.

Even though Napier has been involved in New Beginnings since its inception seven years ago, Judd said the ministry will continue without him. Judd is standing in as director for the time being, and the ministry will continue its work offering spiritual comfort to Biddeford’s poor.

“No human is really the center of our faith and therefore no human can completely remove faith,” he said.

Napier was ordained a minister by the board’s ordination council, Judd said, based on him demonstrating a knowledge of the bible and dedication to the ministry. He had limited formal training in theology, he said.

The ordination council met and rescinded his title, so he is no longer considered a pastor or reverend, he said.

The ministry is located at 137 Main St., suite 101. A bare storefront, the windows include small arts and crafts extolling the importance of Jesus and God. A sign reads that services are held Sunday at 6 p.m., with bible study Wednesday evening and family outreach on Friday evening.

Inside, the small room accommodates about 30 plastic chairs facing the back wall, where musical equipment stands in a corner. A small play area for children is segregated by a short fence near the entrance.

Napier’s ministry welcomed children, and they were often brought to the evening prayer meetings and bible study. There is no allegation Napier ever harmed them.

Judd said the ministry rules require that no person be alone with a child. He also said the ministry conducted a background check of Napier and found no criminal history.

A check with the State Bureau of Identification also showed Napier has no criminal record in Maine.

“He’s the kind of individual I would never in a million years (expect to) be arrested on such a charge,” Judd said. Napier was not paid for his work with the mission but was reimbursed for his expenses, Judd said.

Detectives with the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit received a tip about Napier and confronted him at his home in Alfred on Friday afternoon. Napier gave police permission to search his house and his computer, where the images were found, said Det. Justin Kittredge, who works with the unit.

Napier was charged Saturday, police said, and was released a short time later on $500 bail.

Napier is forbidden from having contact with anyone younger than 18 and barred from using the internet. None of the images found on his computer appear to have been made in Maine.

A man answering the telephone number listed for the ministry on its web page said he had no comment about the charges and hung up.

 


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