WATERVILLE — Large churches in the area are finding ways to connect with parishioners and others while Mainers are being told to isolate as much as possible at home and not to congregate in groups of more than 10 people.

On Sunday, Centerpoint Community Church on West River Road offered live, online streaming services for people who are holed up at home and unable to worship together.

The Rev. Craig Riportella, Centerpoint’s lead pastor, stood in the church and addressed parishioners, saying while there is uncertainty in the world now and they cannot be together, they are connected.

Heather Rose, left center, gets a hip-bump from Lisa Riportella before the live-streamed sermon at Centerpoint Community Church in Waterville on Sunday. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“We don’t need to be afraid at a time like this,” Riportella said.

His wife, Lisa Riportella, joined him at the microphone in a voice that was upbeat, saying she was excited to share with those listening an opportunity for them to help make a difference in the world right now.

“Let’s just inundate our elderly population with something that’s going to raise their spirits,” she said.

She asked youths to draw pictures, paint posters, make videos and write cards and “love notes” to older people in nursing homes who might be feeling low because of the pandemic and because they are prohibited from having visitors.

The pictures, notes and other offerings will bring them encouragement and joy, according to Lisa Riportella.

“Kids, we have something that we can do that is absolutely going to make a difference,” she said

The Riportellas said people may bring those notes to the church and they will be distributed to the nursing homes.

Craig Riportella, who serves as volunteer chaplain for the Waterville Fire and Police departments and the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, said he is working with Waterville police officers and firefighters as part of the emergency operations effort, and pulling together local churches to help provide basic needs for people, including those at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter.

He encouraged people Sunday to bring items to the church that will be given to the shelter, such as acetametaphine, cough syrup, thermometers, tissues, paper products, tissues and rubber gloves.

He also urged people to donate personal protective equipment; masks; hygiene supplies, including feminine products, hand sanitizer and plastic utensils.

Plastic totes also are needed in case some people living at the shelter must be moved to other locations.

Craig Riportella asked that those listening Sunday remain engaged and stay in touch with others.

“We are a family here at Centerpoint and that family needs to be connected, especially at this time,” he said.

The Faith Evangelical Free Church on Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville record several tracks of gospel music on Saturday just in case travel is restricted and people can longer go to the sanctuary. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Listeners and viewers were able to interact and comment during the services, which included music and singing.

Craig Riportella said later in a telephone interview it was important to the church that it offer live services.

“I want people to be able to feel like this makes it real,” he said.

The church has been doing virtual services for a couple of years using a platform called “Twitch,” which connects to Facebook, he said. More events are offered during the week on Zoom and other platforms.

Craig Riportella wanted to emphasize that Centerpoint is hardly the only area church working on efforts to help during the coronavirus pandemic and that he is merely the “middle man.”

“There are a lot of wonderful churches doing wonderful things right now,” he said.


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