BIDDEFORD — A pastor from Alfred who ran a Christian ministry catering to Biddeford’s homeless and poor has been charged with possessing child pornography and stripped of his ordination.

James Napier, 60, is scheduled to appear in Springvale District Court on Oct. 23. He was arrested Saturday and charged with having more than 100 images of child pornography on his home computer.

The charge is a felony because the pictures show what appear to be children younger than 12 engaged in sex acts.

None of the images found on Napier’s computer appears to have been made in Maine, state police say.

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

Napier is free on $500 bail. Under the terms of his bail, he is forbidden from having contact with anyone younger than 18 and barred from using the Internet.

News of Napier’s arrest startled people who know Napier and have benefited from his spiritual guidance and his compassion for poor people.

“He always was well-liked,” said John Holman, who was at a drop-in center a block from the mission Tuesday.

Holman said he had attended services at New Beginnings Christian Mission a couple of times, and described them as low-key ceremonies attended by 15 to 20 people.

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

Amy Sutton, who is homeless, also has attended services at the mission.

“We did a lot of singing and prayers, and he would do the sermon,” she said of Napier. “There was food, it was pretty warming.”

She hasn’t attended in over a year, she said, but she still sees Napier. “He really tried to extend his hand to people in need,” she said.

Sutton said that when her ex-boyfriend had to appear in court, Napier gave her and family members a ride. She said he recently gave her $5 to get a sandwich.

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

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

Napier lives in Alfred with his wife. There are no children in their home.

He notified New Beginnings Christian Mission’s board of directors about his arrest and resigned, said Pastor Barry Judd, the board’s chairman.

“The James Napier we knew was very devoted to this mission and had great compassion for this ministry,” Judd said during a news conference 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 various meetings.

Even though Napier has been involved with New Beginnings since its inception seven years ago, Judd said the ministry will continue without him. Judd will serve 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, after demonstrating a knowledge of the Bible and dedication to the ministry. He has limited formal training in theology, Judd said.

The ordination council met during the weekend and rescinded Napier’s title, so he is no longer considered a pastor or a reverend, Judd said.

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

Children are often brought to the evening prayer meetings and Bible study. There is no allegation that Napier ever harmed them.

Judd said that under the ministry’s rules, no one can be alone with a child. He said the ministry did a background check on Napier and found no criminal history.

A check with the State Bureau of Identification showed that 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.

A man who answered the telephone at the number listed for the ministry on its Web page said he had no comment about the allegations and hung up.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: [email protected]