SACO, Maine — It's a sure sign of the times this Sunday: empty churches and places of worship because of coronavirus 'social distancing.'.

Many religious gatherings are going digital. But for one minister in Saco, he has still found a way to safely fill nearly every pew in the church.

“Of course every pastor’s worst fear is preaching to an empty sanctuary," said Scott Cousineau, senior minister of First Parish Church. “But I never imagined I would be preaching to an array of photographs.”

Printed photos, more than 120 of them, are taped in almost every pew at First Parish Church in Saco.

“I’ve always talked about the power of presence but presence is a challenge right now,” said Cousineau.

It’s the first time he’s ever had to do anything like this.

“We have to be creative about the ways that we connect.”

They normally stream their Sunday service online anyway. But this is the first time all members of the congregation are watching online.

He says there’s another challenge, however, at the church right now.

“I actually got a call from a family this week and the funeral service for their loved one is on hold until we can safely gather.”

Funerals are on hold as we all practice social distancing.

“You know the mourning and the grieving and the closure is put on hold and it’s a very difficult time for families to go through a time of loss.”

His message to those grieving, or confused, or scared right now:

“We can all do this together.”

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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