Can I get an Amen? Barack Obama and his family went to Church Sunday. Video is here and more below from The Washington Post:
Barack Obama and his family attended services yesterday at one of the oldest historically black churches in Washington, thrilling a congregation that honored the president-elect for advancing the legacy of such civil-rights icons as Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther KingJr. Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, a Northwest Washington institution with a storied history dating back more than 200 years, was filled with hundreds of people who eagerly welcomed the Obamas for a service filled with spirit, song and Scripture. The visit was to be a surprise, but the presence of the Secret Service gave it away, as did the urgings last week of the pastor, who told the congregation to arrive early for a "special" day.
The Rev. Derrick Harkins focused his sermon on how God prepares people to do incredible things in challenging times. "Mr. President-elect . . . perhaps, perhaps, just perhaps you are where you are for such a time as this," he said.
The service was lined with other references to the man who will become the nation's first African American president tomorrow as well as to King, who is being commemorated today. One child recited a reading: "Rosa Parks sat so that Martin Luther King Jr. could walk. Martin Luther King walked so that Barack Obama could run. Barack Obama ran so that all children can fly."
Even before the Obamas arrived, members were clapping to the hymn "Down at the Cross" and responding enthusiastically to calls to "Let the church say 'Amen!' " The Obamas and the future first lady's mother, Marian Robinson, arrived five minutes before the 11 a.m. service, shaking hands with parishioners as they walked to their seats in the second row.
Obama tapped his feet and clapped his hands to the down-home gospel tune "God Is." And when the children's choir performed, 7-year-old Sasha rose from her seat for a better view.
After learning that the Obamas were coming yesterday, Harkins said, he agonized about his sermon, which he titled "For Such a Time as This." Whatever nervousness he felt, he said, was dispelled once he met the Obamas just before the service. And, indeed, Harkins exuded a confidence, almost as if counseling Obama. From time to time, he would get fiery and loud and then speak in a hushed tone.
Obama appeared pensive, sitting with his hands folded at his chin. At least twice, he took a pen out of his pocket and jotted down a note.
In his sermon, the pastor talked of the biblical heroes Mordecai and Esther, who met the challenge and saved themselves and their fellow Jewish people. He cited another event that has dominated headlines in recent days: the heroic actions of the pilot of a faltering US Airways jet that safely landed in the Hudson River. The pilot had years of training before that moment when he had to save the plane. You never know, Harkins said, when the experiences you accumulate in daily life will be put to a test.
And so it is with Obama. "You are aware that you are here for such a time as this," Harkins said. He urged the president-elect to remember two things when times grow difficult. "First, look to your wife as an encourager," he said. And second, "God is in the transformation business."
By the way, the story of Esther is a great one, a real story of faith. Start reading about it here.
We don’t know if this is going to be Obama’s official Church or not. However this Church definitely has a lot of what the Obama’s like. It has lively worship, a good message, a mission statement that fits their value system and a lively kids ministry for Malia and Sasha.
After the whole Jeremiah Wright fiasco, picking the “right” church is very important. Let’s face it. The minute Barack and Michelle Obama pick a Church sermons of that pastor will be scrutinized to no end. Media outlets will go back in time looking for anything too. I know picking a Church shouldn’t be political but in this case that is definitely part of the equation.
Obama took a major hit on associating himself with Jeremiah Wright for all those years. His judgment and values were questioned. He suffered a healthy dose of skepticism and downright nastiness from some. If he wants to make inroads with Evangelicals the next four years, he’s going to need to get the vetting process right in this case. A Church without controversy would be nice this time around. No “Drama for Obama” was the campaign mantra. No drama here is crucial. If this becomes another fiasco, Obama stands to damage his persona yet again. With so many public policy challenges ahead of him, it’s important he doesn’t take a public relations hit in the middle of it all.