Seeking a spiritual home in D.C.

Pastors hope Obama will become member
by Manya A. Brachear | Chicago Tribune

Frederick Douglass once worshiped in the fifth pew on the 16th Street side of Metropolitan AME Church. President Bill Clinton prayed in the front pew before both of his inaugurations.

Come January, members hope President-elect Barack Obama and his family pick a pew at the historic black church located walking distance from the White House.

“When our forefathers established this church, it was intentionally placed six blocks from the White House, close to the seat of power,” said Tony Hawkins, a member since 1991. “We would expect him to pay us a visit some time in the next four to eight years. If he decided to make us his church in the city, we would be honored.”

Metropolitan AME is not the only congregation willing to roll out the red carpet—and metal detectors—for the First Family and its entourage. Elsewhere, the choir at Shiloh Baptist Church has already begun arranging hymns for a January worship service marking Obama’s inauguration and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

And earlier this week, the United Church of Christ invited Obama to shop for a church within the denomination he has called home for more than 20 years.

Across town from the White House, Rev. Graylan Hagler, pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, is taking a more laid-back approach.

“From our perspective, there’s enough pressure on President-elect Obama and his family at this point,” he said. “What they really need . . . is the luxury and leisure of making that decision on their own.”

But following the controversy over Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. and Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, where Obama became a Christian more than 20 years ago, the new president’s anticipated choice of a spiritual haven in Washington is a public affair, whether he likes it or not.

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Obama, Religion