President-elect Barack Obama has been without a worship community for about a year now and throughout that time, he says, it’s been difficult.
“Now, I've got a wonderful community of people who are praying for me every day, and they call me up and – you know, but it's not the same as going to church and the choir's going and you get a good sermon,” he said in an interview aired Sunday by ABC's "This Week."
Over the past year, Obama has been attending church sparingly and though it’s been nearly two weeks since he and his family arrived in Washington, the president-elect said they still don’t have a church to attend yet.
But Obama said one of the items on his list of things to do is to visit churches in the area and “seeing what’s comfortable,” preferably before his fast-approaching inauguration date.
“It is tougher as president,” said the incoming commander-in-chief.
And it’s not just an issue of going to church, Obama added. “It’s an issue of going anywhere.”
“You don't want to subject your fellow church members, the rest of the congregation, to being magged every time you go to church,” Obama said. “And so, we're going to try to be balancing, not being disruptive to the city, but also saying we want to be part of Washington D.C.”
Since Obama’s victory in November, churches in the nation’s capital have been extending invitations to him and his family, touting their African-American roots, their ties to past presidents and to Obama himself. According to reports, United Church of Christ, Methodist, nondenominational, and historic black congregations have all extended invitations to the Obamas to attend their services.
“The eclectic nature of Obama’s spiritual pilgrimage, coupled with his coming to Washington unaffiliated with a denomination, has increased the competition among congregations for the involvement of the president-elect and his family,” observed Dr. Gary Scott Smith, author of Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush.
Whatever choice the Obamas make, it is sure to be analyzed with Obama's relationship to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in mind.
Wright, who was Obama's pastor for 20 years at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, became a campaign issue after videos of him making controversial statements from the pulpit circulated on the Internet and on television.
The comments, which included “God damn America,” forced Obama to distance himself from the minister, whose comments Obama denounced as "divisive and destructive."
With only eight days remaining before his inauguration, things will certainly be picking up a lot faster for Obama. And though many Christians will be hoping that Obama finds the right church soon and makes the time to attend regularly, they’re also hoping that Christ remains “a [daily] source of strength and sustenance” for Obama, as he claimed He was during the church-hosted Civil Forum on the Presidency last year.
“While Christians hope that the Obamas will worship regularly, they are equally concerned that the new president faithfully reads the Bible, seeks God’s strength and guidance through prayer, and strives to base his policies on biblical principles,” author Smith commented.
Obama is expected to be the first president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to be without the counsel of the Rev. Billy Graham, the man affectionately known as the “World’s Preacher” and “America’s Pastor” for more than 60 years.
In comments made late last year, Graham’s youngest son, Franklin Graham, informed the media that his father’s “time and day for that (pastoring to presidents) is over.”
"But he would certainly like to meet [Obama] and pray with him," the younger Graham added.
Though never partisan in his preaching, Billy Graham is a registered Democrat, according to AP.