Still more on the Obama family church search

PBS’s religion newsweekly, “Religion and Ethics”, featured yet one more story about which Washington, D.C. church might fit the Obama family. Among the churches featured (of course) is St. John’s in Lafayette Park:

KIM LAWTON: . . . St. John’s Episcopal Church has a great location. If you’re at the White House, all you have to do is walk across Lafayette Park and you are here. No excuses for being late.

The church was founded in 1815 specifically to offer presidents a place to worship. The historic national landmark is now undergoing its first major renovation in more than a hundred years. The sanctuary was literally gutted, and everything is being refurbished and upgraded, from the floors to the electrical systems.

Rector Luis Leon says St. John’s has a lot to offer a president. In addition to the location, he says the congregation is used to all the Secret Service and its elaborate security measures, and there’s even a special presidential pew.

Reverend LUIS LEON (Rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church): And right about here is where Pew 54, which is called the President’s Pew, will be once we finish the renovations to the church.

LAWTON: It’s the spot first selected by President Madison.

Rev. LEON: He didn’t want the front pew, which would be the most prominent pew. He wanted one that was in the middle of the church so that he would be treated as every other parishioner would be treated here at St. John’s Church, and that’s a standard that we’ve tried to maintain over the years.

LAWTON: So what if a president doesn’t want to sit in that pew?

Rev. LEON: He could sit where ever he wants to sit.

LAWTON: Leon says the church tries to meet the spiritual needs of a congregation made up of people from all over the metropolitan area, from the powerful to the homeless.

Rev. LEON: And everybody checks their political partisan membership at the door, and we get along very well because of that.

LAWTON: And after the controversy generated by the fiery sermons of Jeremiah Wright, Obama may be relieved to learn that Leon has a very different preaching style.

Rev. LEON: The one thing we’ve grown accustomed and we are very careful about because we never know who’s in the congregation is that we try not to scold anybody.

LAWTON: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and several presidents after him held pre-inaugural prayer services at St. John’s. Leon says they’ll be ready should Obama chose to do so as well.

Rev. LEON: Our contractors have assured us that the renovations will be completed by the first part of January.

Read the entire transcript (and watch the entire video) here. Read our previous coverage of the Obama church search here and here.

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