Never before, say historians, has there been this much attention on what church the president-elect will attend. As a follow-up to Time’s asking the “which church” question, today the Washington Post also examines the phenomenon of churches trying to “maneuver themselves to attract the nation’s first African American president and his family to their house of worship”:
They are waging a “quiet but intense campaign . . . to put their best foot forward,” said Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations.
Some churches started their campaign even before Obama won the election. Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ sent a letter to the Obama campaign several months ago inviting the family to worship with them.
“We thought we’d better get something out there,” said the Rev. Rich Smith, senior minister of Westmoreland. “It seemed like it would be worth a shot anyway.”
The excitement astonishes presidential historians.
“I can’t recall another situation where there is this kind of interest before the president even takes office in terms of where he is going to go to church, and churches campaigning for his attendance,” said Gary Scott Smith, author of “Faith and the Presidency” and a history professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. “This is unique in American political history.”
With such competition, perhaps the Obama transition office should create a form for pastors to make their appeal on their change.gov site. That is, after all, how they’re handling the demand for people who want to work for the new administration.