Although its sad that they were unable to pick a church in DC.
For the past five months, White House aides and friends of the Obamas have been quietly visiting local churches and vetting the sermons of prospective first ministers in a search for a new - and uncontroversial - church home. Obama has even sampled a few himself, attending services at 19th Street Baptist on the weekend before his inauguration and celebrating Easter at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Now, in an unexpected move, Obama has told White House aides that instead of joining a congregation in Washington, D.C., he will follow in George W. Bush’s footsteps and make his primary place of worship Evergreen Chapel, the nondenominational church at Camp David.
A number of factors drove the decision - financial, political, personal - but chief among them was the desire to worship without being on display. Obama was reportedly taken aback by the circus stirred up by his visit to 19th Street Baptist in January. Lines started forming three hours before the morning service, and many longtime members were literally left out in the cold as the church filled with outsiders eager to see the new President. Even at St. John’s, which is so accustomed to presidential visitors that it is known as the “Church of the Presidents,” worshippers couldn’t help themselves from snapping photos of Obama on their camera phones as they walked down the aisle past him to take communion.
Each week, regardless of whether the President is on-site, Evergreen Chapel holds nondenominational Christian services open to the nearly 400 military personnel and staff at Camp David, as well as their families. A music director from nearby Hood College coordinates adult and children’s choirs (Clinton sang occasionally with the choir when he visited). In December, the kids in the congregation put on a Christmas pageant and the chapel holds a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. The Bush family enjoyed Christmas at Evergreen Chapel so much that they celebrated the holiday there for all eight years of Bush’s Administration.
Camp David’s current chaplain, Lieut. Carey Cash, leads the services at Evergreen. If the White House had custom-ordered a pastor to be the polar opposite of Jeremiah Wright, they could not have come as close as Cash. (As it is, the White House had no hand in selecting Cash. The Navy rotates chaplains through Camp David every three years; Cash began his tour this past January.) The 38-year-old Memphis native is a graduate of the Citadel and the great-nephew of Johnny Cash. He served a tour as chaplain with a Marine battalion in Iraq and baptized nearly 60 Marines during that time. Cash earned his theology degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth - and, yes, that means Obama’s new pastor is a Southern Baptist.