The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


August 25, 2008

Obama worships with ELCA congregation

It wasn’t a Sunday to skip church.

At least that’s what members of First Lutheran Church, Eau Claire, Wis., might be muttering this week if they missed worship on Sunday. Barack Obama was a surprise worshiper at the 10 a.m. contemporary service. He walked into church about 10 minutes before the service began after being greeted by some 60 parishioners on the front steps.

“It was exciting. It was like Christmas, Easter and a marriage celebration all together,” said John Kerr, one of two interim pastors at First Lutheran.

Obama sat in the fourth row and brought his own Bible. Pastor Jennifer Elmquist acknowledged Obama in her welcome. The service included communion and two baptisms.

Kerr preached on the day’s Gospel text, Peter’s confession, and said he had his sermon done before he knew he’d be preaching to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Obama’s advance people had contacted Kerr earlier in the week to ask whether Obama could worship there. Most members did not know he was coming, Kerr said, although by the end of the morning there were some 100 photographers/journalists camped outside the church.

As Elmquist carried one of the baptized babies down the aisle, she stopped before Obama, drawing chuckles from the congregation. Kerr said Obama posed for photos with the babies and their families following worship.

“He was gracious and the people just loved him,” Kerr said, saying that when he and Elmquist escorted Obama to his seat before worship those seated around him had “eyes as big as silver dollars.” He was a popular target during the passing of the peace, and signed the guest book with his name, Chicago and drew an arrow and then wrote “White House.”

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