At Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's South Side, where President-elect Barack Obama embraced Christianity, the pastor and congregation rejoiced Sunday and shouted, "Yes, we did!"
Hundreds of worshipers packed into the sanctuary for a joyous service that celebrated the church's role in the spiritual awakening of a future president. Trinity's pastor, Rev. Otis Moss III, said history would note that Trinity was the holy place where "God stirred a young man's soul and put him on the path to the presidency."
"You have much to be proud of this morning," Moss said. "We rejoice today."
In his memoirs and campaign literature, Obama wrote of accepting Jesus Christ at Trinity and being influenced by the theology and activism of its former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright. Obama said it was one of Wright's sermons that inspired his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention and his second memoir, "The Audacity of Hope."
At Trinity, Obama married his wife, Michelle; baptized his two daughters; and worshiped for 20 years.
But earlier this year, Trinity came under attack after snippets of Wright's sermons were broadcast that showed him at the pulpit shouting, "God damn America!"
The resulting outrage prompted Obama to make a passionate speech on race relations in which he initially defended Wright. However, when the controversy began overshadowing his campaign, Obama severed ties with Wright and announced he was leaving the church.
On Sunday, Moss touched on the uproar briefly, saying Trinity was used as a political pawn. But with the end of the election, the church could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
"We exhale this morning," Moss told the congregation. "I'm smiling because it's over."
Yet after the service, church members remained cautious in their exchanges with the news media. One church member said he would not speak to the media until the pastor gave him permission. Another woman said she was not ready to give interviews.
To mark Obama's election, Trinity published a commemorative bulletin with photos of African-American leaders, including Rosa Parks, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm and Chicago Mayor Harold Washington. Moss said he hoped the bulletin could be used to educate young people on the struggles and accomplishments of past generations.
During his sermon, Moss preached about how those elders of the "Moses generation" paved the way for leaders such as Obama, who Moss said is part of the "Joshua generation."
"This moment did not fall out of the sky. It did not just happen all of a sudden that somebody just said, 'All right, let's go ahead and put somebody in the White House,' " Moss said. "There is a history that is surrounded by this moment. There is a Moses generation on the balcony of heaven watching down on this moment.
"Don't you ever think that we got to this moment by ourselves! It is because of the Moses generation that we have come to this moment in history."
Moss also warned members that the African-American struggle for human dignity is not over and there is still work to be done. He spoke about children without fathers, a rising high school dropout rate and increasing rates of HIV infection in black communities.
"Let us not be satisfied with what the world is doing right now. Let us not be satisfied until justice rolls down like a mighty river of righteousness," he said.
Moss said the church could have hope in the fact that a man who once was a member of Trinity had become the nation's first African-American president. He motioned to young people in the church choir and wondered whether there was another president among them.
"If God can take a young man who is sitting in these pews, stir his soul and put him on the path to the presidency, I don't know what God is going to do. But maybe there's another president here," Moss said to cheers from the congregation.
"I don't know what God will do. But God is still in the 'great things' business."
Trinity United Church of Christ celebrates Obama win
Church can 'exhale' after campaign scrutiny, pastor says
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