Obama's minister in chief manages matters of faith both public and private

By Christi Parsons
Saturday, July 31, 2010

The young minister's alarm goes off at 6 a.m., time for his own devotional and the one he will send to the president of the United States.

This particular morning, Joshua DuBois meditates on the disciple Peter's first letter to the early church. The text he prays over and e-mails to Barack Obama half an hour later is about something else.

It's a private start to the day for the president and the pastor, a spiritual BlackBerry session they guard carefully.

Hours later, they meet in a public setting, when the president arrives to give a speech at a community center.

DuBois is wearing an ear bud and carrying a clipboard, standard equipment for a midlevel White House staffer. Obama climbs from his car and greets DuBois and another aide with a casual, "Hey, guys." A sheen of perspiration glistens at DuBois's hairline as the group heads toward the stage area.

Colleagues say DuBois is entitled to a spot on the platform, as director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

But DuBois has arranged for others from the White House to sit there.

Waiting in the wings

"Preaching, I don't think it comes naturally to me," DuBois says, a smile materializing in the circle of his goatee. "But working with people, the one on one, that's the best part of being a minister."

As it happens, his particular gift is in need at the White House. Obama hasn't had a pastor for two years, since he had to answer for controversial speech by his last one, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

Now, instead of aligning himself with a church or spiritual leader, Obama seeks the guidance of many people. Some are scholars; some pray in tongues. Some share his progressive views; others say they didn't vote for him.

They have one thing in common: DuBois.

In his official job, the 27-year-old Princeton-educated minister is the front door of the White House for religious and community leaders.

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