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Clintons at Church/WP
The Clintons leaving a Sunday church service. (Rich Lipski/The Washington Post)

Clintons Find Solace, Support at Church

By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 26, 1998; Page A09

Besieged by allegations about his personal life, President Clinton yesterday left the White House for the first time in days to attend morning services several blocks away at Foundry United Methodist Church.

If Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton were seeking solace from the unrelenting barrage of special counsels, spin doctors and television talking heads, they appeared to find it as they were swept into a warm tide of smiles and hugs from some of the church's youngest members.

"What's up, Mr. President? Give me a high five," Erin Dall-Silver, 12, of Arlington, said with a grin. She said she respected the president 100 percent. "I will stand by my president for days to come," she added.

Michael Khan, 12, of Silver Spring, walked up to Clinton and said, "Mr. President, I think you are doing a good job."

Approached as he sat in a pew by a small, crying child, Clinton looked around, saying, "Where's his mom?" He told the 6-year-old, "You can sit with me until you find your mother." The child, named Jared, stayed put until his aunt showed up.

"What he did was inspirational to the congregation," said Lystra Khan of Silver Spring.

The Rev. J. Philip Wogaman's sermon was titled "Taking the Bible Seriously," but the church's senior minister couldn't resist comparing the events of the past week to "The Caine Mutiny" . . . "with people running in circles screaming and shouting."

"If I could speak to everyone in the United States today, I would turn to I Corinthians Chapter 13," said Wogaman as he read the entire chapter that deals with love and forgiveness.

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal," Wogaman read. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. . . . Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth."

More than 700 people attended yesterday's service, which was picketed by antiabortion demonstrators yelling insults and holding up graphic posters outside the church in the 1500 block of 16th Street NW.

"I am glad the president has a place where he can worship in peace," said church member Henry Pilgrim of Mitchellville. "He always comes to the service right before the choir marches in, but he was here early today."

Following the sermon, the church choir sang a song with words, "My God is a rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm." Clinton, whose face looked worn, smiled and nodded his head.

"My hope was that the spiritual 'My God Is a Rock' provided solace and comfort to the Clintons after what was undoubtedly a difficult week for both of them," said church member Beth Norcross of Arlington.

Wogaman said after the service that the Clintons are just "part of the congregation" and people would be better off if they embrace the lesson of I Corinthians 13, which is "not to look for all the flaws" in the life of another.

"People need healing," Wogaman said, referring to Clinton. "This is a man and a family of great love and caring."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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