As the packed congregation sat quietly in pews in the First Baptist Church of Washington yesterday waiting to see whether the President would show up for services, a murmur suddenly went through the house.
Two bearded, rather sloppily dressed young men marched deliberately up the aisle and before anyone could stop them they positioned themselves defiantly on either side of the altar and raised two banners above their heads for everyone to see.
"Can we love our enemies with a neutron bomb?" read one banner, and "Can Christians approve nuclear weapons?" read the other.
Recovering from their momentary shock, several elderly ushers in coat and tie with white boutonnieres attached to their lapels raced to the altar and began to drag the young men away.
"Let them be in God's name," cried out a member of the congregation as one of the ushers delivered a swift kick in the behind to one of the demonstrators.
With that a surge of organ music drowned out the cries and the two demonstrators disappeared behind crimson curtains to "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."
President Carter never appeared and the rest of the service at his chosen church went along smoothly with no further disruptions.
Afterwards the emerging congregation was greeted with the passive demonstrators in front of the church at 16th and O Streets bearing their banners and passing out antineutron bomb leaflets. One of the two young men. Edward B. Clark, 23, said that the group he represents lives in a "nonviolent resistance community in Baltimore," and they divide their time between working to sustain themselves and "the resistance." Clark boasted that his group had been arrested 17 times at the Pentagon in the last year, a couple of times at the White House and once at Energy Research and Development Agency. There were no arrests in connection with yesterday's incident.
Clark and his accomplice, John Schuschardt, made the decision to demonstrate because they were "seeking to deepen people's awareness to the peril of the nuclear arms race escalating under the sham of the SALT talks."
Clark felt that his group's objective had been accomplished yesterday. "It certtainly turned them on in terms of anger," he said. "I was hit twice in the ass and kicked in the base of the spine and John was thrown down the staircase."
Later inside the church during the coffee hour after services Dr. Charles Trentham, the pastor of the First Baptist Church, was still in a state of confusion.
"I really don't know what happened," he said, looking particularly distinguished his white hair contrasting against his black robes. "It is the first incident of this kind we've had. Up until now we have tried to keep demonstrators outside of the sanctuary. But in this case I think our ushers had to take charge no matter what their cause was, whether it was something we were for or against."
Asked if he planned to take more stringent precaustions in the future, Dr. Trentham shook his head in bewilderment. "Idon't know," he said. "We're just very vulnerable here. We're really sitting ducks."