Virginia's two U.S. Senate candidates went back to the Bible for votes here yesterday, with the sisters of the church shouting "Thank you, Jesus!" and a 50-voice gospel choir rocking the Hampton Roads Coliseum.
It was the 62nd annual Holy Convocation of the Churches of God in Christ (second jurisdiction), one of the state's largest black assemblies of any kind and a recent and growing fixtures on the Virginia political circuit.
Democrat Andrew Miller, Republican John Warner had a collection basket-full of other politicians turned out for the affair, each pouring warm words on Bishop Samuel L. Green Jr. and his politically active flock of several thousand.
President Carter "could not make the meeting but sent his regards," Green told the assembly in one of the frequent prayers.
Warner, who his aides said was heading on from the convocation to campaign meetings with union leaders in Newport News, told those present, "I have always followed in my lifetime a very simple but clear rule: that while in the presence of God I shall not discuss politics with respect to myself."
Instead, the former head of the nation's Bicentennial observance told the churchgoers that American's 200th birthday had fallen on a Sunday, that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, whom he described as coauthors of the Declaration of Independence, both died on July 4, 1826 and that the U.S. Constitution "has more references to God Almighty than any other document in the world that binds a nation together."
"So it has always been my belief," Warner said, "that the hands of the Lord rest carefully upon the charter of our nation."
Miller reminded those present that his own brother is a clergyman, and that in his work as Virginia attorney general he had opened jobs in the state legal office to blacks for the first time.
And he recalled his role in passage of a Virginia law to have the state government give financial assistance to the victims of crime. "It took four years," he said, "but we got it through. . .
"And now if you are a victim government doesn't walk on the other side of the road but, like the good Samaritan, government is there to give assistance where assistance is needed . . . and that, of course, is what commitment in public life is all about . . . Only if people work together can you accomplish what needs to be done, not only in this church but in this nation."
Bishop Green's convocation, which started last Tuesday, was scheduled to go on through Monday night with everything from calls to discipleship and a radio broadcast to mass baptism in the James River.
The bishop said he had allowed the politicians to speak because they needed prayers and because he intended to call on them from time to time on behalf of jobs and money for black people.