Here's an election-year prediction: the person who will occupy the White House next year will be a born-again Christian.
Beyond that, it's anybody's guess what church the next president will attend here.
All of the three major contenders Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and John Anderson -- consider themselves born-again Christians, but their definitions of what that means varies slightly.
If Reagan is elected, he may attend a church of the Disciples of Christ Christian Churches), the denomination in which he was reared. The closest such church to the White House is National City Christian Church on Thomas Circle.
But he might opt instead for the National Presbyterian Church in Wesley Heights, whose pastor, the Rev. Dr. Louis Evans Jr., was founding Pastor of a california church that the Reagan occasionally attended.
If Carter is elected to a second term, the nation's most famous Baptist is expected to continue to attend First Baptist Church on 16th Street NW, where he sometimes teaches Sunday school.
If John Anderson is elected, the presidential church probably will be Fourth Presbyterian in Bethesda, which he has attended "with some regularity," according to a member of his staff, while, he has been a member of Congress.Anderson, however, is a member of the Evangelical Church of America.
Although the Constitution separates church and state, the religious affiliation of the candidates remains a source of fascination for voters.
During his early years in Hollywood, Reagan belonged to the Hollywood-Beverly Christian Church. His first wife, Jane Wyman, taught Sunday school there and their two children participated in Sunday school.
According to the current pastor of the church, the Rev. Benjamin H. Moore, Reagan still is technically a member and contributes financially to the church even though he has not attended it for many years.
After his divorce and remarriage, Reagan began attending Bel Air Presbyterian Church, where Evans served.
"He attended some while I was pastor there," recalled Evans, who came to National Presbyterian Church here seven years ago, "but they never joined."
Although they have "close mutual friends," Evans said he has not been in touch with Reagan in recent years.
Moore speculated that after his second marriage, the Reagans felt more comfortable in the Bel Air church than in the one where his first wife had been active. In addition, he noted, the pastor of the Bel Air Church, former UCLA football star Don Moomaw, is "a strong preacher."
Both Evans and the Rev. Dr. William Howland, pastor of National City Christian Church, said they would welcome Reagan if he were elected. But both pastors also made it clear they they would not go overboard to recruit any First Family -- and the Disruptions of the Secret Service and the media that they would bring.
The last pastor who worked hard to get a president (Carter) in his congregation, the Rev. Dr. Charles Trentham of First Baptist, ultimately lost his job after a bitter controversy that the media spotlighted.
"We are here at National Presbyterian Church to be a servant to anyone whom God sends to us and we will attempt to make welcome any person, whether he is of low estate or the highest office in the country," Evans said.
"We would minister quietly and do whatever we could largely behind the scenes . . . A church has to keep its goals straight," he added.
Howland said, "We are conscious of his (Reagan's) heritage as a Disciple.
If he is elected president we would do all we could to welcome him and minister to him and his family."
Howland added that at one point, while Reagan was governor of California, he was listed as one of the trustees of the National City Church Corp., the legal entity that controls the church's property here. But Howland said, "I don't know whether he ever came to the meetings or not."
Like the other two presidential candidates, Reagan considers himself a born-again Christian, but he uses that term differently than Carter or Anderson would.
Asked about it at an evangelical gathering last May, Reagan gave this response:
"I know what many of those who use that term mean by it. But in my situation, in the church I was raised in, the Christian Church, there you were baptized and you yourself decided that you were, as the Bible says, 'born again.' In the context of the Bible, by being baptized you were born again." a
As many members of Congress do, Anderson has left his formal church membrship in his home town -- at the Free Evangelical Church in Rockford, ILL. There is no church of that denomination, which has Swedish roots, in Washington. Anderson has attended "with some regularity" Fourth Presbyterian, according to the Rev. Rusty Hayes, the church's associate pastor. "He's not a member, but then many of the people that come here aren't," Hayes added.