The congregants of Foundry United Methodist Church just north of downtown Washington got a taste Sunday of what’s to come if Hillary Rodham Clinton is the next president: Long lines, the Secret Service and metal detectors at the entrance of their place of worship.
Foundry Church celebrated its 200th anniversary Sunday with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton as its main speakers. The family regularly attended the church when Bill Clinton was president, and Chelsea Clinton was active in its youth programs when the family lived in the White House.
The line to attend the 10:15 a.m. service started forming at 7, with a mix of regular churchgoers trying to snag their normal seats and Clinton fans there to hear the Democratic presidential candidate speak.
Clinton delivered a 20-minute speech focused on her family’s Methodist faith and her mother’s successes after hardship, making no explicit mention of the 2016 campaign. Bill Clinton — who was introduced as “Hillary’s husband” and “Chelsea’s dad” — was also in attendance and sat with his family in the same third-row pew they traditionally occupied while he was president.
“Because people believed in [my mother], she was able to believe in herself, and believe in me, and others whose lives she touched, like my husband and my daughter,” Clinton said. “And she was able to give us the great gift of believing in others.”
Clinton also invoked the words of the Apostle Paul and Romans 12 — scripture in the New Testament that was read aloud at the beginning of Sunday’s service.
“It takes a village, it takes a community, it takes a congregation to empower us to do our part,” Clinton said. “The Apostle Paul is pretty clear that we can’t just celebrate our gifts — we have to use them, especially in the service of others and in the service of a better, fairer and more peaceful world. We should be, in Paul’s words, generous and diligent and cheerful in our service. That’s how we honor God, who gave us these gifts in the first place.”
The speech strayed from Clinton’s standard campaign talks. She does not typically talk extensively about her faith. (She did, though, make one mention of the swarm of reporters that follows her around, saying the meaning of Romans 12 suggests she should be nicer to the news media.)
Foundry Church identifies as a progressive parish and advocates for same-sex-marriage ceremonies to be performed there, displaying a large gay-pride display outside the building.
“There are still hard truths to face about race, gender and sexual orientation in America,” Clinton said.
Those in attendance said the appearance offered a more relatable side of Clinton, who is often criticized on the campaign trail as not being likeable enough.
“I thought her reflections on Romans 12 were inspiring,” said Laura Long, an undecided Democrat and student at Wesley Theological Seminary in the District, who attended the service with her husband. “It’s interesting that the Clintons are part of a community like everyone else. It makes them seem more human.”
Elizabeth McKay, a Catholic and a committed Clinton voter, was the first in line to enter the church. She said the presidential contender’s words offered her a way to reconcile her religious beliefs with her liberal politics.
“The speech revealed a lot about her background that I didn’t know,” McKay said. “It was interesting to hear her connect her faith with her liberal views, which resonated with me.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and two D.C. Council members also attended the service.
Doug Martin, an Alexandria resident who attended Foundry Church with the Clintons in the 1990s, said the lines were not as long and security did not appear to be as heavy as when the Clintons used to live in the city.
Hillary Clinton “is not the reason I’m here today, but she’s the reason why I’m here an hour and a half early,” Martin said while he was waiting in line before the service.
Chelsea Clinton’s short speech centered on her involvement in the church when she was a teenager and what that community meant to her. The younger Clinton said she would be rushing back home after the service to observe Rosh Hashanah with her husband, who is Jewish, and her baby daughter, Charlotte.
“We are thinking about faith in our house right now and the ways in which we hope our daughter will find her own faith and what we can do to support her,” Chelsea Clinton said, adding that she hopes her daughter “always feels the imperative to connect her faith to her works.”