Chicago church still putting its faith in Obama
US president Barack Obama wasn’t mentioned by name at Trinity United Church of Christ on the south side of Chicago yesterday. But two days before Obama’s fate would be decided in the polls, he seemed omnipresent in the church where he married Michelle and where Sasha and Malia were baptised.
As recounted in his autobiography, Obama took the title of Rev Jeremiah Wright’s sermon on his first visit to Trinity, “The Audacity of Hope”, for his own memoirs. Back in the late 1980s, Trinity’s mix of faith, fellowship and gospel music moved the young community organiser to tears.
The congregation is still joyous, and it still rocks. Old ladies cry out “Hallelujah” and shake tambourines. Rev Otis Moss III, the tall, charismatic pastor in pinstriped robes who replaced Wright four years ago, half-sang and danced as he reiterated “No turning back, no turning back” at the end of his sermon. They are words often used by Obama.
“I want to make sure,” Moss said at the outset, “does every- body know what happens on Tuesday? Stand up all the folks who voted already. Praise God! We want you to go and vote!”
The church held a hip-hop “get out the vote” concert on Friday night. It will hold a prayer vigil for the election tonight, and will ferry parishioners to the polls tomorrow.
“We are praying God that no votes are suppressed or any funny business will take place across the country,” Moss said.
The preacher evoked the children of Israel fleeing slavery for the land of milk and honey, the enslavement of 60 million Africans, and the battle for civil rights.
Moss’s sermons are broadcast nationwide each Sunday. “Somebody might be on stream thinking we are trying to promote a particular candidate,” he said, laughing. “I know who I’ve voted for.”
The worshippers laughed too. “Ain’t gonna mention any names. Can’t do that from the pulpit. But we appreciate him so very much on this day.”
Trinity is a middle-class black church with 8,000 members, founded in 1961, the year of Obama’s birth. Ironically, in view of the myth that Obama is a closet Muslim, one of its purposes was to counter the rise of black Islam. It had intended to merge with a white church from the same denomination, but like many US plans for racial integration, that fell by the wayside.
The church’s slogan, “Unashamedly Black. Unapologetically Christian”, was echoed in Moss’s sermon: “This is the black church. It sings in synch with God, dances to the rhythm of redemption, praises in unison with the angels.”