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Clinton's Farewell Draws Praise From Foundry UMC's Croned Witchcraft Minister of Education

Clintons lead worship, express thanks to D.C. church

Jan. 8, 2001 News media contact: Tim Tanton (615)742-5470 Nashville, Tenn. {002}

By Dean Snyder*

WASHINGTON (UMNS) -- On their last Sunday in church as America's first family, the Clintons read Scripture and delivered the sermon, but also said they would remain involved in the congregation where they have worshipped for the past eight years.

All three Clintons participated in leading worship Jan. 7 at Foundry United Methodist Church. Chelsea Clinton, who attended the church's youth group before she left for college, read an Old Testament lesson from Isaiah. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Methodist since birth, read a New Testament lesson from 1 Thessalonians. President Bill Clinton, one of the more openly devout men to have held the nation's highest office but also the president whose personal morality has been subjected to perhaps the greatest public scrutiny and scorn, preached a sermon entitled "Reflections and Anticipations."

In his sermon, Clinton thanked the Foundry congregation for being a "church home" for his family during his presidency. He highlighted Chelsea's participation in the Appalachian Service Project, a summer mission trip sponsored by the church's youth ministry. "She learned so much," he said.

He also expressed appreciation for the congregation's personal support "during the storms and sunshine of these last eight years."

"I will always have wonderful memories," he said, "of every occasion where we passed the peace, for all the people young and old who came up to me and said a kind word of welcome, reminding me that no matter what was going on in Washington D.C. at the moment, there was a bigger world out there with real people and real hearts and minds."

He reflected on the significance of his presidency. "I have spent a lot of time, as you might have noticed, in a reasonably combative arena," he said. "I am not without my competitive instincts -- a lot of days I thought just showing up was an act of competition -- but I do believe in the end, when all is said and done, what matters most is what we did that was common to our humanity."

He pledged to work, after he leaves the White House, to "lift the fortunes and hopes" of the disadvantaged and to be a peacemaker. "I will try every day to remember ... that Christ admonished us that our lives will be judged by how we do unto the least of our neighbors."

Finally, in the last sentence of his mostly upbeat sermon, Clinton seemed to address the crisis of personal morality that marred a presidency otherwise characterized by consistently high public approval ratings. "Let me thank you," he said, "for your constant reminders large and small that, though we have all fallen short of glory, we are all redeemed by faith and the love of God."

The Rev. J. Philip Wogaman, Foundry's pastor and one of three clergymen who have counseled Clinton weekly since 1998, called the sermon "a beautiful moment for us as a church."

"It was a wonderfully warm and thoughtful review of their relationship with the church, which has been very important to us and obviously to them," Wogaman said. "I thought his sense of the importance of a world that becomes community and his grasp that the church has to model what we want the world to be was a wonderful statement."

Washington Area United Methodist Bishop Felton Edwin May, who concluded the service with a benediction, said Foundry obviously provided Clinton with "a Christian fellowship where he could live out his days as president of the United States and his servanthood as a follower of Jesus Christ."

"The sermon reflected his humanity as well as his journey toward being a saint in the truest sense of the word," May said.

The Scripture readings by Sen. Clinton and Chelsea Clinton were high points of the service for the Rev. Nancy Webb, Foundry's minister of education. "I've consistently been impressed by Hillary as a real person of faith," Webb said. "I just found it very moving to have her reading Scripture and demonstrating the faith that she holds deeply and that will inform her decisions in the Senate."

As a teen-ager, the first lady was greatly influenced by her participation in a Methodist youth group in Illinois. "She wanted the same possibility for her daughter," Webb said.

Although the Jan. 7 service was the last time they will attend Foundry as the first family, the Clintons expect to remain active in the congregation. "Thanks to the good people of New York," the president said in his sermon, "this is not really a goodbye but the beginning of a new chapter of our lives with Foundry."

Clinton plans on continuing his regular meetings with Wogaman and two other spiritual advisers after he leaves the presidency, according to Wogaman. The three clergymen have been meeting with Clinton since the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

During an earlier service before the Clintons' arrival, Wogaman said Foundry's ministry of hospitality includes the homeless of its downtown neighborhood as well as presidents.

"In fact," he said, "we could not have been a home to people with power and prestige if we were not also a home to people without power and with no prestige."

Clinton, a Southern Baptist, will be succeeded in office by a United Methodist. Bishop May has sent President-elect George W. Bush and wife Laura, a lifelong United Methodist, a letter welcoming them to Washington.

"I fully expect the president and his family to find a United Methodist church home in one of our many congregations in the Washington area," May said in a prepared statement. "The United Methodist Church includes wide political and theological diversity. There is room for all who seek to follow Jesus Christ. I am confident the president will be able to find a church that nurtures his faith and supports his family's spiritual life."

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*Snyder is director of communications for the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.


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