Congregations in Ark.,
D.C. support first family

by United Methodist News Service

The crises facing the First Family and the nation are being dealt with in special ways by United Methodist congregations in Little Rock, Ark., and Washington.

First United Methodist in Little Rock, where Hillary and Chelsea Clinton are members, held a prayer service Jan. 27, just hours before the president offered the State of the Union Address.

Two days earlier, President and Mrs. Clinton were present for worship at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington where pastor Philip Wogaman preached the second sermon in a series on taking faith seriously.

In the sermon, Wogaman spoke of the need for the American people to avoid hysteria and quick judgment. President Clinton is a Baptist but attends Foundry regularly with his family.

In Little Rock, a small, hastily-assembled group of church members and others from the community gathered for the afternoon service, lifting up in particular the nation's president and his family.

With the president embroiled in a crisis over allegations of improprieties involving a White House intern and facing decisions on a possible military strike against Iraq, it was time for prayer, said Mabel Harris, one of the organizers of the service. Those attending "shared a desire to pray for the nation and for the country," she said. "We were all just hurting so."

"We sent word to Hillary that we would be in prayer at 2:30 in the chapel at the church," Harris said. "We wanted them to know we were with them."

Also joining the service was 80-year-old Liza Ashley, longtime cook at the Arkansas Governor's Mansion, including the 12 years the Clintons resided there.

Ashley said she was "a great believer in prayer," and wanted to do what she could for the Clinton family. One of the things she does best is cook so Ashley said she was heading home from the service to make a batch of chocolate chip pecan cookies to send to Chelsea Clinton, a student at Stanford University.

"God hears us when we pray," Harris said, "and there's more power in prayer when a few are gathered together."

At Foundry, Wogaman stuck to his series but approached the topic, "Taking the Bible Seriously," from a slightly different perspective, he told United Methodist News Service.

"I thought it important "given the grief, hurt and concern everyone was feeling" to explore the resources of the Bible which speak to our humanness," he said. "I spoke of very human figures such as David, Peter and Paul, each of whom was imperfect but each of whom became powerful witnesses to God's presence in the world."

The main point of the sermon, Wogaman said, was that "the Bible is a love story of God's love for us and our love for God and one another. I concluded by speaking of the love of God and of our call to be loving.. I spoke of our need to avoid hysteria."

In a telephone interview with United Methodist News Service, he said "I know the Clintons to be fine people. I have to take seriously the president's denial of the allegations."

He pointed to "flaws" in the investigation process surrounding Clinton. "The whole point in having a prosecutor is to have a process that is objective and beyond reproach," he said. "I do not think this investigation, now over three years old, has reached that standard."

Posted: January 30, 1998
Copyright ©1998 UMNS

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