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President Spends Two Hours in Church

January 26, 1992

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) _ President Bush, an Episcopalian who often gets in and out of church in less than 30 minutes, spent more than two hours worshipping at a black church here Sunday.

The president, Barbara Bush, daughter Dorothy LeBlond and several top administration officials attended a morning worship service at Lomax A.M.E. Zion Church that stretched into early afternoon.

″My understanding is the story has gone around that our president of the United States likes to worship at least once a year in a good, warm, African- American congregation,″ said Bishop J. Clinton Hoggard.

Noting that Bush had visited two other AME churches in previous years, Hoggard quipped, ″It seems to me after three times he ought to be ready to join.″

Bush, in the fourth pew, joined in the general laughter.

″It just might be that he would do us good - but we could do him a whole lot of good,″ added the bishop.

The church, founded the year after the Civil War ended, was filled to capacity by 350 people, with 100 others listening in the basement. Bush’s party included Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, secretary of health and human services, Andrew Card, newly nominated for transportation secretary, and Chase Untermeyer, director of the Voice of America.

The service featured spirited singing by two choirs, scripture readings, prayers, a sermon by the Rev. Thaddeus Garrett, a one-time Bush aide, and a few words in the pulpit from the president himself.

Bush related that a delegation of mayors last week told him the major problems ″with our cities can be related to the decline in the American family.″

″Amen,″ voices in the congregation said.

″I salute Lomax for what you do to strengthen the American family,″ said Bush.

To the children in the congregation he added, ″I know you probably wonder whether there’s more fun outside than in Sunday school or in the church, but ... you’re learning the value of family - church family, personal family - And never underestimate it’s importance.

″We feel a part of this service today,″ said Bush. ″I know that sometimes when a president comes to visit, it is a bit of a pluperfect pain. ... Thank you for a warm welcome.″

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