Trinity Handles Scrutiny with Expertise
By Eli Saslow
Obama may well have learned how to glad-hand at Sunday services in south Chicago. Each stage of Trinity's service involves physical contact. You are instructed to hug any newcomer and hold hands with those sitting next to you. At one point, services stop altogether for a 15-minute break during which congregants wander through the pews and mingle with strangers. "Nobody comes to Trinity," Pastor Otis Moss III said, "unless they're willing to press the flesh."
Speaking of Moss III, Obama's new pastor has had a rocky first few weeks on the job. The son of a respected preacher who befriended Martin Luther King Jr., Moss III came to Trinity a year ago because he wanted to continue the church's tradition of social activism. He's something of a hot prospect on the preaching circuit -- a 38-year-old, handsome former track star with rhythmic sermons -- and he could have taken his talents almost anywhere. He chose Trinity because he had admired Wright since high school.
Trinity United Church of Christ continues to be a hot topic after Sen. Barack Obama's speech today. Some further tidbits from a recent visit to it:
"The challenge for me has been, and still is, his iconic status here," Moss III said. "He's been established in this community for 36 years. You are following someone who is a legend in the city of Chicago."
Trinity's gigantic reach in Chicago came in particularly handy last week, as the church compiled a volunteer team of public relations professionals and crisis management gurus from their own membership. Last Sunday, a team of church members -- including one who is a professor in the journalism school at Northwestern -- volunteered to print press passes, record interviews and guide media members around the church. About 10 media members sat in a reserved pew in the balcony. And yes, they too were encouraged to "press the flesh" with members of the Trinity congregation.
Posted at 6:37 PM ET on Mar 18, 2008
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