I attend church at historic Christ Church in Old Town Alexandria. It’s “historic” because it has, er, history. Both George Washington and Robert E. Lee worshipped there. In fact, our office on Princess Street, two blocks away, was the Rectory back in 1784. And my great great great great (etc.) grandfather was the Reverend David Griffith, third rector of Christ Church, and host of George Washington here at his home.
But this story is not about George and David. At least not that George.
During every US President’s term since FDR, it has been tradition that our Commander-in-Chief take Sunday services at least once at Christ Church. I favor the eight am service, and one Sunday as I approached the church, there were EMS vans, cops, fire engines and guys with ear buds at the doors. This was in December during George W. Bush’s last term in office. I knew immediately that Bush must be in attendance.
After being wanded through the entrance, sure enough, I spotted the President, the First Lady and several guests across the way seated in the Presidential pew. Quite a thrill for me and the rest of the parishioners.
At Christ Church, communicants approach the altar from the center and right aisles and exit down the left aisle. The President was sitting on the end of his pew so after receiving the sacrament, parishioners paused briefly to shake hands with George as they returned to their seats.
When it came my turn to shake the President’s hand, he looked up at me with a huge grin and said loudly so that practically the entire church could hear, “Hi Rob! Great to see you!”
I was in shock and for a millisecond I wondered how on earth he knew my name. But then I looked down the pew, past Laura, and saw George’s youngest brother and my friend Marvin and understood what had happened. The whole First Family was laughing at my reaction. There was nothing for it but to join in the amusement, and I pointed at the instigator and said, “Good one, Marvin!”