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Christians reflect on legacy of first black president

Eight years later, Christians discuss the hopes they had for President Obama and how they feel now that his term has ended.

WASHINGTON — Eight years — some joyous, some tumultuous — have passed since the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

But the memories remain fresh in the minds of Christians who never thought they’d live to see their country elect its first black president.
For many, it was the answer to unspoken prayers.

Reflecting on the Obama years, African-American members of Churches of Christ shared stories from Jan. 20, 2008. Some wrapped their children in snow gear at 4 a.m. to make the trek to the U.S. Capitol. Others journeyed by train from as far away as Florida, hoping to catch a glimpse of the historic swearing-in ceremony.

President Barack Obama, first lady Michell, and daughters Malia and Sasha wave to the crowd after his inaugural address Jan. 20, 2009, on the west Steps of the U.S. Capitol. (PHOTO BY MASTER SGT. CECILIO RICARDO, USAF)

“My hope was that he would help all America succeed, especially the middle class,” said Carl Wamble, a former elder of the East Capitol Street Church of Christ, a predominantly black church that worships just a few miles from the Capitol.
from the archives:  D.C. members celebrate first black president Many times, however, it seemed that the first black president was “embroiled in a constant, intense battle at every turn,” said Wamble, who now worships with the Laurel Church of Christ in Maryland.

Some church members applauded the Democratic president’s efforts to reform the nation’s health care and fight terrorism — and noted his struggles with the Republican-controlled Congress in his second term.

East Capitol Street minister Daniel Lester (PHOTO PROVIDED)Days before Obama’s inauguration, East Capitol Street minister Daniel Lester preached from 2 Timothy 1.

“For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but one of power, one of love and of a sound mind,” he read from Scripture. Then he added, “God has spoken as far as I am concerned, and he has spoken in the hearts of the people who elected Barack Obama.”

Eight years later, Lester said he still admires Obama, though he’s disappointed in the president’s support for same-sex marriage, which Lester believes is contrary to the Bible’s teachings. “I have to stand on God’s Word,” the minister said.
President Barack Obama sits in the famous Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford Museum after an event in Dearborn, Michigan, April 18, 2012. Parks was arrested sitting in the same row Obama is in, but on the opposite side. (WHITE HOUSE PHOTO)

Church elder and civil rights attorney Fred Gray discusses race relations in Churches of Christ at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., in 2012.
Fred Gray, an elder of the Tuskegee Church of Christ in Alabama, recalled Obama’s inaugural parade, which featured a bus from his home state similar to the one that Rosa Parks rode in 1955 — when she refused to give up her seat for a white passenger and move to the back.

“The president recognized the importance of that moment in civil rights history,” said Gray, an attorney who represented Parks and other civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr.

Obama’s presidency, though historic, didn’t erase the nation’s racial tension, Gray said. “We have had the same racial problems since we came over as slaves in 1607,” he noted. “My hope for President Obama was that he would make a significant impact while he was in office, and he has done that.”

As for newly inaugurated President Donald Trump, “my hope is the same now as it was then,” Gray said, “that the president will do well.”

Filed under: Headlines - Secondary National

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