Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drew inspiration from a joint worship service combining two Kentucky Baptist congregations working to build community unity during a campaign visit to Louisville in advance of Tuesday’s Kentucky primary.
The Democratic candidate for president began her Sunday itinerary at an Ethnic Diversity Weekend worship service at St. Stephen Church in predominantly African-American West Louisville, which hosted Broadway Baptist Church from the city’s more affluent east side.
Introduced by St. Stephen Pastor Kevin Cosby as “she who shall be the next president,” Clinton said she was honored to worship at a church with “such a mission” that “shows such leadership and witness.”
“I reach out my hands in great admiration for this congregation,” she said. “St. Stephen has done so much for so many.”
Clinton congratulated Cosby for the success of Simmons College, a historically black college in Louisville being revitalized since Cosby became president in 2005.
She offered praise to the St. Stephen choir, which she said the mayor had told her is best in the nation. “But to see them combined with Broadway Baptist is a special blessing,” Clinton said. “I will tell President Obama what he missed.”
Clinton called the service “a real blessing” at a campaign stop later in the day.
“It was a combined service,” Clinton told supporters gathered at a South Louisville union hall. “St. Stephen is a black church, and they were hosting Broadway Baptist, which is a white church. The choir was integrated. Both preachers spoke.”
“I sat there with my heart just brimming over, thinking about ‘this is what we need more of in America,’” she said, “where we are listening to each other, talking to each other, respecting each other.”
“There are different ways for us to do it,” Clinton said, “and I know this election is going to be about a lot of things.”
“But you know, at the core of it is what kind of country we are and want to be and what kind of examples do we want to set for our own children,” she continued. “Because I think every single child is a gift of God. Every child has God-given potential, and it’s up to families and churches and schools and neighborhoods to help support that potential.”
Broadway and St. Stephen churches have cooperated previously in Empower West Louisville, a collaboration spearheaded by Cosby between urban and suburban churches along with Simmons College and the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship as a community-wide effort to boost black-owned businesses.
Broadway deacons approved the idea of the joint worship service, according the church newsletter, as a gesture “sending a message of love by our presence.”
“Our presence will minister to St. Stephen by showing them a congregation, not merely a delegation, who values them and the people of west Louisville,” the article explained. “The Pentecost worship will also bless us by allowing us to experience God speaking in the ‘language’ of a different congregation. And, not to be overlooked: It’s going to be a joy filled experience!”
Recognizing that not all Broadway members would be up to the excursion, the article said deacons opted to cancel Sunday services at Broadway because they didn’t want a service there to “reduce a generous gesture by a congregation to a small gesture by a delegation.” The church organized carpooling for anyone needing a ride.
Clinton needed a strong campaign push in Kentucky to narrowly defeat Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s primary. Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, won the Oregon primary, keeping his campaign alive until the next big challenge, June 7 primaries in California, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota and a caucus in North Dakota.