Former Vice President Joe Biden attended Sunday morning services at the Jerusalem Baptist Church in Hartsville, SC, which is celebrating its 150 year anniversary.
The 14 rows of pews were tightly packed by locals, a majority of them African Americans, who sang songs until Biden walked into the small church at 11:10, 10 minutes later than the start time listed in the pamphlet handed out to attendees. Biden was received warmly with a standing ovation.
Biden, wearing a dark colored suit and light blue tie, sang along to the numerous songs played throughout the service until he was introduced by several attendees. Pastor Reginald S. Floyd described Biden as a “giant of a man” and reminded the congregation that he visited the church back in 2007.
State Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, introduced Biden, taking his time to stress the trials and loss Biden faced throughout life. Malloy said that even through hardship, Biden always asked “then what,” questioning how he could continue to serve and uplift Americans. The congregation clapped and audibly yelled “yes” in agreement when Malloy said that Biden brought “dignity to the office” of vice president.
Biden received another standing ovation when he stood to walk to the lectern, others audibly said “amen” to welcome him. Standing under the gold and black painted words “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism,” Biden told the congregation it was great to be back especially to help them celebrate their 150 year anniversary.
Biden said honestly that he “could be anywhere” today, but decided to visit a black church for the same reason he always has in his life: “to get refreshed, to be given hope.”
The former VP focused a majority of his roughly 25 minute remarks on why people are called to a life of service. He read a line from the Epistle of John, a lesson he said all “in public life should take to heart.”
After reading the quote, Biden said the takeaway as “Talk is cheap, action and truth, that’s what matters in the world.” Biden added that it’s “not enough just to wish the world a better place. We have to make it so.”
He stressed the numerous injustices that remain in the country like deep-seeded racism and looking the other way rather than helping each other up. He never mentioned President Donald Trump by name, but strongly suggested that he has paved the US to this crucial point where the country is in “the battle for the soul of this nation.”
Biden recalled, as he often does, seeing white supremacist marching with “veins bulging” the day before clashes between white supremacists and counter protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia killed a young woman. Biden thought when then President-elect Barack Obama picked him up from the Wilmington, Del. train station on Inauguration Day 2008 that his ascendance to the presidency meant deep racial prejudices were stamped out of the country. Seeing those in Charlottesville led him to believe the opposite, making him realize he was being called once more to run for public office, Biden said.
“The country is moving in a direction that we’ve seen before that is not healthy,” he said.
In his call to action, Biden said that now is not the “moment to give lip service to our beliefs.”
He ended his remarks strongly emphasizing that this moment “isn’t about Democrat or Republican. This is about the nation rising up and saying, not here, not us” to inequality.
At the conclusion of his remarks, Pastor Floyd said Biden’s words moved him because the former VP is “still standing” after a life filled with “tragedy and triumphs.”
Biden spent nearly 45 minutes after services concluded greeting and taking pictures with congregants.
Towards the end of a very long line, Biden spotted a young boy and told him that this “must be boring, boring, boring.” The boy’s mother then told him that Biden is “the next president of the United States” as the boy looked up to face him. Biden then pointed to himself and joked, “I’m a big deal,” causing those around him to laugh.
He hugged several more people and snapped one more picture before heading out of the church shortly after 1 p.m.