WASHINGTON – President Bush (search) began his first week back in Washington after a month long stay at his Texas ranch by going to church, where a pastor told parishioners to put on their "breastplate of righteousness" and "proclaim the gospel of peace."
Bush went to the 8 a.m. Sunday service at St. John's Church (search), a church near Lafayette Park just across from the White House (search). It was his first public event in a week that will include trips to Ohio, Missouri and Indiana to talk about the economy.
The president and first lady Laura Bush joined about 75 others at the service, where they heard a scriptural passage from Ephesians (search). "Fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness," the pastor said. "As shoes for your feet, put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one."
A sermon by the Rev. Spencer M. Rice implored followers to keep their souls clean of negative, external influences, and refuse to be directed by what others do. "The question is, Do we open ourselves up to the germs?" he asked. The church members prayed for people living in areas of turmoil in the Middle East, the Korean peninsula and Liberia.
Before communion, during an informal greeting time among the parishioners, Bush kissed his wife and shook the hands of others in nearby pews. Afterward, he returned to the White House.