RICHMOND, Va. — Sen. Tim Kaine has been attending services as a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Richmond for 32 years. But when he returned for mass on Sunday, things were a little different.
A swarm of reporters, photographers, and network cameras greeted Kaine and his wife, Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton, as they arrived, just one day after he debuted in front of several thousand people in Miami as Hillary Clinton's chosen running mate. "Hey, Saint E's folks, I hope you're watching," Kaine told the massive crowd Saturday as he introduced himself to America. "We will be there at 9 a.m. tomorrow."
And he was. "What a special community this," he told reporters after the service. "Anne found it in the summer of 1984. We were married here in November of 1984, and this and our neighborhood are really the center of our lives here. So we needed some prayers today, and we got some prayers, and we got some support and it really feels good."
Inside, the couple sat in the 10th row of the church among a diverse parish in this working-class neighborhood. Members of the congregation beamed in pride of him. Pastor Daniel Brady gave a long homily about the lessons in bargaining and continuous prayer. Reporters were allowed inside, but no cameras or recording devices were permitted.
With their lives about to drastically change, the church made a few nods to Kaine and his wife during the Sunday mass. The congregation offered a prayer of petition, "especially we pray for Tim Kaine and Anne Holton" and the couple participated in the presentation of the gifts.
Kaine was asked before the mass to sing with the choir — something he does now and then — and this Sunday, he was not afraid to step up and do it again. Standing in front of the primary microphone, the senator serenaded those gathered with the song "Taste and See."
Later, Kaine's wife stood in her spot in the pews to thank their community for the role they have played in their lives to this point. "Tim and I found our way to his parish 32 years ago almost by accident," she told them, marveling at at how the couple grew up in the church and how it has shaped them. She thanked the congregants for their prayers, and acknowledged they are starting "a new chapter," adding, "we will all have a big party at the end no matter what happens."
Then, at least five different groups of people stood up to speak about how they've watched Kaine through time and were inspired by him.
Those who know the senator consistently point to his Catholic faith as a pillar of his life, which has also played somewhat of a role in his political life. "In both of our families, faith wasn't just something you talked about at church on Sundays," Clinton said of Kaine in Miami Saturday. "It was a call to serve others in every way that we can. And as you get to know Sen. Kaine, you will see, that Tim's lifelong commitment to social justice is a shining example of his faith in action."
The last time Kaine attended Sunday services at the church two weeks ago, it was soon after five police officers were killed in Dallas, and after the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Rev. James Arsenault opened his remarks that day by sighing at how it's been such a "rough" few weeks for the nation.
After services this Sunday, Alvin Strother, a member of the church for decades, showed off Clinton-Kaine buttons that his wife made. "Tim is a public person but also a very personable person," he said. "He was just asked a couple of hours ago to sing in church. And what does he do? Gets up and sings in church. So that's the Tim Kaine we know. And anybody that lived in Richmond, whether he was a mayor or senator, he's been the same person all the way through."
"We come every Sunday," said Katrinia Blesdoe, a member of the choir. "Having Tim here -- he always comes when he's in town -- we're just blessed to be a part of this moment. He does have our prayers and support as always. This is real. This is our service every Sunday. And just being able to support him is a big thing for us."