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Obama's ex-pastor sidesteps controversy

Barack Obama's retired pastor said nothing about the Democratic presidential candidate or his own controversial comments as he preached for 40 minutes at one of the oldest black Baptist churches in Norfolk., Va., on Sunday.
Obama Pastor
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., left, the retired pastor for the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago where Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama worships, greets parishioners at the Bank Street Memorial Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va., on Sunday.Gary C. Knapp / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Barack Obama's retired pastor, making his first public speaking appearance since the beginning of the furor over his remarks criticizing the United States, delivered a sermon Sunday at a Virginia church.

The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. said nothing about the Democratic presidential candidate or the uproar as he preached for 40 minutes at one of the oldest black Baptist churches in Norfolk.

"Some troubles that come up in your life come up out of nowhere," Wright said during a sermon that focused on how God helps people get through troubling times.

At the end of the two-hour-plus service, about two dozen ministers gathered around Wright and his daughter to pray for them. One of the ministers asked God to give Wright courage as "the world tries to demonize him."

Wright had kept a low profile, recently scrapping plans to speak at churches in Texas and Florida, since video excerpts of his past sermons began appearing on cable news and the Internet. They show him making comments such as calling the country the "U.S. of KKK-A" and accusing U.S. leaders of bringing on the Sept. 11 attacks by spreading terrorism.

Obama worships at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, where Wright had been the longtime pastor.

In mid-March, Obama denounced Wright's remarks but did not repudiate Wright, the man who officiated at his wedding, baptized his two daughters and has been his spiritual guide for nearly 20 years. He said Wright was like a family member.

Wright touched on the flap Sunday when he told the Virginia congregation that reporters had sneaked into a private funeral service the day before in Chicago, where he delivered the eulogy.

On Sunday, he issued a written statement and said to reporters during the service: "It's the only statement you'll be getting. Anything else you print is on you."

In the statement, Wright said he accepted an invitation to speak at Bank Street Memorial Baptist Church because it was a blessing to honor the legacy and service of family members and friends there. Wright attended the church during summers as a boy and his uncle, Rev. John Bennett Henderson, was pastor there for more than 25 years, the statement said.

The crowd gave Wright standing ovations before and after his sermon and frequently clapped and cheered as he spoke. He told them that there are no such things as a trouble-free life, a trouble-free relationship or a trouble-free church.