- (Photo: AP Images / Al Grillo)
WASILLA, Alaska (AP) - A little sermon about - and for - the messenger seemed to Pastor Larry Kroon an appropriate message on Sunday morning.
"It's been an interesting week," laughed Kroon, pastor at the Wasilla Bible Church, as he welcomed attendees. The nondenominational congregation where Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her family worship was carrying on services as usual this Sunday, but with a few extra guests.
In just more than a week since presidential candidate John McCain picked Alaska's governor to be his running mate, Palin's hometown of 9,000 has been inundated with journalists from around the world. For days now the media have delved into her terms as city council member and mayor here, and questioned residents and questioned them again for background on the state's most famous politician.
Kroon began services asking any reporters who might be in the crowd to respect church members' opportunity to worship.
"This isn't the place to be fishing for interviews," he said.
He then asked the 300 congregants at the first of two morning services to pray for all of the candidates for president and vice president, and to be thankful that all four are willing to provide the nation with their public service.
He urged churchgoers to "pray for the press." Kroon said the media are to be "cherished and respected," citing 19th century philosopher Alexander de Tocqueville's works describing a free press and freedom of religion as essential pillars of democracy.
Kroon said he's done a series of national media interviews during the hectic past week since his church was thrust into the national spotlight - a significant event for a relatively low-key congregation who sit in folding chairs in the large and new church, down a dirt road at the edge of town.
He urged congregants to do their own thorough research and investigations when deciding who to vote for. He added that it was wrong for anyone to have judged Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., without first reading what Wright actually said.