Greater Trumps: On the Sunday morning after

Bethesda_2_1Some of you may have heard that we had a wedding down here in Palm Beach County. Yes, Donald Trump’s third trip to the altar did receive a little bit of media attention here and elsewhere.

Palm Beach, on Palm Beach Island, is not to be confused, however, with the humble community in which I live and work — West Palm Beach. The island is one of the wealthiest zip codes on the planet and it has a lingo and logic all of its own. It’s the kind of place where The Donald is rich, but he is not the right kind of rich.

This was a new-money wedding, calling forth an awesome cast of stars from Northeast media politics and culture. However, the rites were staged at the right place for old-money gravitas. I refer, of course, to the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea — an ecclesiastical location that would offer just the right combination of high-church atmosphere (the 360-degree video tour does not appear to be working) and, perhaps, a don’t ask, don’t tell attitude toward the past six years in the private lives of the billionaire groom and his new supermodel trophy bride.

While the public turned out to critique the stars and the fashion, I read the newspapers carefully (no, I did not drive over the bridge to join in the festivities) to see if anyone in this high-profile congregation made any comments about the meaning of this, well, sacramental rite.

My hard work paid off when I read deep into reporter Akilah Johnson’s Sunday-morning-after feature in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, with the headline “Palm Beach peaceful again after blissful Trump wedding.” In addition to hearing from police, tourists, the shop owners and others, Johnson spent some time at the church — where people were seen posing for pictures in front of the leftover tulip arrangements.

So what was this all about for the parish? Father Ralph Warren offered this take:

“This was my evangelist effort of 2005,” he quipped from the pulpit. “We had all sorts of people staring at us across the way.”

It worked for Hannah McSwain, a 24-year-old graduate student at Palm Beach Atlantic University. She recently moved to West Palm Beach from Georgia and has been trying to find a church.

“With all the media attention, I couldn’t help but come,” she said.

This is interesting, because the Episcopal Church has experienced on ongoing exodus of members during the past generation, at the same time that it was vowing its commitment to a “decade of evangelism” effort to double its ranks. Perhaps Father Warren is on to something. We know that The Donald prides himself on picking winners. I am still looking to see if any reporter asked if the greater Trumps are active in the parish.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Stephen A.

    Membership problem solved! All the Episcopal Church has to do is get a high-profile billionaire tycoon to marry someone in each of its remaining churches (in ceremonies preferably presided over by gay or lesbian bishops, of course.)

    With his record, The Donald could be married in several more churches over the next decade alone.

    That will bring in MILLIONS of 24-year-olds. And I’m sure it will be for the RIGHT reasons, like media attention.

    After all, entertaining the congregation is what church is for, right?


  • Mark Kellner

    A post script: I am given to understand that in the early 1980s, Mr. Trump and (first?) wife Ivana attended the very fashionable, but not Episcopalian, Marble Collegiate Church in New York, then home to the late Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. A young woman, looking to find her way in the big city, having just arrived from Dalton, Georgia, also attended services there. Her name? Marla Maples.

    Peale’s successor, Arthur Caliandro, D.D., presided over the Trump-Maples wedding, BTW.

  • Jeff

    Likely meaningless aside other than to hardcore Inkling-ites:

    TMatt — if you didn’t intend a Charles Williams reference with your title (and isn’t it nice to get to write your own, instead of the whirling irrelevancies that get tacked to the titulum of your columns across the country?), you made me pull the book in question of the shelf.

    Worse, now i’m scribbling notes for a Williams-esque novel about a demanding, ludicrously wealthy person getting married and insisting on using in the service all of the liturgical hardware at an old church where a vessel gets pulled from the back of the sacristy which hasn’t been touched for a century, which turns out . . .

    (scribble, scribble, scribble)

    Thanks for ruining my productivity today and making me read some of Charles’ weird and wonderful fiction, no matter what you intended . . . you and the Paraclete, anyhow.

    Peace, Jeff