Former President Jimmy Carter, 96, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, 93, have returned to church for in-person service after a year-long hiatus now that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, their pastor announced earlier this week.
“We’re so glad to have the Carters back,” said Pastor Tony Lowden at the Sunday service at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, according to a Facebook livestream. “It’s been a year since they’ve been back—been in quarantine—and I can’t even tell you how many times he said to me, ‘When are you going to let me come back to church.’”
“To have him back here, at his home, a place where he wants to worship God means the world to him and his wife. It should also mean the world to us as well,” Lowden added.
According to The Associated Press, the Carters have been attending church in-person for the last two Sundays, and they were wearing face masks per the church’s policy. The church announced Wednesday the face mask policy was a required by the Secret Service to “protect everyone in the building,” and no exceptions could be made.
Other health precautions at the church include mandatory social distancing, capacity restrictions, temperature checks at the door, and reservation system. The Secret Service also wands all people entering the building for security reasons, according to the church.
Back in mid-December, the Carter Center announced in a brief statement that the former president had consulted with his physician and was “looking forward to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to him.” It’s unclear when he was vaccinated, but Georgia has been prioritizing senior citizens for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Statement from The Carter Center:
After consulting with his doctors, President Carter is looking forward to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to him.
See our previous COVID-19 statement here: https://t.co/j4vj0wZ3yf
— The Carter Center (@CarterCenter) December 17, 2020
Carter did not attend the inauguration ceremony for President Joe Biden, who back in 1976, was the first senator to endorse the Georgian’s presidential bid, according to a recent biography on Carter.
”Biden would appear in dozens of states for Carter in 1976,” wrote Jonathan Alter in the Carter biography “His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life.” “He joked that at age 33, he was still two years shy of the constitutional age requirement to be president. So, since he couldn’t yet run himself, he was backing Jimmy.”
According to NBC News, Carter was the first former president to confirm that he would attend the 2017 inauguration of former President Donald Trump. Carter had attended every inauguration since his own, up until Biden’s in 2021. A spokesperson for the Carter Center said in early January that the former president and former first lady were sending their “best wishes” to both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
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