Members of the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, Florida, welcomed Republican President-elect Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, to their service on Christmas Eve (video below).
The Trumps spent Christmas at their Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, according to The Associated Press. The president-elect has been holding meetings with senior staff and advisers there, as well as with business executives.
Around 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the president-elect and his wife arrived at the church, which sits around 400 yards from the beach.
Donald and Melania Trump have visited this church several times over the years. They were married there in 2005, and their son, Barron Trump, was christened there the following year.
Congregants at Bethesda-by-the-Sea were shuffled into the Christmas Eve service through metal detectors, and bags were searched, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The heightened security suggested the Trumps may be arriving. When the future first couple arrived, the congregation gave them a standing ovation -- an act that had even Donald Trump surprised.
The Rev. James R. Harlan, the church’s rector, wrote in a statement days earlier about a possible Trump attendance:
Out of respect for each person's faith, we will not comment on any individual and their participation in the life this parish -- even public figures.
Should we be asked to do so, we will work with the secret service to accommodate their needs for security, but we will not discuss those arrangements or plans, not even to confirm or deny that there are plans for any particular service. We are confident that any possible security arrangements will not make attending our beautiful Christmas worship any more challenging for those attending.
Bethesda-by-the-Sea is a 125-year-old church that, beyond the Trumps, has seen several celebrities pass through. Basketball star Michael Jordan was married there in 2013, and singer Rod Stewart was also in attendance during a service on Christmas Eve.