Theodore Roosevelt was a member of Grace Reformed Church while President of the United States.
Roosevelt originally belonged to the Reformed Church in America (RCA), a Dutch-American group. As a private person, Roosevelt attended religious services wherever he was. He preferred the Reformed Church if one were available to attend and is reported to have said, “I take a sentimental satisfaction in worshiping in the Church of my fathers.”
Since there were no RCA congregations in Washington, he chose Grace Reformed Church as a church similar liturgically and theologically to Dutch Calvinism.
Roosevelt began attending Grace Reformed Church soon after his arrival in Washington, D.C. in 1901 as Vice-President of the United States. Reverend Dr. J.M. Schick, Pastor of Grace Reformed Church between 1900 and 1913, invited Roosevelt to make the church his home. Roosevelt did so and attended church regularly during his eight years in Washington.
The President often walked from the White House to attend Sunday morning worship services at Grace Church. The President was usually accompanied by two Secret Service men, and often with family members or friends. He regularly had flowers sent to adorn the altar from the greenhouse at the White House and was a faithful communicant between 1901 and 1909. Roosevelt is reported to have taken part in all the service, singing every hymn, and listening to the sermon, even jotting down notes on the sermons. His regular pew is still in the church.
Roosevelt’s appreciation for the spiritual support that he received from his church attendance was communicated by letters he sent to the pastor as well as the gifts of two bishop chairs and his portrait to the church.
President Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of Grace Reformed Church on July 1, 1902 and spoke at its dedication on June 7, 1903.As his speech at the dedication ceremony of Grace Reformed Church concluded:
“This church is consecrated here to-day to duty and service, to the worship of the Creator, and to an earnest effort on our part so to shape our lives among ourselves and in relation to the outside world that we may feel that we have done our part in ringing a little nearer the day when there shall be on this earth a genuine brotherhood of man.”
In October 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower attended a special Sunday morning worship service at Grace Reformed Church that commemorated the 100th birthday anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt.
Grace Reformed Church continues to honor the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt today.
Our Theodore Roosevelt Room contains displays of memorabilia, pictures, and artifacts that honor the President and also document his connections to the church.
In addition, the church is honored to posses an original portrait of President Roosevelt that was made during his time in office. The portrait is available for viewing by appointment, along with the rest of the displays.
Grace Reformed Church is always adding to our collection. For information about possible donations of historical artifacts, pictures, portraits, documents, or other items associated with President Roosevelt, please contact the church offices.