While President Donald Trump was firing off his latest round of tweets Sunday criticizing U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the congressman was home in his district attending church and listening to a sermon about putting change into action.
Trump sparked a sharp reaction from many Baltimore residents and political figures when he tweeted Saturday that the city was a “rat and rodent infested mess.” The comments were aimed at Cummings, a Democrat who has been a vocal critic of Trump’s border and immigration policies and leads a committee investigating Trump’s and his family’s actions.
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Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th district, which includes portions of Baltimore City and extends into Baltimore and Howard counties.
“If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place,” Trump tweeted about Cummings Saturday.
Trump’s detractors flooded Twitter to support the city and Cummings. Topics such as “#WeAreBaltimore” and #BaltimoreStrong were trending on Twitter with thousands of tweets. The president took to Twitter again Sunday morning to continue his criticism. Attempts to reach the White House for comment Sunday were not successful.
Meanwhile, Cummings was attending services at New Psalmist Baptist Church on the edge of Northwest Baltimore, where he listened to a sermon about the disciple Paul answering a call from God to help the people of Macedonia.
Bishop Walter S. Thomas, Sr., preached that those who see a problem also must see themselves as the provision for change.
“When the holy spirit lives in you, you see need. You don’t tweet it.”— Bishop Walter S. Thomas, Sr.
“When the holy spirit lives in you, you see need. You don’t tweet it," said Thomas said during the sermon. The statement was met with applause and cheers from the congregation.
Church spokeswoman Joi Thomas said the sermon was not referencing the exchange between the president and Cummings, but added that sometimes people find meaning in Biblical passages that are pertinent to their everyday lives.
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“The mark of a good sermon is that it’s relevant to a situation, even if it’s not about that situation," she said.
Cummings declined through a church representative to comment on the weekend’s presidential tweet storm.
On Saturday, Cummings tweeted a reply: “Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors. It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.”
Following the service, some congregants defended Cummings and said they felt exasperated with Trump’s statement. One woman said she was “terribly upset” by the exchange and thought the president was “mean.” Another said she knew a higher power is in charge, and it’s “not the person in the White House.”
James Sutton defended Cummings and felt Trump was speaking ill of Baltimore residents in the tweets.
Maryland Policy & Politics
“If [the president] sees a need for change, he’s supposed to implement change also,” Sutton said. “Baltimore is also supposed to represent him, but apparently not. ... I think Baltimore is a great place to live. Everywhere’s got their problems.”
Congregant Trace Stafford rejected the president’s message, but felt that Trump was entitled to his First Amendment right to free speech.
“I think Twitter is Twitter,” Stafford said. “Everyone has the right to say whatever they want. It doesn’t make a difference.”
Stafford said he grew up in a Prince George’s County suburb and moved to West Baltimore in adulthood. Upon his arrival, he found a strong community in the neighborhoods that he said “some people consider not-so-nice.”
“Yeah, communities might be impoverished, but the sense of community is great,” Stafford said.
“We can’t wait for the government to change the problem,” he said. "Just like the sermon says, we are the provision.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell and Wilborn P. Nobles III contributed to this article.