President-elect Donald Trump attended a Christmas Eve church service at a historic church just a short drive from his Palm Beach estate Saturday night.
Trump and his wife, Melania Trump, and an entourage of Secret Service agents and Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office deputies made the trip from Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club to attend the 10:30 p.m. service at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, which sits about 400 yards from the Atlantic Ocean. They received a standing ovation from the congregation when they arrived.
The Trump family has frequented the church many times in the past few decades. Trump married his third and current wife, Melania, there in 2005. The following year, Trump's youngest son, Barron, was christened there. Trump also attended the Christmas Eve service at Bethesda-by-the-Sea last year and the Easter service earlier this year.
Before the service Saturday night, there were a few hints Trump was on his way: Guests were funneled through metal detectors, and ladies' purses were searched under white tents temporarily pitched in front of the church.
Members had been on watch throughout Christmas Eve for a possible visit from Trump, but church officials had declined to say throughout the week to confirm if Trump was planning to attend a service, and if so, which one.
"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," Bethesda-by-the-Sea's rector, the Rev. James R. Harlan, said in a statement earlier in the week. "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 the oldest Protestant church in South Florida. It opened more than 125 years ago in Palm Beach. Its location has made it popular with celebrities, politicians and athletes. Michael Jordan was married there in 2013, and singer Rod Stewart was spotted at a service earlier Christmas Eve.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.