Jill heads to South Carolina to celebrate her ‘praying partner’s’ husband 50th anniversary as pastor


Jill Biden on Sunday returned to the South Carolina Baptist church where she says she began to repair her relationship with God following her son’s death from brain cancer six years ago. 

Leaving from D.C., the first lady was wearing a caramel colored jacket and holding a bouquet of what appears to be red roses with other white flowers – likely a gift for the pastor being celebrated.

The first lady quietly flew to West Columbia for a surprise appearance at the 50th anniversary celebration for Pastor Charles B. Jackson Sr. of Brookland Baptist Church. 

Dr. Biden was accompanied for the Sunday afternoon trip by Anthony Bernal, a senior adviser who was deputy campaign manager for Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign with a long history in Democratic politics – working for Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton administration as well as various roles in the Obama administration from 2009-2017, including as the director of scheduling for the second lady Biden.

Jill Biden is pictured speaking at the Brookland Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, on Sunday morning

Jill Biden is pictured speaking at the Brookland Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, on Sunday morning 

Jill Biden on Sunday returned to the South Carolina Baptist church where she says she began to repair her relationship with God following her son's death from brain cancer six years ago (file photo from 2019)

Jill Biden on Sunday returned to the South Carolina Baptist church where she says she began to repair her relationship with God following her son’s death from brain cancer six years ago (file photo from 2019)

The first lady quietly flew to West Columbia for a surprise appearance at the 50th anniversary celebration for Pastor Charles B. Jackson Sr. of Brookland Baptist Church

The first lady quietly flew to West Columbia for a surprise appearance at the 50th anniversary celebration for Pastor Charles B. Jackson Sr. of Brookland Baptist Church

Upon arriving in the Palmetto State, the first lady was changed into a powder blue skirt suit.

She arrived at the church around 3:30 p.m. and immediately participated in a photo line with members of the congregation.

Biden praised Charles Jackson for presiding over a ministry that helps feed the hungry, provides college scholarships and runs a health and wellness program.

‘This church changed my Life. You brought countless people to God’s grace,’ she told him. ‘You remind us that we are the body of Christ.’

But she opened her remarks by retelling the story of how she and Robin Jackson met, saying the relationship has ‘shaped my life.’

The Bidens’ son Beau, who was 46, married and had two young children, died of brain cancer in 2015. The first lady has said she prayed and prayed that he would live, and was devastated when her prayers went unanswered and he passed away.

The Bidens' son Beau, who was 46, married and had two young children, died of brain cancer in 2015. The first lady has said she prayed and prayed that he would live, and was devastated when her prayers went unanswered and he passed away. Joe and Beau are pictured in 2008

The Bidens’ son Beau, who was 46, married and had two young children, died of brain cancer in 2015. The first lady has said she prayed and prayed that he would live, and was devastated when her prayers went unanswered and he passed away. Joe and Beau are pictured in 2008

‘I felt betrayed, broken,’ she said Sunday, her voice breaking. She said her own pastor emailed her occasionally to check in and invite her back to service.

‘But I just couldn´t go. I couldn´t even pray. I wondered if I would ever feel joy again,’ she said.

Four years later, she had that chance encounter with Robin Jackson.

‘Every Wednesday Robin would text Dr. Jill to let her know she had called their names in prayer,’ the city’s newsletter said in January 2021. ‘Dr. Jill would always return a text expressing appreciation.’ Jill Biden uses the professional title ‘Dr.’ because of her doctorate degree.

Jill Biden told talk-show host Kelly Clarkson in February 2021 that regular contact with Robin Jackson had made a difference.

‘It really helped me find my faith again,’ the first lady told Clarkson.   

The pastor posted a message of thanks online as he celebrated 50 years as Brookland Bapstist Church's pastor

The pastor posted a message of thanks online as he celebrated 50 years as Brookland Bapstist Church’s pastor

Dr. Jill Biden was a guest to celebrate The Rev. Charles B. Jackson, Sr.'s 50th anniversary at Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia

Dr. Jill Biden was a guest to celebrate The Rev. Charles B. Jackson, Sr.’s 50th anniversary at Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia

Her role in celebrating the pastor’s 50th anniversary was intended to be a surprise for Robin Jackson. The Jacksons’ son, the Rev. Charles B. Jackson Jr., said his mother did not know the first lady was coming.

‘It took everything in us to keep it from her,’ he told the audience after the first lady had concluded her remarks, calling her appearance ‘an expression of love and friendship.’ 

Sunday is not the first time Dr. Biden has been to Brookland Baptist Church in Columbia, which is located in a quiet, predominantly Black neighborhood.

In May 2019, the church hosted Jill and then-candidate Biden for a service while he was campaigning to be the Democratic candidate to take on Donald Trump.

At that service, Jill established a relationship with the pastor’s wife, Robin Jackson, the first lady’s office relayed.

She has previously spoken publicly about her ‘personal connection’ to the church – specifically when detailing how she was struggling with faith while attending a service there during the campaign and shortly after her son Beau died.

A woman at this church – who happened to be the pastor’s wife – approached Dr. Biden and asked her to become her prayer partner.

The White House did not publicly announce Sunday’s trip and the first lady flew, apparently by coincidence, on an unmarked D.C. Air National Guard airplane. But she also travels in a motorcade with police escorts, and flashing lights and sirens, and U.S. Secret Service agents show up at her destinations ahead of time to make sure the properties are secure.

She arrived at the church about a half-hour before the event began and, wearing a black face mask, shared a front-row pew with the Jacksons and Crystal Person, who is originally from the area and is married to Fran Person, a longtime personal aide to Joe Biden.

Robin Jackson was among religious leaders who recited prayers for Joe Biden during a virtual prayer service the morning after his inauguration in January.

Dr. Biden and The Rev. Jackson's wife, Robin Jackson have become close friends since the Biden's first visited the church several year ago

Dr. Biden and The Rev. Jackson’s wife, Robin Jackson have become close friends since the Biden’s first visited the church several year ago

Joe and Jill Biden are pictured attending a service at Brookland Baptist in West Columbia during a trip to South Carolina in May 2019.

Joe and Jill Biden are pictured attending a service at Brookland Baptist in West Columbia during a trip to South Carolina in May 2019.

‘More recently, First Lady Jackson provided a recorded prayer for the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service, which was held virtually on January 21, 2021,’ the statement adds. ‘FLOTUS and President Biden watched from the White House.’

During Jill’s trip, President Biden was laying low. He did not have any public events on Sunday and while the presidential pool was instructed to gathered around 1:00 p.m., a lid was called at 12:50 p.m. – meaning members of the press could go home.

On a rare Saturday night in the district – considering the Bidens often opt to go to their home in Wilmington, Delaware over the weekend – the first couple went out for dinner at DC Michelin-starred restaurant Fiola Mare in the harbor of Georgetown.

The two were pictured at the seafood restaurant ‘date night’ after attending Saturday evening mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown.

The couple held hands as they made their way into the restaurant, followed by secret service agents dressed in black suits and black face masks.



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