Mormon bishop Robert Nelson of Chevy Chase, Md., isn't exactly sure how to handle the casserole question. You see, his church is run by volunteers, and every member has a calling: teaching Sunday school, managing church finances, organizing food drives, visiting the sick. So when I asked Nelson who would bring the requisite casserole to Ann Romney if she were to get the flu in the White House, he paused and chuckled. "I can imagine wanting to bring the casserole, but then you have to go through security, and at some point you go, The casserole just isn't worth it. Call for carryout."
Mormons attend church on the basis of their addresses, and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is assigned to Nelson's parish, or ward, on Washington's northern border. New faces are common in that congregation. The church averages 25 new converts a year, making it the highest-baptizing ward in the area. Some 250 people attend gatherings every Sunday, and a total of 650 people from nearly two dozen countries are on the membership roll. Services are warm, and people are friendly. When I visited on a recent Sunday, a suited young elder performed a rendition of "I Have Been Changed for Good" from the musical Wicked to honor the service of departing missionaries. Congregants piled hundreds of cans of food in the foyer for a food drive they spearheaded with other downtown churches. And the rotating preaching responsibilities fell to an elderly African-American woman, a retired couple and a young Kenyan woman, who all spoke on the subject "We are our brother's keeper"--which just happens to be a hot topic in the presidential campaign. No matter the outcome of that race, Bishop Nelson's flock is growing: next month, the ward's new chapel (above) will be dedicated on 16th Street--even closer to the White House.