Jogging to church with Teddy Roosevelt

I went to Oyster Bay, Long Island, yesterday to tour Sagamore Hill — Teddy Roosevelt’s home — with a bunch of history teachers from Westchester and Putnam.

There was no religious element to my story. Or so I thought.

After lunch, we walked a few blocks to Christ Episcopal Church, where Roosevelt was a parishioner from 1888 to 1919.

The rector, the Rev. Peter Casparian, was used to seeing Teddy groupies coming through town. He said the locals call them “Ted Heads.”

Casparian, who was off-duty and was wearing sandals, told us that Roosevelt came from a Dutch Reformed Church background. But there was no Dutch Reformed church in town.

Plus, Roosevelt’s second wife, Edith, was already a member of Christ Church.

So, “He sat dutifully in the back pew,” Casparian told us.

He also told us that Roosevelt would have his children trot 2-and-a-half miles to church and then back home.

I’d like to see some modern suburbanites have their children jog to church or synagogue. That would be a story!

Although the church building we visited was not the same one that Roosevelt worshiped in (it was built in the 1920s), Teddy’s old pew is still there, right where he left it.

The teachers crowded around to see where the 26th president sat and kneeled.

This being a modern-day Episcopal church (i.e. liberal), Casparian couldn’t resist a pretty funny one-liner: “I always invite people to sit in Mr. Roosevelt’s pew and to pray for the Republican Party.”

Roosevelt, who read and wrote A LOT, apparently wrote down the reasons that a man should go to church.

I made the trip with a group of history teachers who are part of a terrific program funded by a federal grant to Northern Westchester/Putnam BOCES. My article should be up tomorrow or in a day or two.

Photo: Library of Congress