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The pastor warned for everyone to still be mindful of social distancing ... or risk getting "tackled" by Secret Service

By Virginia Chamlee
February 25, 2021 03:24 PM
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Two familiar faces have returned to the pews of Maranatha Baptist in Plains, Georgia: Jimmyand Rosalynn Carter were back at church the past two Sundays after receiving their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The attendance of the oldest living ex-president, now 96, and his wife, 93, was highlighted by Maranatha's pastor, Tony Lowden, during the most receive worship service.

"One good announcement I've been asked to make is that for the last two Sundays — last Sunday and this Sunday — Rosalynn Carter and Jimmy Carter have been back in service and so let's welcome them back," Lowden said as the congregation greeted the couple with a round of applause and they waved their hands. 

Lowden warned, lightly, for everyone to still be mindful of social distancing ... or risk getting "tackled" by Secret Service.

The Carters sat in the front row, both masked. They have longstanding ties to Maranatha Baptist Church; and this week the church pastor indicated they had not been attending in-person service until they were vaccinated.

President Carter has long taught Sunday school at the church. Both he and his wife are also deacons. But with COVID-19, they have largely kept out of public.

The Carters' age placed them is in a high-risk category for complications from the virus, and the former president has also had a number of health issues in recent years, including several falls and surgery for bleeding on his brain.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter
Left: former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter in 2015
| Credit: Michael Tran/FilmMagic

In December, a spokeswoman said he was "looking forward to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to him."

Last March, the couple asked their supporters to make a donation to groups affected by the pandemic and in July they asked others to wear a mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

In a photo at the time shared by The Carter Center, their Atlanta-based nonprofit, the former president and first lady wore white face masks printed with the center's logo. The image was captioned: "Please wear a mask to save lives."

The couple celebrated 74 years of marriage in 2020, making them the longest-married presidential couple. Since leaving office in 1981, President Carter has focused his attention on humanitarian issues through his center and he and his wife have continued to build houses with Habitat for Humanity.

In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his "untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."

RELATED VIDEO: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's Decades-Long Love Story

"One of the things Jesus taught was: If you have any talents, try to utilize them for the benefit of others," he told PEOPLE in 2019. "That's what Rosa and I have both tried to do."

The Carters have also occasionally waded back into politics, as when they participated in a video that aired at the Democratic National Convention in August.

The couple offered an endorsement of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, giving remarks while a slide show played, though they did not appear on screen.

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