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Story highlights

Tim Kaine and his wife returned to their longtime church Sunday

Hillary Clinton's running mate is well-known by parishioners

(CNN) —  

After introducing himself to the nation as Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine returned Sunday with his wife, Anne Holton, to the place where they started their lives together more than 30 years ago: St. Elizabeth Catholic Church.

The newly minted Democratic vice presidential candidate entered the packed house to an ovation and took his usual seat in the third pew on the right before the choir kicked off the service singing “glad to be of service one more time.”

The service at the predominately African-American church in the working-class Highland Park neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia, celebrated its native son. And despite the honorifics he’s earned over a lifetime of public service – mayor, governor, senator – the people who know him here just call him Tim.

“Tim is regular people,” said Shelton Jones, who has been coming to St. Elizabeth for 32 years and is in the men’s club with Kaine. “He belongs to us from the beginning.”

And it seemed clear that Kaine and his wife feel the same.

They brought the Communion to the altar and un-selfconsciously clapped, swayed and sang along.

During the Eucharist, Kaine, a former tenor in the choir, sang solo on one of his favorites, joined on the chorus by the gospel choir.

And Holton stood up during parish announcements to ask the congregation to pray for her family’s strength, health and safety.

“We are standing in need of prayer for all kinds of reasons,” she said without needing to mention the obvious.

She also asked the faithful to keep her son, a Marine who deploys overseas Monday, and his fiancé in their prayers.

The parish, Holton said, “has meant so much to us. We have grown up together. … God’s light shines brightly here at St. Elizabeth.”

She thanked them and promised, “We’ll all have a big party on the other end, no matter what happens.” A standing overation ensued.

The Rev. Dan Brady’s sermon preached the importance of prayer, especially in the face of incomprehensible violence like that the world saw most recently in the Munich attack.

“I don’t understand why a man picks up a gun and shoots innocent people … but I’m going to keep loving God,” he said. “The lesson is prayer, no matter what.”

Toward the end of Mass, visitors stood and introduced themselves, with some coming from as far away as Maryland and North Carolina to support Kaine, including a woman who grew up in Richmond playing violin with Holton.

After church, Kaine shook hands, gave hugs and posed for selfies before telling reporters that the church “and our neighborhood are the center of our lives here.”

“We needed some prayers today, and we got some prayers and we got some support, and it really feels good,” Kaine said.

For longtime churchgoers, like Ruth Carter, who’s been coming for most of her life, the pride was almost palpable.

“He’s going to look out for his people like he does now,” the 75-year-old said. “Not only the church people, but all people.”