The church where Jimmy Carter taught Sunday school for decades marked his poignant absence this weekend as the former president receives end-of-life care.
Carter, 98, has taught Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, since the 1980s. Not even a cancer diagnosis stopped him from teaching Bible class in 2015.
But on Saturday, “After a series of short hospital stays, former US President Jimmy Carter today decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention,” according to a statement from The Carter Center, which was also shared by the church.
The congregation at the church honored Carter during the first Sunday services since the news of his hospice care.
“Lord, we’d be amiss this morning if we did not lift President Carter to you,” a prayer leader said. “Lord, we pray that you be with his family (and) those around him. And God, we thank you for his service to this nation.”
Afterward, the choir at the Maranatha Baptist Church sang “America the Beautiful.”
“Maranatha” is derived from two Aramaic words meaning, “Lord, Come!” the church’s website says.
Carter became the oldest living US president in history after the passing of George H.W. Bush, who died in late 2018 at age 94.
Carter beat brain cancer in 2015 – but faced a series of health scares in 2019 and underwent surgery to remove pressure on his brain.
The nation’s 39th president has kept a low public profile in recent years due to the Covid-19 pandemic but has continued to speak out about risks to democracy around the world, a longtime cause of his.
Carter was a peanut farmer and US Navy lieutenant before going into politics. The Democrat eventually served one term as governor of Georgia and as president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.
In his post-presidency years, Carter founded The Carter Center along with his wife, Rosalynn, in hopes of advancing world peace and health. The center has worked to advance democracy by monitoring foreign elections and reducing diseases in developing countries over the years.
He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his efforts to push for peace across the globe.
Carter has also been a longtime volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
CNN’s Aaron Pellish, Shawna Mizelle and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.