It was part church meeting and part stump rally. Talk of health care intertwined with talk of spiritual well-being. Talk of the environment segued into the warmth of hands held in prayer.

However one would describe what happened Tuesday on the front lawn of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture in downtown Charleston, it was surely a sign of how Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama's campaign is battling strongly for the support of black religious leaders in this state and beyond.

Civil rights stalwarts such as Joseph E. Lowery and C.T. Vivian told the crowd of about 75 people why they have placed their hope and faith in the Illinois senator.

Lowery said when Obama graduated from Harvard University and passed up well-paying jobs in corporate America to do community work on the south side of Chicago, "he did something crazy." But Lowery also said many of those who have moved the world forward, including Jesus Christ, also could be considered a little crazy.

"Maybe what we need in America and the world today are a few more crazy people," he said, "people who believe that we can achieve that which others consider unachievable, the impossible dream that can become a reality in our own time."

He also said crazy can be like cholesterol because it comes in good and bad forms. "There's bad crazy, and there's good crazy," he said. "All of us sitting out here in the cold, that's good crazy."

The ministerial rally, peppered by shouts of "Amen!" "C'mon!" and "Preach!" came as Obama and his main rival, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, are eagerly courting black churches and the voters who worship there. Black voters are expected to make up at least half of South Carolina's Democratic primary electorate on Jan. 26.

The rally also came just a week after Clinton appeared on a Spartanburg stage with about 80 black ministers in the Upstate who are backing her. The clergy sided with her because of her platform on health care, jobs and other issues, said state Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg.

Obama's campaign not only released a list of about 125 South Carolina pastors who support him, but it also released a list of national religious leaders who are on board.

Some pastors may talk politics from the pulpit, while others don't. Bishop Lewis Taylor of Saint Center Ministries in Walterboro said he won't preach about Obama, "but in casual conversation, we talk politics and where America needs to go."

The Rev. Kay Colleton of the Manna Life Center in Charleston takes a similar approach. "The safe thing to do is teach people the importance of being part of a decision," she said. "I preach a message of hope."