Obamas attend first Sunday church service in Washington
WASHINGTON – Barack Obama attended his first Sunday church service as president on Easter Sunday, greeted by hundreds of onlookers at an Episcopal church a block from the White House.
Obama, wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha sat about halfway down the first row in the packed but intimate St. John’s, across Lafayette Park from the White House.
Throngs of onlookers packed the streets around the church and behind police barricades, even though, according to a White House official, the location was not disclosed until Sunday.
There was intense competition among area churches to lure the Obamas, according to reports.
Known to many as the “Church of the Presidents,” every president since James Madison has attended the church, either on a regular or occasional basis, according to St. John’s.
Obama had not attended church in Washington as president since Inauguration Day, when he attended a service at the National Cathedral, according to an aide.
The service focused on allowing the skeptical come to their faith in time.
“Easter is available to believers as well as doubters,” Reverend Luis Leon said in his sermon. “It’s important that you believe in as much of God as you can today … and that is good enough.”
At one point, he led a prayer for the president, other elected officials, and people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and the Middle East, among others.
Several in the audience said they were unaware the president would be attending the service.
Obama was dogged during his campaign by controversial comments about race by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Chicago. Obama later distanced himself from the pastor.
Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque – President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama depart St. John’s Episcopal Church after attending an Easter service in Washington on April 12, 2009.