President Barack Obama and his family marked the Easter holiday by attending a music-filled service at a historically black Methodist church in southeast Washington.
A boisterous crowd of more than 1,000 people welcomed the Obamas on Sunday at the Allen Chapel AME Church. Joining him at the service were his wife, Michelle, daughters Sasha and Malia, and his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson. Also attending were the mayor of Washington, Adrian Fenty, and his wife.
"Mr. President, you have no idea how much your presence has meant to us today," Allen Chapel's senior pastor, the Rev. Michael Bell, said after his sermon.
Southeast Washington was rocked last week by a drive-by shooting that left four dead and five others wounded. The area is also beset by high unemployment and poverty.
Bell said it was providence that the president would attend service at Allen Chapel so shortly after the shootings. It was heartening to know than southeast Washington has not been forgotten, he said, adding that Obama's presence at the church was "bringing healing and hope into this community right now."
Obama took communion at the end of the nearly two-hour service. He and his family have attended several churches since his inauguration but have not settled on joining a specific congregation.
Earlier in the service, Bell drew laughter and cheers when he described Obama as "the most debonaire, the most suave president of this United States of America." The pastor also praised Mrs. Obama's efforts at community outreach.
The Allen Chapel AME Church traces its roots to just before the Civil War when it ministered to free blacks in the Anacostia area of Washington. It is part of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
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