WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama worshipped and celebrated the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday at the historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attended services with their daughters Malia and Sasha at the downtown Washington church.
Introducing Mrs. Obama, the Rev. Marie P. Braxton said, "I'd like to say that she is the first lady of the world." The pastor invited congregants to sing "Happy Birthday," to the first lady, who celebrated her 49th on Thursday, and Mrs. Obama stood and waved.
With the first family were Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-ng, and Mrs. Obama's mother and brother, Marian and Craig Robinson.
The sermon by the Rev. Ronald E. Braxton, the church's senior pastor, was about trusting in God. "Never take God out of the equation. Whatever you undertake in life, make sure God has the leading role," Braxton said. "With God, all things are possible."
The Old Testament reading during the service came from the book of Exodus, Chapter 14, in which the Israelites cross the Red Sea as Moses leads them out of Egypt.
The church, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary, was draped in the reds, greens and golds found in African Kente cloth. The program said Sunday's service was a dual celebration of Obama's second inaugural and of the anniversary of King's birthday.
Word must have spread that the first family was coming: Pews were full, and the back cover of the program was printed with an official photo of the Obamas. Church-goers rose to their feet, and those in the balcony leaned over to catch a glimpse, as the Obamas entered from a back room as the gospel choir continued to sing. The Obamas sat in the second row, and Secret Service agents sat in the third row.
Metropolitan AME Church also hosted prayer services before the 1993 and 1997 inaugurations of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.