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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Obamas Observe Easter At Allen Chapel In Poor, Black DC Community

Obama Attends Easter Service At Historic Black DC Church

President Barack Obama attended an Easter worship service on Sunday in one of Washington's poorest communities, making an appearance at a historic black church founded during the American Civil War.

Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia joined the 2,500-strong congregation at the Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the mostly-black Anacostia area of southeast Washington.

The church was selected because it has more than 50 programs that help the local community, including after-school tutorials and food aid programs, The Washington Post reported Sunday, quoting White House officials.

The pastor at the church, which ministered to newly-free slaves at its creation, said Obama's visit came "at a critical time," following a drive-by shooting last week that left four people dead and five wounded.

"Just the fact that the president would still come brings so much calm and healing to southeast Washington," Reverend Michael Bell told the Post.

Last Easter, Obama attended Saint John's Episcopal Church, a short walk from the White House.

Obama Family Attends Easter Services At Allen Chapel AME Church In Southeast Washington DC Neighborhood

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, an area that was rocked by violence last week.

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.

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."

Four people were killed and five wounded last Tuesday night when gunmen in a minivan sprayed a crowd with bullets. Southeast Washington is also beset by high unemployment and poverty.

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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Sources: Allen Chapel AME Church, AP, AFP, Yahoo News, Huffington Post, Politico, Youtube, Google Maps

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