St. John's Church: Obamas Choose Easter Service (VIDEO)


From a pool report just sent out to White House reporters:

News - POTUS and First Family are attending church for EasterServices at St. John's Church north of Lafayette Park, just across from White House.

More to come.

The website for St. John's listed its Easter Day services:

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

7:45 a.m.: Holy Eucharist and Homily

9:00 a.m.: Festival Holy Eucharist

11:00 a.m.: Festival Holy Eucharist

1:00 p.m.: La Sana Eucaristia

At 9:00 and 11:00 a.m., music for choir, organ, brass and timpani.

According to a historical website for the Decatur House, also located by Lafayette Square, the church played a notable role during the civil rights era:

Though African Americans had been married by St. John's rector in the 1840s, in 1960, the church had no African-American members. As the Civil Rights Movement gathered force, the Church leadership recognized the need to actively welcome parishioners of all races. In August 1963, the same month that saw the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom during which the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. made his "I Have a Dream" speech, St. John's Reverend John C. Harper sent a letter to his parishioners that read, "This church building is open, as it has always been, to all who want to worship here; the ministry of this parish is extended to any who seek it; our fellowship one with another has no limitations whatsoever." On the day of the March on Washington, over 700 people meeting for the march filled St. John's.

The Obamas attended church at St. John's on the morning of Barack Obama's inauguration in January (he was the fifth president to attend St. John's on inauguration morning, a tradition that began with President Franklin Roosevelt.)

UPDATE: Details on the service from a second pool report, also filed by Washington Times reporter Christina Bellantoni:

Tick-tock - At 10:48 the First Family emerged from the residence. From
where we were in the motorcade, we could only see FLOTUS Michelle Obama and one of the Obama daughters. At that point we could not see outfits, but later in church Mrs. Obama and the girls appeared to be wearing matching white or cream-colored sweaters. The first lady was wearing a white or cream-colored floral skirt or dress. POTUS wore dark suit even though we spotted at least 4 parishioners in seersucker suits.

As the motorcade (en route less than 2 minutes) stopped and we ran to catch up with POTUS, huge cheers erupted from the gathering Easter crowd.

We arrived at 10:53 am.

Service started right at 11, and from press pool spot in back pew, I at first could not see POTUS or first family. Fortunately AP superstar, the much-taller-than-me Phil Elliott, spotted POTUS. He sat at least six rows back from the front of the church, and it was impossible to see the girls even from standing position while everyone else was seated. Two agents were seated in the pew behind POTUS.

Parishioners arriving went through two mags set up outside the entrance. Your pool spotted several little girls in their Easter best with their arms straight out as they went through security.

Rev. Luis Leon, rector, told congregants it was his 15th Easter service at the church.

His sermon included references to famous poets E.E. Cummings and Emily Dickinson, hating the New York Yankees and a shout-out to POTUS-picked NCAA tournament winners the UNC Tarheels. Some quotes to follow in next pool report.

A writer's pool only was allowed into the church while the others had to wait with the motorcade.

The service was heavy with songs performed by lovely choir and brass ensemble. Among the selected hymns - Alleluia, Jesus Christ is risen today, A song of praise, Come, ye faithful, Welcome happy morning.

Readings were:
Exodus 14:10-14, 21-25, 15:20-21
Acts 10:34-43
Mark 16:1-8

A brief mention of President Obama in the program, which served for both the 9 am and 11 am services.

During prayers of the people, led by Robert Black:

"Guide and bless us in our work and play, and shape the patterns of our political and economic life; we pray for Barack, our President, the leaders of Congress, and the Supreme Court, and all who are in authority; for Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and the Middle East, that all people may be filled through the bounty of your creation."

Response from entire church: "We are your servants, O God. Guide us in your grace."

Other than that, there was no mention of president during the service.

The president and first lady stood to briefly greet parishioners during the "peace be with you" portion. FLOTUS had her hair down and straight.

We also could not see if they placed money in the offertory dish as it went by. No one from press pew contributed.

As communion began, congregants snuck peeks at the president and his family. For those wondering, the demographic was at least 90 percent white.

The first family stood to get in line for communion, all smiling.

POTUS went first with communion, followed by Sasha, Malia, and then FLOTUS and an unidentified young girl who looked to be Malia's age.

Smiling wide and seeming to be in great spirits, POTUS returned to his pew. He kept leaning over FLOTUS to talk to his daughters. Several parishioners stopped to say hello to the first family during the long communion session.

Pool escorted out at 12:21, and huge crowds had gathered behind police tape lines on the corner of 16th and H and in Lafayette Park.

A few minutes later, POTUS left from same side door where he'd entered.

Motorcade rolled again at 12:29. Back at White House and stopped at 12:31. Lid called 12:33.