Sermon embroiders on President's reelection theme; congregation sings "Happy Birthday" to First Lady...
Ahead of his swearing in ceremony at the White House on Sunday morning, President Barack Obama and the First Family attended a service at Washington, DC's Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, known as the "National Cathedral of African Methodism," and one of the most historic churches in the District and the nation. The visit, not included on the President's official schedule, was "celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," according to a White House official. (Above, an official White House photo of the President and First Lady at the service)
As President Obama entered with the First Family shortly after 9:30 AM, the congregation rose to its feet as the gospel choir continued to sing. First Lady Michelle Obama, First Daughters Malia and Sasha, and First Grandmother Marian Robinson, Mrs. Obama's brother, Craig Robinson, sat in the second row on the left side of the center section of the sanctuary. The President was introduced by Pastor Ronald E. Braxton, the senior pastor at the church, which brought the crowd back to its feet with applause.
Mrs. Obama, who celebrated her 49th birthday last Wednesday, was introduced by Pastor Marie P. Braxton, who noted the birthday, and the First Lady was serenaded by the choir and congregation, who sang "Happy Birthday" with an organ accompaniment.
In his sermon, "which illicted a good deal of call and response from the congregation," according to pool, the Rev. Ronald E. Braxton used the "forward" theme of the President's reelection campaign in telling the story of Moses. He urged the President and others to not allow obstacles to interfere "Where forward is the only option."
"I'm a witness that the God of Moses, with miraculous power, still moves on behalf of humankind," said Rev. Braxton. "Forward was the only option."
The scripture reading in the program was Exodus 14:10-15, 26-30, and other musical selections included "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name," "I Love the Lord" for choral response, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" for a Selection/Anthem.
The President and First Family exited the church at 10:38 AM, as the service was still going on, heading back to the White House. Ahead of the service, the President and Vice President Joe Biden visited Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Biden was sworn in early Sunday morning during a private ceremony at the Naval Observatory. (Above, a photo tweeted by a congregant who is also a member of the media)
On Monday, ahead of the inaugural ceremony at the US Capitol, the President and First Family will attend a church service at St. John's Episcopal, located across Lafayette Square from the White House.
Metropolitan is celebrating its 175th anniversary year, and was created from two existing churches: Israel Bethel A.M.E., founded in l821, and Union Bethel A.M.E., founded in l838. The parent A.M.E. denomination movement grew out of an anti-segregation protest in Philadelphia in l787.
The church hosted two pre-inaugural prayer services for former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Albert Gore and their families.
*Top photo by Pete Souza/White House; Second photo tweeted by Gwen Ifill, @PBSGwen