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For the fifth time since moving into the White House, President Obama attended a church service in Washington, spending part of Easter Sunday with his family and mother-in-law Marian Robinson at the Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The church where the First Family worshipped is in a Washington neighborhood about three miles from where, less than a week ago, four people were killed and five injured when four armed men in a minivan allegedly went on a shooting spree.
The Rev. Dr. Michael E. Bell Sr. said it ``was no accident that he (Obama) is here in light of what happened here last Tuesday,'' referring to the drive-by shootings.
The president's presence was ``helping our community heal,'' Bell said, according to the pool report.
A White House spokesman said "the church was selected because it has more than 50 programs that help the local community, including after-school tutorials and food aid programs."
Bell said attendees included Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and his family and Marion Barry, the former Washington mayor who is now a member of the City Council.
The family took communion as the Rt. Rev. Adam Jefferson Richardson, Jr., presiding bishop, recited the Lord's Prayer and handed out grape juice and wafers.
The church was already jammed by the time the Obama motorcade arrived, entering through a side door at 11:05 a.m. as congregants were standing, clapping and singing ``Alleilua.'' As the First Family walked to the second pew, the congregation erupted with applause, and many snapped photos of the scene with cell phone cameras.
The Obama family were longtime members of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago before quitting in 2008 during the presidential election in the wake of the controversies swirling around its former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Though they said at the time they would join another church, they never did.
The last time the Obama family attended church in Washington was Jan. 17, at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, although when they are at Camp David they worship in the presidential retreat's chapel. Last Easter, the Obama family took communion at St. John's Episcopal Church across Lafayette Square from the White House.
A reason the family does not attend services on a regular basis, the president has said, is he believes their presence is disruptive to the other worshipers.
NBC "Today" Show host Matt Lauer asked Obama about going to church in an interview that ran Tuesday.
"What we've decided for now is not to join a single church," Obama told Lauer.
"And the reason is because Michelle and I have realized we are very disruptive to services. Now, there are a whole bunch of churches who would say it's okay, but when every other member of the congregation has to be magged (go through a magnometer) any time that you attend -- so what we've done is we occasionally go across the street to St. John's, which is a church that a lot of presidents traditionally have gone to.
"The chapel up in Camp David is probably our favorite place to worship, because it's just families up at Camp David," Obama said, adding, "There's a wonderful chaplain up there who does just a great job. And so usually when we go to Camp David, we go to church on Sundays there.
"And in the meantime, what we've done -- there was a prayer circle of pastors from across the country who, during the campaign, would say a prayer for me or send a devotional. And we've kept that habit up. And it's a wonderful group, because it's a mix of some very conservative pastors, some very liberal pastors, but all who pray for me and Michelle and the girls. And I get a daily devotional on my BlackBerry, which is a wonderful thing."
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