Obama’s church choice remains a mystery

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Easter Sunday provided no answer to one of the mysteries that puzzles Washington’s chattering class: which church will President and Mrs. Obama select as their permanent home for worship?

The President and his family made the brief trip to St John’s Episcopal Church on Sunday for Easter services.

After the service, the White House issued a statement confirming that the first family’s search for a church continues.

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"The First Family has not made a decision yet on which church they will formally join in Washington, but they were honored to worship with the parishioners at St. John's Episcopal Church and at 19th Street Baptist Church earlier this year,” said Josh DuBois, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

A church close by

St John’s is hard to beat for convenience. The reporters who accompanied the Obama family to church timed the trip from the White House south lawn to the church at 2 minutes. Even for presidential motorcades which zip through town while police block intersections, that is considered a fast trip. The church sits just across Lafayette Park from the White House.

The Obamas appeared to enjoy the service, according to the pool report. The President and his family sat at least six rows from the front of the church. Two Secret Service agents sat behind the President.

When it came time for communion, Mr. Obama led the way followed by Sasha, Malia, and the First Lady. When the first family returned to its pew, Mr. Obama repeatedly leaned over Mrs. Obama to talk to his daughters, smiling widely.

A prayer for the President

The only mention of the President came during the prayers-of-the-people portion of the service. A member of the church staff said, "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."

The congregation responded: "We are your servants, O God. Guide us in your grace."

As the Obama’s emerged from a service filled with music by a choir and a brass ensemble, they were greeted by a large crowd, which had gathered behind police tape on the street corner and in Lafayette Park.

Church of Presidents

The Obamas attended St. John’s on inauguration day but had not been back since. Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George Bush, often went to St. John’s when he was in town. Mr. Bush also attended the chapel at Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains.

St John’s is sometimes known as the “church of the President,” since every chief executive since James Madison has attended services there. But the Obamas are believed to be considering churches elsewhere in the city, including some with historically black congregations.

A number of the President’s aides, including Melody Barnes, cirector of the White House Domestic Policy Council, have been asked for recommendations, according to published reports.

On the Sunday before his inauguration, Mr. Obama attended the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church. He has not been back since he took office.

Looking for a church home

Mr. Obama has not had a formal church home since he broke with Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. during the presidential campaign.

In March, the New York Times reported that the President has had private prayer sessions on the telephone with a handful of evangelical pastors since he moved into the White House.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at Thursday’s briefing that the church the Obamas attended for Easter would not necessarily be their final choice.

“I think the President is looking for a new church, but I don't think necessarily that the one that he attends this weekend will necessarily be the one he continues to attend,” Gibbs said.

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