WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Sunday worshipped at a historic African-American church, his second appearance at a local church since taking office one year ago. Obama, the nation's first African-American president, spoke from a pulpit where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once stood.
On Feb. 7, 1968, King visited the church to deliver a sermon that was part of a series titled: "In Search of a Sense of Direction."
"Like folks who came to this church on a Thursday in 1956," Obama said, referring to the date of King's visit, "people are again asking the question that King asked then: 'Where do we go from here?' "
Comparing the present time to "a hard winter," Obama said people can and will "weather the storm."
Calling King, on the eve of the federal holiday marking his Jan. 15, 1929, birth, and those who fought for civil rights the "Moses generation," Obama urged his audience — those he called the "Joshua generation" — to "get back to basics" as Americans face the challenges of a new age.
The president arrived about 10:45 a.m. at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, a 144-year-old congregation. He was accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama; daughters Malia and Sasha; senior adviser Valerie Jarrett; Joshua Dubois, director of faith-based and community initiatives; and others.
He arrived to hear a foot-stomping, hand-waving choir singing gospel hymns. He clapped and nodded along with them to such classics as By and By When the Morning Comes. The service really warmed up after an associate pastor, the Rev. William Quick, prayed for the people of Haiti and the president.
"We come here regardless of what happened to bear witness that you are still God," Quick said. "Bless our speaker as he brings a word of hope for our people. Under President Obama, let us remain one nation under God."
As she sat in the pews Audrey Johnson, 81, who has been a member of the church for more than three decades, said: "This is something that I never thought I would see in my lifetime."