*Within walking distance from the scene of a horrific drive-by shooting that left four teens dead in southeast Washington D.C. sits Allen Chapel AME Church, where President Obama and his family attended service on Easter Sunday.
A boisterous crowd of more than 1,000 people welcomed the First Family, who took communion at the end of the nearly two-hour service.
“His coming shows that he cares about people. He cares about this community. I think that’s something we can build upon,” Allen Chapel’s senior pastor, the Rev. Michael Bell told ABC News. [Watch clip below.]
The president was joined by his wife Michelle, daughters Sasha and Malia, and his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson. Mayor Adrian Fenty and D.C. councilmen and former Mayor Marion Barry were also in attendance.
Bell said it was providence that the president would attend service at Allen Chapel so shortly after the shootings last Tuesday night, when gunmen in a minivan sprayed a crowd with bullets. Southeast Washington is also beset by high unemployment and poverty.
Bell said it was heartening to know that southeast D.C. has not been forgotten, adding that Obama’s presence at the church was “bringing healing and hope into this community right now.”
While the Obamas regularly attend private church services at Camp David, President Obama says the family will remain without a church home because their attendance would be too distracting and intrusive.
“We’ve decided for now … not to join a single church. The reason is because Michelle and I have realized we are very disruptive to services,” Obama told NBC News last month. “Now, there are a whole bunch of churches who would say it’s OK, but [not] when every other member of the congregation has to be ‘magged’ every time you attend,” Obama said about the security screening process.
President Obama has attended public church services three other times since moving into the White House: twice at St. John’s Episcopal and once at Vermont Avenue Baptist.
In comparison to other presidents, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush never formally joined churches in Washington. Rather than go out into the city, Richard Nixon brought church to the White House with Sunday services in the East Room.