President Obama spent Saturday golfing before the first family made an appearance at a DC Baptist church on Easter.
Obama’s golf partners at Andrews Air Force Base were White House trip director Marvin Nicholson, Walter Nicholson and Joe Paulsen for about four hours on the green.
At 10 a.m. the next morning, the Obamas left the White House for northwest D.C.’s 19th Street Baptist Church. The pastor there, Rev. Derrick Harkins, has been helping the administration promote Obamacare. He also used to be a faith adviser to the Democratic National Committee. “Rev. Harkins is a national leader in the faith community with strong and diverse ties to the African-American church, evangelicals and the progressive faith community,” the DNC said at the time of his 2011 appointment. “Outreach to people of all faiths is a key priority and trademark of President Obama, and Harkins is the right leader to continue the Democratic Party’s engagement of the faith community.”
The Obamas went to St. John’s Episcopal Church the previous Easter and have not joined any particular congregation since coming to Washington.
They sat in a second-row reserved pew in an otherwise packed church, according to the White House pool report, with a row of Secret Service behind them.
Harkins told congregants to greet their neighbors and welcome the president. “Obama high-fived a baby boy, hugged and kissed women, and Michelle blew kisses from inside their pew,” said the report.
“Isn’t our first family gracious?” the pastor said.
Obama “dropped a white paper or envelope into the silver contribution plate as ushers distributed them through the pews” and soon after “an older gentleman stood up from his seat some distance from the president and raised his arm and yelled, ‘God Bless President Obama!’ The worshippers applauded loudly. The president smiled.”
Harkins’ prayer asked God to give Obama “every measure of encouragement” and “wisdom,” and “tend to his spirit” under the weight of criticism, to which the crowd eagerly replied with yells of “yes”.
The sermon “talked about supporting people ‘living in the shadows and the margins,” including ‘LGBT’ people,” continued the pool report. “…The president listened attentively from his seat, with his chin propped on his left hand at times, and his fingers entwined together as the sermon shifted toward a rousing finale. He joined in applause at the end.”
On the route from the church back to the White House, a group held a “stop deportations” sign along the street.
Pres Obama and Easter Bunny place hand over heart for singing of the National Anthem at WH Easter Egg Roll. pic.twitter.com/y2WmjM5F44
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) April 21, 2014