The President and First Lady leave St. John’s Church after Easter Sunday services this morning.

The First Family attended Easter Sunday services at St. John’s Episcopal Church —“the President’s —and Presidents’— church”— just across the street (and over Lafayette Square) from the White House.  President-Elect and Mrs. Obama last attended a service there on the morning of his Inauguration on 20 January (the ninth POTUS —not including RN— to observe this inaugural morning custom initiated by FDR).

There has been some recent speculation and controversy because the President hadn’t attended any public church service in the eleven weeks since he was sworn in.

USA Today reported some details of this morning’s service:

The service began with organ, brass and percussion fanfare. Obama and other worshipers heard readings from the book of Exodus, the Gospel of Mark and other traditional Easter selections from the Bible.

Among prayers offered during the service were those for Obama and others in public life: “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 fulfilled through the bounty of your creation.” The congregation responded, “We are made in your image, O God. Guide us in your grace.”

In his sermon, the Rev. Luis Leon welcomed believers and non-believers alike and called Easter an event based on faith, not logic.

“I can’t explain Easter to anyone. It just can’t be done. It’s like a professor trying to explain one of e.e. cummings’ poems,” he said. He added, “It takes time to be a believer. … Faith cannot be forced, and faith cannot be coerced.”

Leon made no mention of the Obamas in his sermon. Instead, he talked about the North Carolina Tar Heels, the college team that recently won the NCAA men’s basketball championship, and the start of the baseball season.

“I’m a fairly charitable person,” the pastor said, “but I hate the Yankees.”


Pew 54 at St. John’s Lafayette Square is the traditional President’s Pew. There is a 1789 Prayer Book in the Church’s archives bearing in gold letters the inscription “President’s Pew.”

Every POTUS since (and including) James Madison, who was the “occupant” of the (recently burned and reclaimed) Executive Mansion when the church first opened its doors in 1815, has attended service(s) at St. John’s.

St. John’s Episcopal —“The President’s Church”— on Lafayette Square across the street from the White House.

UPDATE: Here is the pool report — by Washington Times White House Correspondent Christina Bellantoni.  It may be more information than you want or need.  But the funny thing about information is — you never know when it will come in handy.

Happy Easter, folks.

News – President Obama and the First Family went to Easter Services at
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square. All four took communion.
Also, we have a lid.

Color – Not much, but some egg roll details below.

Tick-tock – At 10:48 the First Family emerged from the residence. From
where we were in the motorcade, we could only see FLOTUS Michelle Obama
and one of the Obama daughters. At that point we could not see outfits,
but later in church Mrs. Obama and the girls appeared to be wearing
matching white or cream-colored sweaters. The first lady was wearing a
white or cream-colored floral skirt or dress. POTUS wore dark suit even
though we spotted at least 4 parishioners in seersucker suits.

When we returned back, we saw more yoga demonstrating and someone was
singing on the stage for a sound check. A young woman, sorry no news on
who it was.

One of the agents in our van said they were doing yoga practice in
preparation for a fitness demonstration at tomorrow’s egg roll. The
agent said there also will be soccer and basketball.

As we waited for POTUS in the van, about a dozen young looking, barefoot
people were spotted on a colorful fabric mats on the lawn right in front
of the residence. They were stretching and doing both handstands and

There’s an “egg roll enter here” sign and oversized bunnies and other
signs sprinkled on the lawn.

As the motorcade (en route less than 2 minutes) stopped and we ran to
catch up with POTUS, huge cheers erupted from the gathering Easter

We arrived at 10:53 am.

Service started right at 11, and from press pool spot in back pew, I at
first could not see POTUS or first family. Fortunately AP superstar, the
much-taller-than-me Phil Elliott, spotted POTUS. He sat at least six
rows back from the front of the church, and it was impossible to see the
girls even from standing position while everyone else was seated. Two
agents were seated in the pew behind POTUS.

Parishioners arriving went through two mags set up outside the entrance.
Your pool spotted several little girls in their Easter best with their
arms straight out as they went through security.

Rev. Luis Leon, rector, told congregants it was his 15th Easter service
at the church.

His sermon included references to famous poets E.E. Cummings and Emily
Dickinson, hating the New York Yankees and a shout-out to POTUS-picked
NCAA tournament winners the UNC Tarheels. Some quotes to follow in next
pool report.

A writer’s pool only was allowed into the church while the others had to
wait with the motorcade.

The service was heavy with songs performed by lovely choir and brass
ensemble. Among the selected hymns – Alleluia, Jesus Christ is risen
today, A song of praise, Come, ye faithful, Welcome happy morning.

Readings were:
Exodus 14:10-14, 21-25, 15:20-21
Acts 10:34-43
Mark 16:1-8

A brief mention of President Obama in the program, which served for both
the 9 am and 11 am services.

During prayers of the people, led by Robert Black:

“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.”

Response from entire church: “We are your servants, O God. Guide us in
your grace.”

Other than that, there was no mention of president during the service.

The president and first lady stood to briefly greet parishioners during
the “peace be with you” portion. FLOTUS had her hair down and straight.

We also could not see if they placed money in the offertory dish as it
went by. No one from press pew contributed.

As communion began, congregants snuck peeks at the president and his
family. For those wondering, the demographic was at least 90 percent

The first family stood to get in line for communion, all smiling.

POTUS went first with communion, followed by Sasha, Malia, and then
FLOTUS and an unidentified young girl who looked to be Malia’s age.

Smiling wide and seeming to be in great spirits, POTUS returned to his
pew. He kept leaning over FLOTUS to talk to his daughters. Several
parishioners stopped to say hello to the first family during the long
communion session.

Pool escorted out at 12:21, and huge crowds had gathered behind police
tape lines on the corner of 16th and H and in Lafayette Park.

A few minutes later, POTUS left from same side door where he’d entered.

Motorcade rolled again at 12:29. Back at White House and stopped at
12:31. Lid called 12:33.

For more, visit church Web site at stjohns-dc.org

Also per Phil – Obama attended a private service here the morning of the
inauguration. It’s known as the church of the presidents.

Former President George W. Bush has attended services here.

Egg roll color:

Our gather time was around 10:20 and we walked to the south lawn
driveway where the motorcade was waiting.

Before getting in the van we caught an early glimpse of the egg roll
preparation for tomorrow.

Oversized cutouts in the shape of tulips framed the fountain on the
south lawn, where several makeshift fences, tents and a large stage have
been erected. Various stereo equipment and speakers have been set up in
spots on the lawn.