Inside the church with Obama (video)
By Hamil R. Harris
Gospel recording artist Earnest Pugh is used to stirring up spiritual storms, but the Bowie, Md.,-president didn't expect to see the president and first family rocking on their feet at Allen Chapel AME Easter Sunday morning.
"I wanted people to sense God's presence, power and potential. I wanted them to have an experience like they have not had before," said Pugh, who recalled casting a glance at the president while singing the gospel song "So much to be thankful for."
"I could see his face as they were clapping their hands that the message resonated," Pugh said."That was the goal -- to worship."
While there was plenty of rocking and clapping in the pews, Bishop Adam J. Richardson, Jr., presiding prelate of the African Methodist Episcopal Church's Second Episcopal District, sought to calm things down during the communion service, where he invited the president, the first family and the White House staff to come to the alter.
Howard University Communications professor Paula Matabane said this is the first time that an AME Bishop has served a president communion.
"It is beautiful day in the neighborhood," said Richardson, who looked at the president when he asked for assembled to "take this moment to see how far we have come."
Rev. Michael Bell, pastor of the Southeast Washington church, learned last week from Joshua DuBois, director of the White House of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, that the president just wanted to worship at this church.
District Mayor Adrian Fenty, D.C. Council member Marion Barry and Maryland state Sen. Ulysses Currie (D) were also in the pews Sunday, though they did not greet the president.
Bell said that without ever speaking a word, the president offered his church so much hope.
"There is still much hope for our community. There was so much hope in Ward 8," said Bell. The visit showed that despite recent shootings in the area, "We can make our community better," he said.
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