Obama and family attend Easter service at historic VA church

Churchgoers line up outside the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., Sunday, March 27, 2016, where President Barack Obama and his family joined the congregation to celebrate Easter. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — President Barack Obama and the first family attended Easter service at a historic black church that traces its origins to when Thomas Jefferson was president.

The Rev. Howard-John Wesley, the pastor at Alfred Street Baptist Church, welcomed back the Obamas, whom he described as “the gorgeous family.” The Obamas also visited the church last Easter.

The congregation, led by a choir clad in crimson, gold and white robes, joined in song early in the service, with the pastor asking them to share introductions, “but don’t act crazy” as the hundreds in attendance exchanged hugs and handshakes.

Many in the choir and audience smiled as they swayed and clapped to the music and sang the refrain “yes, He lives,” a reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the event Christians celebrate on Easter.

Wesley delivered a sermon that noted the suffering Jesus endured, and he encouraged the congregation to have faith that, if God could raise Jesus from the dead, he can help them get through their hardships.

“No matter what you’re going through, you don’t have to be afraid because God can handle it,” Wesley said.

The Obamas spent about an hour at the service and returned to the White House, where on the South Lawn, workers and performers were preparing for the annual Easter Egg Roll to be held Monday.

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