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President goes to church in Kaneohe

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    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with daughters Sasha and Malia, sing during yesterday's services at St. Michael's Chapel at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua.

President Barack Obama, his family and friends went to church at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on the day after Christmas.

The first family arrived at a chapel at Marine Corps Base Hawaii midmorning for a multidenominational service. The Obamas were greeted by clapping parishioners and a band playing "Joy to the World" as they were led to their seats in the front row.

In his sermon, Chaplain Steve Moses asked worshippers to recommit to God in the new year. He also joked that the reason God put him through a recent heart surgery was so he would not suffer a heart attack while preaching before the president.

Obama was the first worshipper to take Communion, dipping the wafer in wine before placing it in his mouth.

Though Obama speaks frequently about his Christian faith, his family rarely attends church services in Washington. The White House says the president has not joined a parish because his appearances would be disruptive to the rest of the congregation, though he does attend private services when he spends weekends at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

Obama most recently attended church in September, shortly after a poll was released indicating that a majority of Americans had doubts about his religious beliefs.

During the hourlong service, Obama and the other churchgoers sang along to a youth band playing Christmas carols such as "Silent Night" and "O Holy Night."

The Obamas also issued a statement yesterday recognizing observers of Kwanzaa.

"Michelle and I extend our warmest thoughts and wishes to all those who are celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season," the statement said. "Today is the first of a joyful seven-day celebration of African American culture and heritage. The seven principles of Kwanzaa — unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith — are some of the very values that make us Americans.

"As families across America and around the world light the Kinara today in the spirit of umoja or unity, our family sends our well wishes and blessings for a happy and healthy new year."

Earlier in the morning, the president received a briefing on terrorism threats and counterterrorism efforts, according to the White House Press Office.

Obama also called Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah yesterday to wish him well as he recovers from two recent back surgeries.

The 86-year-old king was released from New York’s Presbyterian Hospital last week after operations for a slipped disk and a blood clot. Saudi Arabia’s royal palace says Abdullah is in good health and expected to remain in the U.S. for recuperation.

The White House said the king congratulated Obama on the Senate’s recent ratification of the New START treaty with Russia.

The president’s afternoon was spent golfing at the Kaneohe Klipper course on base with friends Dr. Eric Whitaker, Bobby Titcomb and Mike Ramos. It is the same golf course the president played on Thursday.

Obama also resumed his morning workouts after taking a day off on Christmas. Obama left the Kailua vacation rental just before 8 yesterday morning to work out at the gym at the base, returning after about an hour.

On Saturday the president capped a quiet Christmas with a surprise visit to the Marine base to thank U.S. troops for the sacrifices they have made, including being away from their families at the holidays. It is the third year in a row the Obamas visited the base on Christmas.

The White House press pool contributed to this report.


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