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January 14, 2009

Obama to Attend Prayer Service on Inauguration Day

Barack Obama will attend a private prayer service on the morning of his inauguration at the historic St. John's Episcopal Church, according to the Washington Post.

St. John's, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, is known as the "Church of the Presidents." Since James Madison, every president has worshiped there at some point during his tenure in the Oval Office. The church has kneelers embroidered in tribute to each president, and Pew 54 is traditionally assigned to the chief executives when they visit.

Obama has rarely appeared at Sunday worship since he broke ties with Jeremiah Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ. Washington Post reporter Jacqueline L. Salmon provides historical context for why Obama may have chosen to attend the prayer service at St. John's.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt started the tradition of attending a worship service before inauguration at St. John's. Since then, four other presidents have worshiped there on Inauguration Day, according to the church's Web site: Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

And since Roosevelt, every president except Richard M. Nixon has attended a worship service on inauguration morning somewhere in the District.