Obamas Choose Church for Easter

But president's family still hasn't made a final choice on a Washington church.

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2009— -- Like millions of Americans, President Obama today put on his Sunday best and headed to church with his family. And, like millions of Americans, it was the first time in a while.

The last time he went to church was a dozen Sundays ago, before he took the oath of office.

In January, the president-elect told ABC News' chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulous he hadn't chosen a new church yet.

"One of the things that Michelle and I will be doing is probably visiting some churches and seeing what's comfortable," he said in an interview broadcast on ABC's "This Week."

Pastors from around Washington, D.C., have been quietly lobbying the White House.

"We have tried to put our best foot forward," said the Rev. Robert Gench, pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, where Abraham Lincoln used to worship. "We've sent two letters to them, making sure only that they got there and we're pretty sure that they did."

At 19th Street Baptist Church, the city's oldest African American Baptist congregation, they had reason to hope for a surprise Sunday visit. Obama attended a prayer service there the Sunday before the inauguration.

But Pastor Derrick Hawkins insisted he wasn't counting on it.

"I'd be happy to see him join the church that is best suited to him and his family," he said.

One reason Obama may be taking his time with this decision is that his last church experience didn't end up so well.

Incendiary statements by his former pastor at Trinity United Church in Chicago, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, embarrassed Obama during the Democratic primaries and led to a bitter public break.

Randall Balmer, a Columbia University professor who wrote "God in the White House," said of Obama's search for a new church: "I think this was a fraught decision for the Obama family. There was a lot riding on it. There were a lot speculating about this sort of thing."

Today the Obamas played it safe, attending St. John's Episcopal, which is right across from the White House. It's known as the Church of Presidents, because presidents have worshipped there for nearly 200 years.

The first family took pew 54, known as the President's Pew. President Obama appeared to know some of the hymns by heart.

St. John's was a safe choice for Easter Sunday, but apparently not a final one. On this important decision, the Obamas appear to be taking their time.