Obamas head to church on eve of MLK holiday

The Obama family headed to church on Sunday, continuing a tradition of worshipping in Washington on the weekend before the Martin Luther King holiday.

According to White House pool reports, the First Family headed to Zion Baptist Church in Northwest Washington on Sunday morning, where they heard a sermon about the civil rights leader and a reading of one of King’s most famous writings.

The Obamas also sang along with other parishioners, and President Obama appeared to contribute to the church’s collection basket.

The First Family have not always been frequent churchgoers around Washington. But in past Januarys, the family has marked the Martin Luther King holiday at churches in the nation's capital.

The family attended services this weekend in 2009, just days before Obama was inaugurated. And in 2010, the president delivered a sermon of his own to commemorate the holiday.

On Sunday, Rev. Keith Byrd of Zion Baptist Church marked the Obamas’s first visit to his congregation by incorporating Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” into his sermon.

Byrd was pointing out, the White House pool said, that King tried to answer the famous “to be or not to be” question during an especially tumultuous time in U.S. history.

At the service, a church deacon also read from King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which he wrote after being jailed for protesting segregation and argued that Americans had a duty to disobey unjust laws.

Zion Baptist was founded during the Civil War by blacks who had migrated north, from Fredericksburg, Va., to Washington. During Sunday’s service, the church’s program book asked for the donation of blankets and sleeping bags for Occupy DC.

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