Churches To Celebrate Swearing-In With Galas
Congregations Open Doors for Special Evening

By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 19, 2008

There are official inaugural balls, unofficial balls and youth balls scheduled in honor of President-elect Barack Obama's swearing-in next month. And now, some local churches are scheduling celebrations.

The Sanctuary at Kingdom Square in Capital Heights will hold a Christian ball on Jan. 20 to celebrate the inauguration of Obama, a minister there said. On Jan. 18, Believers for Change, a group of Seventh-day Adventists and other Christians, is holding an alcohol-free, black-tie ball at the Camelot conference center on the grounds of Evangel Cathedral in Upper Marlboro.

Officials at churches in the District and Baltimore say they are trying to work out the logistics before announcing other Christian balls.

"This is the first time we've held an inaugural ball," said the Rev. Roderick S. Parks, executive minister at the Sanctuary at Kingdom Square. "We are doing it this time because of the significance of Obama's election to the people in this congregation."

The ball, with tickets at $100, will feature virgin cocktails and soft drinks. Participants will toast the new president with apple cider.

The Believers for Change Celebration Inauguration Ball, whose tickets are selling online for $75 through Jan. 1, is a fundraiser for Christian education programs, according to a Web site advertising the event.

"Join Adventists and other Christian believers from around the world who support political and spiritual change in celebrating this historic time in America," it reads. The site lists no telephone number, and organizers could not be reached for comment.

The Sanctuary's ball, which remains unnamed and has no theme, is expected to draw 400 people. Some tickets have been purchased by out-of-towners.

"We have opened up the church to some out-of-town visitors because we want to show them a little Washington, D.C.-Prince George's County hospitality," Parks said. "We are allowing buses to use our parking lot. Some of our members have opened their homes to visitors. Our ball will be held the day of the swearing-in and parade, so afterward, people will be welcomed back and allowed to prepare before the ball. We have made accommodations for them to get ready."

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