President Obama and the first family are scheduled to worship Easter Sunday at Shiloh Baptist Church, a historic congregation that was led by freed slaves who moved to Northwest Washington during the Civil War.
The first family’s visit will mark the seventh time the president has attended public church services at a D.C. congregation since he was elected in 2008. Last Easter, the Obamas worshipped at Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Southeast Washington.
The Sunday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, they attended Metropolitan AME in Northwest Washington.
Neither the White House nor the Rev. Wallace Charles Smith at Shiloh Baptist are talking publicly about the planned visit, but church leaders are privately urging members to arrive early Sunday because a “special visitor” will be in the pews.
The church has hosted other presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
Shiloh’s history began in Fredericksburg, where in the early 1800s it was led by a white pastor; its membership included whites as well as some slaves and freed blacks. In 1854, the church was sold to its African American members. During the Civil War, the Union Army wanted to use the church as a hospital, and, ahead of a planned attack on Fredericksburg, it helped move the congregation to the District in 1862.
The church later became popular among White House appointees, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and federal workers. In 1991, fire destroyed part of the old sanctuary, and the congregation met in the church’s gym until an elaborate renovation was completed.