(Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
WASHINGTON – The nation celebrated the start of President Barack Obama's second term this week with a mix of fun and religious reverence.
Obama began Monday, Inauguration Day, at a worship service at St. John's Episcopal Church with his wife, Michelle, and two daughters, Malia and Sasha. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, were also there.
Several pastors and one Rabbi participated in the event.
"In Your name we bless our president and vice president and their families ... use this service to consecrate not only them but those they serve," prayed Pastor Joel Hunter at the beginning of the service, according to a pooled press report. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, a Church Distributed and a senior advisor for The Christian Post, is one of Obama's spiritual advisors.
The sermon was delivered by Andy Stanley, pastor at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga. "What do you do, when you're the most important person in the room? You are the decision maker?" Stanley asked.
He then told the story of when Jesus washed his disciple's feet. Obama should use his authority as president to benefit others, Stanley concluded.
The audience laughed when Stanley remarked, "for those of you who don't read the Bible, you should read it, even if you don't believe it."
Prayer and worship did not end with the service at St. John's. The swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the capitol featured an invocation by Mylie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil-rights leader Medgar Evers, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," and a benediction by the Rev. Luis Leon.
The swearing-in ceremony was followed by a parade that followed Obama's motorcade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
Zachariah Bradford traveled with his mom, Janet Salters, from Atlanta to attend the Inauguration and watch the parade. "It's history, the first African-American president," Zachariah told The Christian Post, "It was real fun. I met a lot of people. ... I met people from everywhere. ... people I just met today and it seemed like I had known them forever."
The day concluded with a set of large balls. About 40,000 people reportedly attended the Commander-in-Chief Ball and the Inaugural Ball.
Reporters were cordoned off at the Inaugural Ball but were allowed to interview some of the attendees with an escort. Attendees who swam too close to the media pool were occasionally reeled in for an interview.
Ebrahim Adjei flew all the way from Ghana to attend the event. He received an invitation after working on the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012. "I just really felt that America has a strong opportunity to add value to its democracy and world democracy," Adjei told The Christian Post.
Besides Obama's speech, Adjei said the most exciting part of his day was meeting CNN's Piers Morgan.
At The Inaugural Ball, guests were treated to music from Alicia Keys, Maná, Brad Paisley and Fun. Keys changed the lyrics of her song "Girl on Fire" to "Obama's on fire."
"He's president and he's on fire," Keys belted out to cheers from the audience.
Paisley joked that the celebration reminded him of the time he was elected president of the 4-H Club.
In "Southern Comfort Zone," Paisley sang about some of the stereotypes of liberal Democrats.
"Not everybody drives a truck, not everybody drinks sweet tea
Not everybody owns a gun, wears a ball cap boots and jeans
Not everybody goes to church or watches every Nascar race
Not everybody knows the words to 'Ring Of Fire' or 'Amazing Grace."
Inauguration Day also fell on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Paisley also sang, "Welcome to the Future," a song that denounces racism and mentions King in the lyrics.
"How many of you are drunk?" Paisley joked.
"You don't get drunk with a cash bar," a tall, elderly black gentleman leaned over and told this reporter while laughing. "That's the difference between Democrats and Republicans."
The combination of reverence and celebration will continue through Tuesday. The National Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral takes place Tuesday morning and the Staff Inaugural Ball will be held Tuesday evening.