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Obamas, Bidens attend national prayer service

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama began the first full workday of his second term with a rousing, spiritual appeal for unity and strength from church leaders of different faiths.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were joined by their wives yesterday in the Washington National Cathedral for the traditional post-inaugural national prayer service. There were prayers for those who govern, those in the armed forces and the nation as a whole.

For Obama and Biden: "Make them bold for the work you have set before them," said Kathryn Lohre, president of the National Council of Churches.

And "when you feel your lowest, don't give up," the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., told the president in an engaging sermon that drew laughter and applause among the 2,200 people gathered in the soaring cathedral.

Hamilton said the nation, its leaders and people need to rise above their differences and find common ground -- a national vision that unifies the country.

He said Obama has been blessed with a unique vision. "You should have been a preacher," Hamilton told the president.

The Washington Performing Arts Society's children's choir sang "Determined to Go On" to delighted guests as Obama and first lady Michelle Obama bobbed their heads along with the music.

A range of faiths was represented among speakers at the cathedral service, including the Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner, co-chairwoman of the National African American Clergy Network; Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly; Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America, and the Rev. Nancy Wilson, leader of the Metropolitan Community Churches -- a denomination founded as a spiritual refuge for gay Christians.

The 106-year-old Episcopal cathedral has long hosted presidential inaugural services. It was also the site of funerals for former presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his last sermon there in 1968.

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