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Obama dominates 'King Sunday' at black churches

world Updated: Jan 19, 2009 14:43 IST

The third Sunday in January, known as "King Sunday" in Atlanta after the Rev Martin Luther King Jr, easily could have been called "Obama Sunday" this year.

King's words again filled the pews and pulpits at black churches across the country on the eve of the federal observance of what would have been his 80th birthday. Only this time, they found new weight with Barack Obama's pending inauguration as the nation's first black president.

Many black preachers touted the moment -- the federal observance of King's birthday falls on the eve of the inauguration -- as a mark of America's progress toward a racially just society. Black worshippers sang "We Shall Overcome" and prayed to protect Obama's family and to help the country follow Obama's leadership.

At Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached from 1960 until his death in 1968, the Rev Raphael G Warnock was met with applause as he praised Obama's victory and imminent swearing-in.

"Praise the Lord as we look forward to Tuesday," Warnock said.

"We ought to all celebrate this morning ... That we've moved closer to who we say we are."

In Chicago, the Salem Baptist Church rocked as hundreds of members clapped, danced and sang to a rousing 10-minute rendition of "We Shall Overcome."

The Rev James Meeks, also an Illinois state senator, offered a prayer for Obama's upcoming inauguration.

"We thank you for how far you've brought black America," he said.