As massive crowds swarmed the National Mall to witness Barack Obama's inauguration as president, the man at the center of the maelstrom began the day with his wife at a private service at St. John’s Episcopal Church across the street from the White House, a tradition for those about to become president. The family of Joe Biden also attended. Barack and Michelle Obama, the latter clad in an Isabel Toledo dress and coat, waved to bystanders, then entered the church to applause from about 200 people.
The choir and congregation began singing the hymn "O God Our Help in Ages Past." The Rev. Luis Leon welcomed the Obamas and said every president since James Madison has worshiped at the church at least once, "some of them kicking and screaming." Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr, of Los Angeles, drew chuckles when he blessed the Obamas and asked that "they may finish these two terms in office" stronger than they are now.