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Churches across America react to Obama election

Jubilation, pride and relief permeated pews and pulpits at predominantly black churches across the country on the first Sunday after Barack Obama's election.

"God has vindicated the black folk," the Rev. Shirley Caesar-Williams said at her Raleigh, N.C., congregation, Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church.

"Too long we've been at the bottom of the totem pole, but he has vindicated us, hallelujah," the Grammy-winning gospel singer cried.

In Harlem, Obama buttons and T-shirts were as prevalent in the pews as colorful plumed hats at Abyssinian Baptist Church.

At Hungary Road Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., the former capital of the Confederacy, a girl held a newspaper with a photo of Obama and the headline, "Mr. President."

At Los Angeles' oldest black church, First AME, people wept openly at the fall of the nation's last great racial barrier.

On the day that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. famously called "the most segregated day of the week," black and white Christian clergy members asked God to give Obama the wisdom and strength to lead the country out of what many consider a wilderness of despair and gloom.

At a white church in Jackson, Miss., where roughly nine in 10 whites voted for Republican John McCain, the scene was more muted.

While the Rev. David W. Carroll of the Alta Woods United Methodist Church recognized Obama's election as a "historic shift," he spent just as much time praising McCain's patriotism in defeat.

"As the crowd began to boo a little bit ... he quieted them down and said, 'Now is not my time, but I'm an American first and I will serve the president-elect,'" he said. "In a loss, he showed us still how he could win through his service."

In his Web message last week, the Rev. Gregg Matte of Houston's mostly white First Baptist Church wrote: "Today, Hollywood is our pastor, technology is our Bible, charisma is our value and Barack Obama is our President."

But from the pulpit Sunday, Matte asked the 1,000 or so mostly white faces staring back at him to "lift up President-elect Obama" even if he wasn't their choice on Tuesday.

"Regardless of whether you voted for him or not, he's now our president come Jan. 20," he said. "So we're going to come behind him and pray for him and pray for wisdom, that God will give him wisdom and be able to really speak to his heart."