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updated 12/27/2010 3:46:53 PM ET 2010-12-27T20:46:53

President Barack Obama and his family took a break from their Hawaiian vacation to attend Sunday church services, a rare occurrence for a president who prefers to worship in private.

The first family arrived at a chapel at Marine Corps Base Hawaii mid-morning for a multi-denominational service. The Obamas were greeted by about 100 clapping parishioners and a band playing "Joy to the World" as they were led to their seats in the front row.

Story: Obamas visit Marines, families at Hawaii base
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In his sermon, chaplain Steve Moses asked worshippers to recommit to God in the new year. He also joked that the reason God put him through a heart surgery was so he wouldn't suffer a heart attack while preaching before the president.

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Obama was the first worshipper to take communion, dipping the wafer in wine before placing it in his mouth.

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Though Obama speaks frequently about his Christian faith, his family rarely attends church services in Washington. The White House says the president hasn't joined a parish because his appearances would be disruptive to the rest of the congregation, though he does attend private services when he spends weekends at Camp David, the presidential retreat.

Obama last attended church in September, shortly after a poll was released indicating that a majority of Americans had doubts about the president's religious beliefs.

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During the hourlong service, Obama and the other churchgoers sang along to a youth band playing Christmas carols such as "Silent Night" and "Oh Holy Night."

After church, Obama went golfing on the Marine base despite sporadic light rain.

The president and Mrs. Obama also extended wishes to people celebrating Kwanzaa. "The seven principles of Kwanzaa — unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith — are some of the very values that make us Americans," the Obamas said in a statement issued by the White House.

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Video: Obama’s working vacation in Hawaii

  1. Closed captioning of: Obama’s working vacation in Hawaii

    >>> our eye on laguardia, waiting for them to give us an update about when we'll see planes taking off and landing. for now it looks like families are stranded in new york. if they've spent their vacation here. and the ones not stranded here are stranded somewhere else trying to get back in. none of the airports are hosting flights in and out as of right now, but we'll keep our eye on it.

    >>> terrorism has been a topic of briefings president obama received during his working vacation with his family in hawaii . mike viqueira is traveling with the president in hawaii . bring me up to date on what the president is dealing with out there in hawaii .

    >> i almost feel guilty about being here.

    >> i'm sure you do.

    >> the president has been relatively low key . he spends most of his time when he leaves his vacation home on the other side of this island where he grew up, spent most of his childhood. when he leaves he does his activities on a marine corps base. he's at the the gim at this very moment. yesterday the first family attended services on the base. yesterday the president braved some showers up here. start the world's smallest violin about the weatheren, and played some golf. his aides have conducted a couple of conference calls about the situation, the homeland security situation, more or less keeping abreast of any updates and the plans that they have in place, should something go awrite. and thank god that's not been the case now on top of everything else that people are dealing with on the mainland. yesterday after the second of those calls, the president was briefed by his top aides, got an update. he made a call to the saudi king who happened to be this in a new york hospital, have been what are described as two successful back surgeries. we don't see a lot of taillights. the president is determined to be very low key , maintain a low profile here.

    >> you get to go into these places and hold strange babies. nobody thinks anything of it. when i ask strangers if i can hold their babies, they look at me as if i've done something wrong.

    >> yeah. i've noticed you had a couple of restraining orders.

    >> that's not true, mike. don't mislead folks at home. thank you, mike viqueira. see you soon.

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