ATLANTA (AP) — President Joe Biden A historical pilgrimage was made Sunday “America’s freedom church” Mark Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, saying democracy was at a perilous moment and that the civil rights leader’s life and legacy “show us the way and we should pay attention.”

As the first sitting president to deliver a Sunday morning sermon at King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, Biden The telling question King once asked about the nation was cited by the author.

“He said, ‘Where do we go from here?’” Biden From the pulpit. ”Well, my message to this nation on this day is we go forward, we go together, when we choose democracy over autocracy, a beloved community over chaos, when we choose believers and the dreams, to be doers, to be unafraid, always keeping the faith.”

Two years ago, a civil war erupted in a country that was already divided. Biden Messaged congregants, elected officials, and dignitaries “the battle for the soul of this nation is perennial. It’s a constant struggle … between hope and fear, kindness and cruelty, justice and injustice.”

He spoke up against all those who would do this. “traffic in racism, extremism, insurrection” He stated that democracy is being challenged in all forms, including protests, courthouses, ballot boxes, and elsewhere. ”At our best, the American promise wins out. … But I don’t need to tell you that we’re not always at our best. We’re fallible. We fail and fall.’’

At a crucial moment, Ebenezer was stopped. Biden After Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday the appointment of a special counsel To investigate the handling of classified documents by the president after he left the vice presidency in 2017. The White House on Saturday It was revealed that more classified records had been found Biden’s home near Wilmington, Delaware.

When introducing Biden, the church’s senior pastor, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock noted that the president was “a devout Catholic” For whom “this Baptist service might be a little bit rambunctious and animated. But I saw him over there clapping his hands.”

King, “the greatest American prophet of the 20th century,” Warnock said that Warnock served as copastor during 1960 to 1968.

Warnock was like so many other Democrats from battleground states who were reelected in 2022. kept his distance during the campaign from Biden as the president’s approval rating lagged and the inflation rate climbed.

Warnock was able to embrace the six-year terms ahead of him, despite having lost his election. Biden At the service. At the service’s close, he asked Biden to come to the front of the church and asked Ebenezer’s congregants to pray for the president as he listed several of Biden’s legislative achievements.

“That, my friends, is God’s work,” Warnock said, “Additionally,” Biden “had a little something to do with it.”

As Biden Georgia, the expected 2024 reelection attempt for which he is now focusing his attention, will be getting a lot more of his attention.

In 2020 Biden Georgia was won, as well as close-contested Michigan and Pennsylvania. Black voters made up a large portion of the Democratic electorate. It will be crucial to turn out Black voters from these states. Biden’s 2024 hopes.

The White House tried to encourage Biden’s agenda in minority communities. White House mentioned efforts to promote states to take equity into account for public works projects as they spend money from the administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Also, the administration has taken action to stop sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offensesThe removal of a widely racist policy.

Also, the administration highlights Biden’s work to diversify the federal judiciary, including his appointment of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court and the confirmation of 11 Black women judges to federal appeals courts — more than those installed to those powerful courts under all previous presidents combined.

Biden’s failure to win passage of a measure that would have bolstered voting right protectionsHis biggest failure in the first two years of office was his refusal to fulfill a key campaign promise. This task becomes even harder now that Republicans hold the House.

He stated in his remarks that the United States had made great progress, but now the country was at a crossroads. He noted that democracies are susceptible to falling apart, and cited the fall of democratic institutions in Brazil.

“Progress is never easy, but it’s always possible and things do get better in our march to a more perfect union,” He stated. “But at this inflection point, we know a lot of work that has to continue on economic justice civil rights, voting rights, protecting our democracy. And I’m remembering our job is to redeem the soul of America.”

He said: “is the time of choosing. … Are we a people who will choose democracy over autocracy? Couldn’t ask that question 15 years ago because everybody thought democracy was settled. … But it’s not.” Americans, he said, ” have to choose a community over chaos. … These are the vital questions of our time and the reason why I’m here as your president. I believe Dr. King’s life and legacy show us the way and we should pay attention.”

King was 39 years old when he was murdered. King helped to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1963 and Voting Rights Act of 1966. Members of King’s family attended the service, including his 95-year-old sister, Christine King Farris.

“I’ve spoken before parliaments, kings, queens, leaders of the world … but this is intimidating,” Biden he said at the beginning of his sermon.

The president plans to be in Washington on Monday to speak at the National Action Network’s annual breakfast on the King holiday.

Bill Barrow from the Associated Press in Atlanta contributed to this article.

This story has been updated to reflect that Christine King Ferris is Martin Luther King Jr.’s sister