The Rev. Jeremiah Wright,President Barack Obama's former pastor, speaks at Carter Tabernacle CME Church's annual homecoming celebration Sunday.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of President Barack Obama, and Pastor Emeritus at Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago speaks at Carter Tabernacle CME Church's annual homecoming celebration, where the church will celebrate 94 years of service to the city of Orlando on Sunday, January 10, 2010. (CASSI ALEXANDRA, SPECIAL TO THE ORLANDO SENTINEL / January 9, 2010)

A man that many know only as a controversial pastor linked to President Barack Obama came to speak at an Orlando church Sunday.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., Obama's former pastor, was in town to celebrate the 94th anniversary of Carter Tabernacle Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

The Chicago preacher sparked a media firestorm during the 2008 elections when controversial excerpts from his sermons received national attention.

Some who attended the anniversary celebration said they appreciated the chance to see Wright in person.

"People could actually see him as the preacher, as opposed to the negative celebrity," said Adrienne Perry, a member of the church, who found Wright to be a gifted communicator. "I could see why he was the senior pastor for all the years in Chicago."

Wright's sermon focused on the protection that God provides, as he shared family stories and Scripture with hundreds of worshippers.

"What you can't see is you are not alone," he said. "The struggle didn't start with you, and the struggle will not end with you."

The politically minded pastor peppered his preaching with criticism of the Iraq war and President George W. Bush's handling of foreign policy. He also encouraged the African-American community to embrace its history.

"So many of our young people know so very little about what our older people had to live through," he said. "Back in the days when black folk couldn't vote — and now we've got black people who won't vote."

Wright is the former pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, where Obama was a longtime member. Obama resigned from the church in mid-2008 after inflammatory remarks by Wright and a guest minister — remarks Obama called divisive.

People attending Wright's appearance in Orlando said they thought his sermon was relevant.

"It's always a blessing to be reminded that we're not alone, that God is always with us," said Brenda Springs, who was visiting from another church. "It was a blessing for each one of us."

Ronald Rogers, local president of the 100 Black Men organization, said the sermon has motivated him to continue to work in the community.

"He gave a message that focused on what we really need to do," Rogers said. "And he gave three points that were germane to everybody's life: That you are not alone in this life, God is at work on your behalf, and you have nothing to be afraid of on this journey."

Sara K. Clarke can be reached at skclarke@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5664.