CHICAGO, Jan. 22 (AP) - The Rev. Jesse Jackson -- who last week said he would suspend his public activism indefinitely -- has appeared in public for the first time since acknowledging he fathered a child in an extramarital affair, reassuring supporters that he will carry on his civil rights work.

Jackson, speaking briefly to worshippers Sunday at Salem Baptist Church on the city's far South Side, saved his most personal comments for his wife, Jackie, sitting at the front of the sanctuary.

``After 38 years and five children later, Jackie, we're still here,'' said Jackson, who is a minister affiliated with the Progressive National Bapist Convention. ``I love you so much.''

The congregation stood and burst into applause.

Jackson said he supporters have made it clear they want him to continue at the helm of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Jackson plans to attend a luncheon in Chicago in his honor on Monday and later in the week attend an economic conference that Rainbow/PUSH hosts annually in New York.

``Yesterday, the winds shifted, so it's a new stage in our challenge,'' Jackson told the congregation, referring to President Bush's inauguration.

The 59-year-old Jackson, who had been in seclusion since acknowledging the affair four days ago, told The Associated Press Saturday that he would return to the civil rights stage this week. He reiterated that Sunday.

``We know that our mandate is to go forward,'' he said in a brief statement after the service. He did not take questions.

Salem Baptist's pastor, the Rev. James Meeks, also the executive vice president of Rainbow/PUSH, told Jackson that the coalition needed his leadership.

``Reverend, we want you to know something today: Not only do we love you, not only do we care for you ... we can't afford to lose you,'' Meeks said.

The overflow crowd filled a gymnasium next door and watched the service on closed-circuit television.

``It's not what we as people think, it's what God thinks,'' said parishioner Theresa Moss, 40. ``Only God knows his heart.''

``We stand behind him,'' added Irma Hamilton, 71. ``He is a great leader no matter what.''

Jackson has said he will not discuss his daughter, now 20 months old, or her mother, Karin Stanford, the former head of Rainbow/PUSH's Washington office. Stanford and her daughter now live in Los Angeles.

Leaders of Rainbow/PUSH have acknowledged that the civil rights organization paid $35,000 in ``severance pay'' to Stanford. John Scanlon, a spokesman for Jackson, said that included $15,000 in moving expenses and $20,000 for work Stanford was contracted to perform for the organization. He said Stanford has received no money from Rainbow/PUSH since August 1999, when that work was completed.

Jackson personally pays Stanford $3,000 a month in child support, he said.

Meeks and Jackson have questioned the timing of the tabloid accounts of Jackson's situation that prompted him to acknowledge his daughter's existence. They have suggested it was an attempt to keep Jackson from leading a march in Florida on Saturday to protest alleged voting irregularities during the presidential election. Jackson did not attend the march.

Jackson's quick return to public life came despite statements he made when he acknowledged the situation last week that he would take an indefinite hiatus from his public activities.

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