Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will offer the closing prayer at a National Prayer Service set for January 21 at Washington National Cathedral. President Barack Obama and his family are scheduled to attend the invitation-only service.
The Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral, will welcome attendees to the event, followed by an invocation from Diocese of Washington Bishop John Chane.
The 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee announced on January 16 the spiritual leaders who will participate in the service, which is a tradition dating back to the inauguration of George Washington and is considered the conclusion of the official inaugural events.
The prayer service, set to begin at 10 a.m. EST, will be broadcast live on the cathedral's website. Online participants can light "virtual" candles and leave personal messages of hope, renewal, and reconciliation at the website. Online visitors can also access an historic presidential photo gallery, view video footage of the national prayer service, and explore the role of this "church for national purposes" throughout the years, according to a news release from the cathedral.
The service will include scripture readings, prayers (including those for civic leaders and the nation), hymns and blessings delivered by faith leaders from across the United States. The Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will deliver the sermon, the first time a woman has preached at the service.
"President-elect Obama's faith is a central part of his life and he will begin the first full day of his Administration with a service of interfaith prayer and reflection," presidential inaugural committee communications director Josh Earnest said in the committee's news release. "The National Prayer Service, which will embody the themes of tolerance, unity and understanding, is a worship service for all Americans."
The Rev. Otis Moss Jr., senior pastor emeritus at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, will provide the opening prayer, followed by a prayer for civil leaders delivered by the Rev. Andy Stanley, senior pastor, North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, Georgia.
Scripture readings will be provided by Dr. Cynthia Hale, senior pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Atlanta, Georgia as well as Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, New York City, and the Most Rev. Francisco Gonzalez, S.F., auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Washington. Rabbi David Saperstein, executive director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Washington, D.C., has been asked to read the psalm.
Responsive prayers will be given by:
- Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president, Islamic Society of North America, Hartford, Connecticut;
- The Rev. Suzan Johnson-Cook, senior pastor, Bronx Christian Fellowship, New York City
- Rabbi Jerome Epstein, director, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, New York City
- The Rev. Carol Wade, canon precentor of the Washington National Cathedral;
- Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president, Hindu Temple Society of North America, New York City;
- Jim Wallis, president, Sojourners, Washington, D.C.;
- Rabbi Haskal Lookstein, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurunm, New York City;
- Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor, Windsor Village United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas
Roman Catholic Diocese of Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl will help conclude the service with a prayer for the nation, followed by Jefferts Schori's closing prayer and a benediction by the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America.
The first inauguration of George Washington in 1789 in New York City was shaped largely by a Congressional resolution that relied heavily on the English coronation ceremony, according to information on the cathedral's website. It required that, following the oath of office in front of Federal Hall on Wall Street, the Senate and House walk a short distance to St. Paul's Chapel on Broadway to hear "divine service" by the chaplain of Congress, Bishop Samuel Provoost. He acted in a role similar to that of the Archbishop of Canterbury at English coronation services.
-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.