CHICAGO: The presidential inaugural committee has announced that a Hindu priest will be among the spiritual leaders who will participate in the national prayer service to be held on January 21, the day following the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.
The national prayer service, a tradition dating back to the inauguration of George Washington, will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington DC at the conclusion of the inaugural activities. The service will include scripture readings, prayers, hymns and blessings delivered by faith leaders from across the United States.
"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," said Presidential Inaugural Committee Communications director Josh Earnest. "The National Prayer Service, which will embody the themes of tolerance, unity and understanding, is a worship service for all Americans."
The national prayer service will include a traditional prayer for civil leaders, a prayer for the nation, a selection by the Washington, DC-based Children of the Gospel Children's Choir, and, for the first time, feature a sermon delivered by a woman.
The prayers by the following eight spiritual leaders will symbolize America's traditions of religious tolerance and freedom, according to the committee:
Dr. Ingrid Mattson, President, Islamic Society of North America, Hartford, CT
Rev. Suzan Johnson-Cook, Senior Pastor, Bronx Christian Fellowship, New York City
Rabbi Jerome Epstein, Director, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, New York City
Rev. Carol Wade of the Washington National Cathedral
Dr. Uma Mysorekar, President, Hindu Temple Society of North America, New York City
Rev. 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, TX
Obama is known to carry a tiny figure of Hanuman and Madonna and child in his pocket, reportedly for good luck.