WASHINGTON -- The Rev. Sharon E. Watkins warned President Barack Obama on today that his new job will tend to draw him away from his ethical center.
"But we, the nation that you serve, need you to hold the ground of your deepest values, of our deepest values," the Indianapolis native said at the National Prayer Service as Obama listened with his chin resting in his hand. "We need you to stay focused on our shared hopes so that we can continue to hope, too."
Watkins, the first woman to deliver the sermon at the prayer service that concludes several days of inaugural events, preached a message that drew inspiration from Cherokee wisdom, the Christian Bible, the wisdom of Muslim scholars, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi.
The ecumenical flavor of Watkins' sermon carried through the service, which concluded with prayers given by six religious leaders chosen to "symbolize America's traditions of religious tolerance and freedom."
"May we be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations," prayed Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Plainfield-based Islamic Society of North America. "We pray to you, oh God, saying keep this nation under your care."
Watkins, who is also the first woman to lead the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) whose general officers are in Indianapolis, was among a group of faith leaders who met Obama last summer in Chicago. She offered the closing prayer at the meeting, which likely brought her to Obama's attention.