Washington, D.C. – Over two thousand people joined Barack Obama and Joseph Biden for an interfaith inaugural service this morning at the Washington National Cathedral, which united the nation’s religions in prayer for the Obama administration.
Attorney General Eric Holder, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer were all stated to be in attendance.
The service included a variety of guests from a number of religions, who presented Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Sikh and Jewish prayers for the president. Islamic Society of North America President Mohamed Magid delivered an invocation asking that Obama would have “discernment and the self-control necessary to our time,” a Sikh representative asked that all men would have “concern for our neighbors,” and a Catholic layman spoke of the need for interdependence in America.
“Transform the jangling discourse of our nation into a beautiful symphony of the human family,” prayed Raphael Warnock of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. once pastored. “And through us may the earth and all of the families of the earth be blessed.”
Many of the guests who prayed or spoke were also women ministers. Barbara Williams-Skinner from the National African American Clergy Network appeared at the event, as well as Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church offered prayers, and Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of Washington, also made an appearance in welcoming attendees.
As previously reported, one of the keynote speakers for the event was Adam Hamilton of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, the largest megachurch within its denomination. Hamilton, who is known as being the author of the book Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality and Politics, delivered a message about finding common ground and working together.
“Over the last two weeks, I’ve been praying a lot. ‘God, what would you have me to say to these remarkable people? And the first thing I felt God wanted me to say to you was simply, thank you. Thank you,” he began. “[Some people] really want to make a difference; they really want to change the world for the better. I believe that represents you and all the people in your administration, and the leadership of our country.”
Hamilton continued by speaking on the life of Moses, whom he called the “great emancipator,” in light of 2013 marking the 150th year since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. He stated that people must be humble like Moses, find a common vision and work together.
“You should’ve been a preacher,” Hamilton remarked to Obama, evoking laughter.
“God actually has you exactly where God wants you,” he later added. “And yesterday you began to lay out a vision for us in your inaugural address that was very powerful and compelling.”
In addition to Hamilton and the other featured guests, the Washington Performing Arts Society’s children’s choir sang “Determined to Go On” for those present.
This morning’s service was the third that Obama has attended in the past three days. Yesterday, prior to the inaugural service, he attended St. John’s Episcopal across from the White House. Among the guests at the service included Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
“Honored to be at church with President Obama this morning,” she Tweeted yesterday morning.
During Monday’s pre-inaugural service, Andy Stanley, son of well-known Baptist preacher Charles Stanley and megachurch pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, delivered a message in which he reportedly told Obama that he should be called the “pastor-in-chief.”
“Mr. President, you have an awfully big room,” he said. “My prayer to you is to leverage that power for the stewardship of our nation.”
Services at Washington National Cathedral following inaugural ceremonies have been a long-held American tradition, spanning 106 years. Earlier this month, the Episcopalian Cathedral announced that it would begin hosting same-sex ceremonies for homosexual couples.