FAITH leaders from across the United States came together online on Thursday to pray for President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris on their first full day in office.
A service organised by Washington National Cathedral featured leaders from a variety of Christian denominations, as well as Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and Mormon leaders, and the president of the Navajo nation.
The service was introduced by the Bishop of Washington, the Rt Revd Mariann Budde. She welcomed “all who seek the common good for the United States of America and for the world, as we mark once again the transition of political leadership and look toward the future with resolve and hope”.
The prayer service for a new administration is a tradition that predates the Cathedral, beginning with the inauguration of President George Washington. This year, because of Covid-19, the service was streamed online. The President and Vice-President and their families were shown watching on screens in the White House.
Those praying called for a “shower of blessings on the President and Vice-President” and for “sanction for their mission to bring healing and reconciliation and peace to our land . . . so that all Americans can have confidence their rights as citizens will always be defended and protected”.
Bishop William T. Barber, a Disciples of Christ pastor, civil-rights activist and anti-poverty campaigner, preached on “repairing the breach” in the country after the divisive election and the storming of the US Capitol on 6 January.
He warned: “We are in a jam today. Trouble is real, and whether we like it or not, we are in this mess together as a nation.”
He called on the President to remember his own “breach”: growing up in economic hardship, and the “breach of a broken heart” caused by the loss of his son and first wife. And he called on the Vice-President to remember the “breach caused by racism” she had felt as a child growing up.
“Both of you know the only way forward is for the breaches to be repaired. This moment in our Union is not about left or right or centrist; it should not be about Democrat or Republican. Even what we saw in the Capitol two weeks ago is the result of a long history of politics of division. . .
“If we want to come out of this jam and move forward together, we cannot accept racial disparities and racial violence and breaches that impact black, brown, native, and Asian Americans while offering collateral damage to our poor white brothers and sisters, and ultimately our entire democracy.”
He listed “every human being created by God, documented or undocumented, gay, straight or trans, young or old” and prayed: “What a day it will be when our children’s children call us what you have called us to be, repairers of the breach. Amen.”
The US Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Michael Curry, gave a blessing at the end of the hour-long service: “Be strong and of good courage, hold fast to that which is good. Render to no one evil for evil, but love the Lord your God, love your neighbour, love yourself.”