This morning, I joined Shelley Moskowitz of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) in attending the 111th Congress Bipartisan Interfaith Prayer Service at the Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church. For many members of Congress, the prayer service is time of reflection and centering before taking the oath of office.
Prior to the service Shelley introduced me to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, whom she has known for twenty years when they were both working towards peace and justice in Central America. It was a great honor.
The service appropriately began with the hymn My Country ‘Tis of Thee, followed by Republican and Democratic Members of Congress reading from the Qur’an, Hebrew Bible, and New Testament. Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) offered the first reflection on the story of the Good Samaritan. He called upon his colleagues to put aside their differences, get off their high horses, as did the Samaritan, and remember their obligations to their constituents, especially the least among them.
Rep. John Boehner, the House Minority Leader, offered a Litany of Intercessions, which included a call for peace on earth and an end to violence, words that had deep meaning for me as I thought of the violence in Israel and Gaza. The Lord’s Prayer was then recited in Spanish by Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX).
Rep. Nancy Pelosi offered the final reflection on the story of the loaves and the fishes. She affirmed the miraculous nature of Jesus the Shepherd feeding 5,000 people, not counting women and children, with five loaves and two fish. But she added a belief that the miracle alone did not feed all gathered; the miracle itself was multiplied as it inspired others within the crowd to produce and share what little they had as well. Her interpretation was poignant in this time of economic turmoil.
It was a poignant service, moving many to the verge of tears. In the middle of the service, a soprano, Andrea Trusty, sang a soulful version of Let There Be Peace on Earth. When she finished, Shelley leaned toward me and said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if they opened each day with that song?”
With the Representatives gathered facing an economic crisis, war in the Middle East, and global climate change, I got the sense that they wouldn’t mind that at all. The 111th Congress has huge challenges to face; inspiration and prayer is needed. Let us remember that in the months ahead.