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Service reflects Obama call for inclusion

  • Article by: MICHELLE BOORSTEIN
  • Washington Post
  • January 22, 2013 - 8:50 PM

WASHINGTON - About 2,200 guests filled the Washington National Cathedral on Tuesday morning for the inaugural prayer service, a tradition as old as the country itself.

The service is meant to provide a spiritual boost to the newly sworn-in president. Prominent national clergy from the Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh traditions offered prayers for Obama, who was accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden.

A leader from the Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian denomination that focuses on outreach to gays and lesbians, was among the speakers at the service this year for the first time, a moment of inclusion that echoed Obama's outreach to gay Americans in Monday's inaugural address.

"The reason we come together to pray is because we want the best for our country," said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of the Washington Catholic archdiocese, as he entered the cathedral. "We pray for our president, we pray for our vice president. We pray for our leaders as we move forward."

After the drama and pomp of the inaugural service and the let-loose vibe of Monday night's inaugural balls, the prayer service -- even in the cavernous Gothic cathedral -- had a more intimate feel, with clergy standing at a one-person, elevated altar, speaking and looking directly at the president as they prayed on his behalf.

The most prominent spot on the program belonged to sermon-giver the Rev. Adam Hamilton, leader of a 16,000-member Methodist church in Kansas and whose most popular writings focus on how to take a middle road in relationships, politics and when confronting spiritual doubt.

Among the political heavyweights at the service were Attorney General Eric Holder, Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Even though the cathedral is an Episcopal church, its vantage point on a Washington hilltop and its dramatic design have made it a symbolic house of worship for many all-community events.

© 2014 Star Tribune