WASHINGTON - Members of Congress participated in a bipartisan prayer service at Capitol Hill United Methodist Church on Jan. 7, shortly before being sworn in at the Capitol nearby. Hundreds of congressional members participated in the service, including Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the incoming minority leader, and DeLay (R-Texas) read from the New Testament. Other members of the new 108th Congress prayed, sang hymns and read scripture at the 9 a.m. ecumenical service. Of the 535 members of Congress, including the Senate, 61 are United Methodists. This makes them the third-largest denomination among senators and representatives, behind the Romans Catholics and the Baptists.
The pastor of Capitol Hill United Methodist Church, the Rev. Douglas Fox, gave the service together with House chaplain Daniel P. Coughlin and Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff. Coughlin provided the opening prayer, while Resnicoff gave the benediction. Church music director Jon Kalbfleisch played the organ during the service.
Providing his viewpoint on the service, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) quipped that despite the advances in communication technology, one of America's best ways to communicate is to "pick up the hotline to God and pray."
House Speaker Hastert (R-Ill.), who led the Lord's Prayer, joined members in asking for prayers for peace and for God's blessings on President Bush and Congress.
Several congressional members overcame cold weather and wind to walk the five blocks between the U.S. Capitol and the church, to attend the service.
The service noticeably brightened those who attended, even spurring someone from the crowd to comment, "We should do this everyday, not just swearing-in day."
By Tony L.