Inaugural Prayer Service Pastor: America Needs a 'Compelling Vision'

WASHINGTON – An influential United Methodist pastor who delivered the sermon at the 57th Inaugural Prayer Service stated in his message that America needs a "compelling vision" that unites the country in a time of strong political partisanship.

Adam Hamilton, author and senior pastor at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., said on Tuesday morning to those gathered at the Washington National Cathedral, including President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden:

"To many Americans we can feel like a house divided that cannot stand," said Hamilton, regarding the apparent intractability of the current political climate at the federal level and the desperation to find a "common vision….that brings us all together."

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Hamilton focused much of his sermon on the attributes of good leadership, using the story of Moses and the Exodus as his example. Hamilton said that there were three attributes of good leadership as seen through Moses: humility and compassion for the weak, having a compelling vision, and never giving up.

While noting the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Hamilton said he opted to focus on Moses, as he was a great Emancipator in his own right. According to pastor, Moses had a strong concern for the "marginalized and oppressed" even though he was brought up "with everything that he could possibly want." He went on to say that God wants "every King, every Rabbi" to "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves" and for them to have "compassion for the least of these."

Hamilton was one of many religious leaders present and involved in the Inaugural Prayer Service, a spiritual celebration of the presidential inauguration that goes back to George Washington.

Held at the Washington National Cathedral, clerics and leaders from various Christian denominations, as well as from Sikhism, Islam, and Judaism, led the many gathered through liturgy, music, and words of prayer.

The interfaith service included a Muslim call to prayer or Adhaan, the Sh'ma Yisrael, and readings from the Bible. Attendees also sang classic Christian hymns like "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness."

The official welcome (done in both English and Spanish) was given by The Right Reverend Mariann Edgart Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and The Very Reverend Gary Hall, dean of the National Cathedral.

Other notable religious leaders present included the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church; Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C.; Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America; and the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.

While the prayers and liturgy were written out in the programs provided, at times, clergy involved in the delivery of these words deviated from the written text. For example, when reciting the text for "A Prayer for the Day," Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner invoked Jesus' name instead of "your holy Name," and during the "First Reading," Reverend Elder Nancy L. Wilson of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches substituted the "He" and "Him" of the passage from Isaiah with gender-neutral terms to describe God.

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