PCUSA to hold worship services on Capitol Hill for Congress, staff

The U.S. Capitol dome and U.S. Senate in Washington. | (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Presbyterian Church (USA) recently announced that it will be holding devotional services on Capitol Hill with the intention of building relationships with members of Congress and staff.

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the PC(USA) Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Office of Public Witness, told The Christian Post in an interview on Thursday that the inspiration for the services came from The Episcopal Church.

“About a year ago, when the seed was planted by the knowledge that the Episcopalians were doing a quarterly service,” explained Hawkins. “It is an opportunity for members of Congress to begin the month in worship and prayer in a nonpartisan worship setting.”

The format for the service, according to Hawkins, will be a 30-minute service of worship with prayers and a brief sermon, followed by a time of socializing among attendees. All are welcomed regardless of religious affiliation.

The PC(USA) agency will begin holding the services in September.

There are 26 members of Congress who belong to the PC(USA), equally split between 13 in the House of Representatives and 13 in the Senate, explained Hawkins in an interview with Presbyterian News Service.

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, speaks at Compassion, Peace & Justice Training Day at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C. on April 5, 2019. | Presbyterian News Service/Rich Copley

“It’s really relationship building,” Hawkins told PNS. “We want people in Congress to get to know us and see us as a trusted entity.”

For years, many ministries have centered on fulfilling the spiritual needs of Capitol Hill personnel and federal elected officials, as well as building connections.

For example, the nonprofit Faith & Law holds lectures and other events for congressional staff about applying a Christian worldview to public policy work.

The Fellowship Foundation, a group founded by Norwegian-born Methodist minister Abraham Vereide, helps to oversee weekly prayer groups for both houses of Congress, assisting in the widely watched annual National Prayer Breakfast.

Progressivecritics of the Fellowship have accused it of, among other things, trying to influence political leaders to embrace their brand of conservative Christian thinking.

When asked by CP about possible church and state separation complaints, Hawkins replied, stating that “Congress has resolved this issue by having both a House and a Senate chaplain.”

“The House of Representatives chaplain begins each day’s proceedings with a word of prayer and has a web page, ‘Office of the Chaplain’ which lists an Opening Prayer,” he noted.

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