Jewish Journal

Pray first, then save the world

by Brad A. Greenberg

January 21, 2009 | 2:13 pm

The party is over, and now it’s time for President Barack Obama to get started on saving the world—or at least let us know he never was the Messiah. He started today, his first full-day of presidential work, with one last inaugural festivity:

The Obamas, the Bidens and the Clintons are sitting together in the front pew in a prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral, a post-inaugural tradition that began with President George Washington.

But some new traditions are being made here too. The service features no less than 20 interfaith clergy, including woman leaders of the Muslim and Hindu faiths. The preacher will be, for the first time, a woman, Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a mainline Protestant denomination.

The service featured a gospel choir of African-American children in crisp white shirts and black pants and dresses, many of whom broke into smiles as they glimpsed the new president when they filed in. They sang a rocking rendition of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” as if giving a commentary not only on the Almighty, but on the new president’s job description. Mr. Obama sang along, and the First Lady clapped.

The Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, noted in his welcoming remarks that 40 years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King had preached his last Sunday sermon at this Cathedral a week before he went to Memphis , where he was assassinated.

“It is no small thing that we welcome here today not only our distinguished and gifted president, but our first African-American president,” Dean Lloyd said.

“We’ve come together from many different faiths and perspectives to offer our hope,” he continued.

“Dr. King’s sermon, his last sermon here, he said this: ‘Human progress comes from the tireless efforts of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers of God. ‘ Well, this morning, we are all co-workers,” he said.

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