Disciples minister to preach National Prayer Service

This will make P.  Z. Myers shake his head — apologies, P. Z. — but those of us in the “mainstream,” or “liberal leaning” sect of the Disciples of Christ are quite happy that our general minister, Sharon Watkins, will preach the sermon at the National Prayer Service on Wednesday.

We’re such a politically polyglot group that we can be described as mainstream, liberal, or conservative with some accuracy.  Three presidents have Disciples roots — James Garfield, who was a Disciples minister before becoming president of a Disciples college in Ohio; Lyndon Johnson, who was a life-long Disciple, and who built a chapel on his ranch; and Ronald Reagan, whose mother was a devout Disciple, and who attended one of several Disciples affiliated colleges, Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois.

Watkins is the first woman to preach at this service in the history of the nation.

The National Prayer Service is one of those events that underscores the separation of church and state.  At the first Washington inaugural, it was held the same day as the ceremony, but after the official ceremony.  The attendees concluded the swearing in and other official ceremonies, then adjourned to a church a few blocks away for a sermon, those who wished to.

This year the sermon will be held in the National Cathedral, a majestic building which is actually an Episcopalian venue (where Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller are interred), miles from the federal area at the National Mall, and a day after the inauguration.

But watch:  There will be a band of religious radicals, fanatics, who will claim that the mere existence of this service somehow nullifies the First Amendment, and suggests that the government has a religious bias.  Do not believe them.  You know the history, and you know better.  Our government has great tolerance for religious displays, but no tolerance for religious bias, in our government.

I’ve wondered sometimes what would happen were the three Disciples presidents to meet.  If Reagan and Johnson ever met, I have not found the record of it.  I wonder whether Johnson, Reagan and Garfield could have found between them some subject of common interest for talk of substance.  It’s difficult to imagine Reagan and Johnson finding much common ground, one who revered FDR and the New Deal, and the other who campaigned against the New Deal almost from the day FDR died.  And yet they shared concepts of faith, and they may have found there common ground on which to stand, and talk.

I marvel at a sect that embraces, and celebrates, such diversity.  We think it makes for healthier theology, healthier congregations, and a healthier nation.

We can hope.

Below is the press release from Disciples News Service, with details about the service and how to view it or listen to it.  There is also a plea for clips from local papers — maybe some of you could do a good turn and clip any article that appears in your local paper, with the date and page, and mail it in.  It’s for the archives, you know — history.

Disciples News Service


National Prayer Service Updates

January 17, 2009
Dear Disciples,
Earlier this week it was announced that Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins will preach the sermon at the National Prayer Service in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Jan. 21. Her sermon will conclude Presidential Inauguration activities for our country’s forty-fourth President, Barack Obama. Dr. Watkins appreciates the outpouring of support, prayers and well wishes she has received from Disciples and ecumenical colleagues everywhere since the announcement.
“I am so grateful that Disciples have a role in this historic moment,” said Watkins. “I am depending on your prayers for God to use me to deliver an uplifting and appropriately challenging message to our new President, vice-President and all those who will attend the service.”
Watkins will be joined by a diverse group of religious leaders at the prayer service, which will take place at the National Cathedral, starting at 10 a.m. EST.
A press release listing those who will participate in the service was released yesterday afternoon and includes another Disciples pastor, Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Ga. Hale will be among those reading scripture. To read the press release that announces participants at the service, please go to:

Many of you have asked about opportunities to view the program. Our office has just learned that the program will be webcast in two ways. One is through the National Cathedral website at: www.nationalcathedral.org. The other option is to go to the Presidential Inaugural Committee website at www.pic2009.org.
We’ve also had a number of phone calls regarding the availability of tickets for the prayer service. Unfortunately, we have not been able to secure tickets for the service.
Please note that DisciplesWorld Publisher and Editor Verity A. Jones will provide special coverage of many Inauguration activities, including the prayer service. Jones will blog from Jan. 18 to Jan. 21 at: disciplesworld.wordpress.com. She also will post news stories to the Disciples World home page and send short updates from the DisciplesWorld “twitter” account. To read more about ways DisciplesWorld will keep you informed, go to: www.disciplesworld.com/dynamic.html?wspID=501

Finally, Associate General Minister and Vice-President Todd Adams asks that Disciples send in hard copies of newspaper articles that have been covered in your community about Dr. Watkins and the prayer service, so that we might keep them in our official archives. Articles can be sent to: Dr. Todd Adams, Office of General Minister and President, P.O. Box 1986; Indianapolis, Ind. 46206-1986.
To read the Jan. 11 press release from the Presidential Inaugural Committee that announced Dr. Watkins selection for the prayer service and to learn updates about events taking place during the Inauguration, please visit www.disciples.org.
Please keep Sharon and the many other Disciples who will be attending the Inauguration, National Prayer Service and other events in your prayers.

Wanda Bryant Wills
Executive Director of Communication Ministries

Tip of the old scrub brush to Bill Longman, “Bill in the Ozarks,”  and the DoCDisc Listserv.

Other resources:

4 Responses to Disciples minister to preach National Prayer Service

  1. Nick K says:

    One would think the scam artists would start catching on after a while…


  2. Bismark Appiah Kwarkye says:

    Dear Sir! Madam,
    I am very glad to write you this letter. Please how are you all ? I hope by the grace of God you are fine and doing well as I am.
    Please I will be great full if you could spend your time to read through this letter. Please I ma a boy an age of twelve (13) years old, still schooling at Primary 6 level. I am staying with my poor mother who lives in Ashanti Region. Please the main aim for me to write to you this letter is that, I am attending school and Church. And all this I will like you to help me solve some little problems in in my education and in my Church. Is that if I go to school I don’t have school materials for learning hard. These are Books, Pens and also Sunday in church there are things I need for me to show people the I believe in Christ. Please all these are Bible both old and new testament , booklet or Jotter. I also need some things to play so that I can be happy and be healthy. So please I will like to request a free Books, pens,booklet or jotter and C.D. and also I will like to request a little money please at least 10 or 20 of your currency. Please I will
    be grateful if you could put it inside a Bible and post/send it to me so that I can use it to buy food and eat. Because at time I felt hungry but there is no money for me to use to buy food.So please I will be grateful if you could help me all this.so that I can learn hard to achieve my goals for future. So please this are the reason why I am writing to you this letter. So I will be glad if you could have mercy on me and help me all this, like the way God have mercy on us and sent his beloved son to died on the cross for us. Even it’s in Romans 5:8. So please I will be eager to here from you and know more about you. And I will like to also end here with much greetings to you all.
    Thank you all.
    Yours faithfully,
    Appiah Kwarkye Bimark
    Bremang R/C Primary “A”
    P.O. BOX SE 772
    Suame-Kumasi, A/R


  3. Mary A says:

    I’ve been lucky to have heard Rev Watkins on multiple occasions, most recently at the Southwest Regional Assembly of Disciples in Fort Worth last fall and in August 2007 at the National Assembly. She is a soft-spoken but dynamic preacher who expresses the love we should all feel for each other, the hope for universal peace and of the many possibilities for our future. Dr. Hale brings the enthusiasm and excitement many of the churches in our denomination lack. Looking at the list of religious leaders called to this prayer service, one can only hope that their messages will bring together a common wish for peace.


  4. blueollie says:

    Personally, I’d love to see an atheist become President, or at least I’d love to see a President not make public displays of religion of this sort.

    But I am not holding my breath; I am a realist.


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