Trio of prayer services precede inauguration


A number of inaugural events are not part of the official program. One prayer service is official, and two others are kneeling alongside, you might say.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden plan to attend the 57th Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service, an official event, at the National Cathedral in Washington at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. It is an interfaith service of prayers, readings, and music. The sermon will be delivered by the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., the largest United Methodist church in the nation.

Others participating in the official prayer service are the Very Rev. Gary Hall, who is dean of the cathedral, seat of the Episcopal Church; the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and the Rev. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Two prayer breakfasts planned on Monday are not official inaugural events.

At 7 a.m. at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel, the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast Committee, which includes hostess Merrie Turner and the chaplain of the House of Representatives, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, will begin the four-hour event. The speaker is the Rev. Jonathan Cahn, senior pastor and messianic rabbi of the Jerusalem Center/Beth Israel Messianic Congregation in Wayne, N.J., and president of Hope of the World Ministries, which calls itself “an end-time ministry for an end-time world.”

The theme of this breakfast is from Esther 4:13 in the Hebrew Bible: “Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.”

The religious orientation of the program created controversy. Many conservatives are slated to offer prayers, including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.); Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.); Joseph Farah, editor of the online publication WND, and the Rev. Pat Robertson of The 700 Club, as well as Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House, a megachurch in Dallas. Both the House and Senate chaplains had planned to attend, but an online petition questioned the partisan nature of the chaplains’ participation. The Rev. Barry Black, Senate chaplain, withdrew from the event Friday.

The other unofficial breakfast, at 8 a.m. Monday, is sponsored by Ask for America, which is a national prayer ministry. The Presidential Inauguration Prayer Breakfast at Washington’s Willard Intercontinental Hotel has lined up several guest speakers, including the Rev. Luis Cortes, who later will give the invocation at the 57th Inaugural Luncheon at the U.S. Capitol; Suzan Johnson Cook, U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom; the Rev. Rob Schenck, president and lead missionary of Faith and Action, which ministers to officials in Washington; Bishop Roderick R. Caesar, Jr., pastor of Bethel Gospel Tabernacle in New York City, and former Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon.

Bishop George Randolph Gurley and his wife, Manon Gurley, co-senior pastors of Tabernacle Church in Laurel, Md., and leaders of harvest International Ministerial Fellowship, are chairmen of this event.