On Wednesday, January 5, Faith and Action was represented at the 112th Congress Bipartisan Prayer Service held at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill. Faith and Action president Rob Schenck and chief of program Peggy Nienaber participated as the prayer service complemented the swearing in of Speaker-elect John Boehner. Rev. Schenck commented that the annual interfaith gathering always serves to “instill a certain humility in majority leadership. It forces everyone in the frame of reference that we’re not the ultimate arbiters of the nation’s future – there has to be reliance on God.” Of course, each new speaker of the house approaches this frame of reference differently. However, Boehner seemed to reflect this humility during the service. A working class man from a working class community in Ohio, Boehner did not in any way make himself the focus of the service. Rather than being a rally for Boehner and the new Republican leadership, the service maintained a focus on Scripture, prayer, and God. Prayer was offered up by both Republican and Democrat members of Congress on behalf of new members, outgoing members, the Supreme Court, President Obama, and the nation as a whole.
The completely non-partisan message included three scripture readings from the Old and New Testaments, and from the Gospel of Matthew. Much like the prayer service that complemented the swearing in of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2007, it was a distinctly Christian service. Yet, also much like past interfaith services, the program that was handed out featured highlighted quotes from the Dalai Lama, the Koran, and the Tao. Even at a religious service complementing the appointment of more conservative leadership, the undertones of the program reflected the an ethos of secular “inclusion.”