As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took to the Senate Floor on Wednesday to announce a bipartisan agreement to fund the federal government and its debt obligations, he paused to recognize the man who had spoken just before, Senate Chaplain Barry Black. Senator Reid lauded Chaplain Black, who had opened the Senate in prayer, for being “a voice of stability and a voice of inspiration” during the intense shutdown stand-off, and a “counselor” and a “leader” in the chamber.
Chaplain Black, a retired Rear Admiral and former Chief of Chaplains in the United States Navy, had drawn press attention when he prayed last week, “Lord, when our federal shutdown delays payments of death benefits to the families of children dying on faraway battlefields, it’s time for our lawmakers to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ Cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness. Forgive us, reform us and make us whole.” In fact, he opens the Senate in prayer nearly every day that it is in session, and he does not shy away from praying in direct light of struggles before the body. Chaplain Black told the press on Thursday, “I think it would be very difficult for me to pray without reflecting the political environment that I’m in. If the chaplain of the Senate just uttered pious platitudes in his prayer, that would be irrelevant. And so, I think that my intercession on behalf of the people that I serve should reflect the challenges we are facing.”
Last Sunday, as the Senate continued its marathon session of gridlock, Chaplain Black prayed:
Lord God of all creative possibilities, help our lawmakers turn this impasse into a bypass so that the heart of our Nation may beat vibrantly and strong.
Lord, on our coins and currency, we have placed the words ``In God We Trust.'' Give our lawmakers the wisdom to trust You and each other, turning the stubbornness of impossibilities into the blessings of creative possibilities.
You are our God, and we refuse to entertain fears about our Nation's future, for we remember how You have led this great Republic in the past. Make a way out of no way. Answer our prayers and use Your powerful arms to keep our Nation safe and secure.
We pray in Your great Name. Amen.
Chaplain Black, who became Senate Chaplain in 2003, and his House counterpart, The Reverend Patrick Conroy, are entrusted with offices that have carried on since the foundation of the American Republic. In 1789, the year the U.S. Constitution took effect, Reverend William Linn and the Right Reverend Samuel Provost were elected chaplains of the House and Senate respectively. These chaplains adopted the model of the earlier Continental Congresses by opening every day with an invocation. For over two hundred years that practice has continued each day of Congressional session.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: October 18, 2013