The 435 recently elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives began what is predicted to be a contentious two years of partisan wrangling with a hopeful, bipartisan prayer service.
St. Peter's Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. was the host forum for House members, their families and staff to join together, at the invitation of House Chaplain, the Rev. Patrick Conroy, to request the Lord's blessing over the next two years as they work together to enact laws that will in turn bless the nation.
Many Democrats and Republicans attended the service. Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), sworn in later that day as Speaker of the House at a ceremony on the House floor, was one of the many in attendance, as well as House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
Scripture readings solemnified the occasion and reminded the new members of the high calling to which they have been called. For example, Genesis 12:1-2 reminded attendees of the Lord's promises to Abram as He called him to nation-building. Psalm 33:12-22 spoke to the need to fear God and wait upon Him. James 3:13; 16-18 admonished all to perform their duties with meekness and wisdom, forego jealousy and selfish ambition, and be open to reason, be impartial and sincere.
Focus on the Family Vice-President for External Relations, Timothy Goeglein, attended the prayer service. He noted that the service instilled hope, with people of all political persuasions worshipping together. The end of the service left an impression on him:
"The service closed with a robust singing of America the Beautiful; the most welcome voice was the Chaplain of the House, Father Patrick Conroy," Goeglein told me. "I shared with [Chaplain Conroy] the prayer and hope that the unity and goodwill of the service would flow across the street into the halls of the Capitol. He winked."
The hopeful start continued through the swearing-in of the Speaker and the new members of the 116th Congress. Speaker Pelosi's acceptance speech was replete with calls for bipartisanship and promises to "reach across the aisle" to Republicans on legislative issues.
The bipartisanship may not last very long. It has been widely reported that Pelosi's first act as Speaker will be to push through a Democratic "resolution" of the current partial government shutdown by offering a budget that does not provide any money requested by the President for border security, but does provide funding for Planned Parenthood abortion operations overseas by approximately $100 million.
That's not apt to bring about a bipartisan resolution of the shutdown. Please pray through the days ahead that the spirit of love and submission to Almighty God expressed at Thursday's prayer service will bear fruit in the 116th Congress.