Inaugural Prayer

I’m not sure that I understand America.

In particular, I’m not sure that I understand how a nation where the separation of church and state is such a big deal then has so much prayer and so much discussion about prayer in its ceremonies of state.

However, prayer they have.

It was unfortunate that having asked +Gene Robinson to take part, his prayer was omitted from the main televised proceedings of the Inaugural Event which he was asked to pray at. It has led some to say that he was silenced whilst others have tried to blame a mix-up for the omission. It is unfortunate, given the arguments that have been taking place over the appropriateness of inviting the anti-gay pastor Rick Warren to pray at the main event.

Its horrible being silenced. It happened to me and to several others at the last Provincial Conference in the Scottish Episcopal Church – some of us were told that we could not ask questions of the Archbishop of Canterbury in one of the open public sessions. Even though I enjoyed other aspects of that conference, it did leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

Anyway, in case you missed it, here is +Gene’s contribution. If you scroll down, there is also a video of +Gene talking about the day and in particular his encounter with Rick Warren. He also cracks a rather a good joke about chess.

Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009

Delivered by the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson:

“Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.



  1. I’m most inclined to blame mix-up. If they didn’t want him broadcast, better never to have invited him rather than irritate two groups (the conservatives for inviting him and the liberals for not broadcasting him). It did lead to the interesting situation of someone from “Christianity Today” a fairly conservative magazine providing the video of Robinson giving the invocation.

    Personally I liked President Obama’s inclusion in his speech of non-believers as well as science, technology, and curiosity.

Speak Your Mind