The inauguration of President Joe Biden (at 78 years of age, the oldest person ever sworn in) as the 46th President of the United States of America, was a significant event, not just for the USA, but as leader of the Western World. Many see Wednesday 21 January 2021 as a new dawn after the tumultuous Trump years. History was also made as Kamala Harris became the first female, Black, and Asian vice president. They certainly need our prayers at this time as they seek to bring healing and unity to a divided nation.
We know President Biden to be a man of faith, only the second Roman Catholic (after JFK) to hold the office, began the day by going to mass in St Matthew’s Cathedral, Washington. We also saw elements of his faith throughout his inauguration ceremony.
From the opening prayers by Father Leo O’Donovan, a Jesuit priest, who led the funeral of Mr Biden’s son, Beau, in 2015, to the use of the family Bible, dating back to the 1890’s, on which to swear his oath of office (Biden has used the same Bible each time he has taken an oath of office, including during his first Senate swearing-in in 1973 and his swearings-in as vice president in 2009 and 2013), the deeply moving rendition of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ by country superstar Garth Brooks (see video below) and the closing prayers led by Rev Dr Silvester Beaman, a long-time friend of President Biden from Delaware, Biden’s home state.
There was the inclusion of Psalm 30:5 in Biden’s speech: “‘Weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning” and a reference to Saint Augustine: “A people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.” There was also something quite spiritual about Amanda Gorman’s poem The Hill We Climb.
In his closing prayer, Rev Beaman included the following words which I felt were as poignant for us as they were for the people of the United States of America:
Discovering our humanity, we will seek the good in and for all our neighbours. We will love the unlovable, remove the stigma of the so-called untouchables who care for our most vulnerable our children, the elderly, emotionally challenged and the poor. We will seek rehabilitation beyond correction, we will extend opportunity to those locked out of opportunity.
We will make friends of our enemies, we will make friends of our enemies. People, your people, shall no longer raise up weapons against one another, we will rather use our resources for the national good and become a beacon of life and goodwill to the world. And neither shall we learn hatred anymore. We will lie down in peace, not make our neighbours afraid.
In you, Oh God, we discover our humanity. In our humanity we discover our commonness, beyond the difference of colour, creed, origin, political party, ideology, geography and personal preferences. We will become greatest stewards of your environment, preserving the land, reaping from it a sustainable harvest and securing it’s wonder and miracle-giving power for generations to come.
This is our benediction, that from these hallowed grounds where slaves laboured to build this shrine and citadel to liberty and democracy. Let us all acknowledge, from the indigenous Native American, to those who recently received their citizenship, from the African American to those whose fore parents came from Europe and every corner of the globe, from the wealthy to those struggling to make it, for every human being regardless of their choices, that this is our country.
As such teach us, Oh God, to live in it. love in it, be healed in it and reconcile to one another in it. Lest we miss Kingdom’s goal. To your glory, majesty, dominion and power, forever. Hallelujah! Glory! Hallelujah! In the strong name of our collective faith, Amen.
I’m sure we could all say Amen to that.
You can read the history of the Hymn Amazing Grace here Amazing Grace – revPACman (wordpress.com)