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United Methodist church hosts new Congress' prayer service


By Carol Anderson*

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Hundreds of members of Congress, including Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay, attended a bipartisan prayer service at Capitol Hill United Methodist Church before being sworn in at the nearby Capitol Jan. 7.

Members of the new 108th Congress prayed, sang hymns and read scripture at the 9 a.m. ecumenical service. Of the 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 senators, 61 are United Methodists, making them the third-largest denominational group in Congress, outnumbered only by the Roman Catholics and the Baptists.

For the service, Capitol Hill United Methodist Church's pastor, the Rev. Douglas Fox, was joined by Daniel P. Coughlin, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, who gave the opening prayer, and Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff, who gave the benediction. The church's music director, Jon Kalbfleisch, played the organ for the service.

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the incoming minority leader, and DeLay (R-Texas) read from the New Testament.

Offering a reflection during the service, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) observed that despite all the technological advances in communication, one of America's best ways to communicate is to "pick up the hotline to God and pray."

House Speaker Hastert (R-Ill.) led members in the Lord's Prayer. The speaker and several other members asked for prayers for peace and for God's blessings on President Bush and Congress.

The church is only five blocks from the U.S. Capitol, so several congressional members braved cold and wind to walk to the service.

Those attending were visibly lifted by the service, with one person overheard saying, "We should do this every day, not just swearing-in day."
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*Anderson is a media specialist and a member of Capitol Hill United Methodist Church.

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