On Inauguration Day, Churches Across U.S. Strategize and Serve

The People's Prayer Service at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2017. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks
The People’s Prayer Service at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2017. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

As crowds neared the Capitol for the swearing-in of President Donald Trump on Friday (Jan. 20), two churches within miles of the National Mall did more than watch: one strategized, the other served.

At Metropolitan African Methodist Church, a dozen groups gathered to pray and devise a plan for advancing its goals of justice for women, immigrants and religious and sexual minorities during an administration that is expected to present serious challenges to those groups.

Christian and Jewish leaders at the prayer service offered both fighting words and calls for unity at a gathering of black and white, young and old.

“We’re coming together because we are extending an invitation,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, political director of PICO National Network, “to get engaged in your local community to do the work of resistance and opposition necessary so that we can really bring about a country that is not great but instead a beloved community.”

Speakers said the church service, bookended by the hymns “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “We Shall Overcome,” was for people of faith and no faith to learn from past lessons and seek solidarity to counter the new administration when necessary.

“Help us to do deep interrogation of the things we have believed that led to this moment,” prayed Lisa Sharon Harper, chief church engagement officer of Sojourners. “And so, God, I pray that you will give us strength, strength to resist.”

Participants took notes in their program as Royster ticked off the websites of progressive organizations that planned to challenge the new administration: Sojourners, Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, the United Church of Christ.

Some already have vowed to stand with people who fear they will be marginalized by Trump and the new Congress. They include Washington rabbis like Rabbi Aaron Alexander of Adas Israel Congregation, a Conservative synagogue, who talked after the prayer service while an organist continued to play “My Redeemer Lives.”

“When deportations begin, we will create sanctuary. If there’s a registry, we will be the first ones in line,” he said of the Muslim registries that Trump has proposed. “We will register as Muslims.”

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SOURCE: Religion News Service
Adelle M. Banks