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Sponsors in Congress pleased with Day of Reconciliation

WASHINGTON (BP)–Members of Congress assembled in the U.S. Capitol Dec. 4 for a time of prayer on a date they had only recently set aside as National Day of Reconciliation.

The evening meeting in the Capitol Rotunda was limited to members of the Senate and House of Representatives. No staff members or reporters were allowed. The private, low-key approach was maintained by many participants the next day.

The chief sponsors of legislation establishing the event did not widely publicize what occurred in the session, which was not required of members of Congress but provided on a voluntary basis.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., said there was a “really good turnout” and was pleased with the assembly, said Erik Hotmire, Brownback’s press secretary. The senator did not plan to release a further statement, however, Hotmire said.

Rep. Tom DeLay, R.-Texas, released a brief statement to Baptist Press, saying the attendance “was truly a blessing and an inspiration. Representatives and senators were serious, sincere and focused on the need to revitalize our culture. We walked out of the Capitol Rotunda inspired by the faith that guides our nation, strengthened by our common purpose and committed to serving the Lord.”

Jonathan Grella, DeLay’s press secretary, said the House majority whip “didn’t want it to take on a political taint” and probably would not do post-event interviews. Grella refused to estimate how many attended, saying that was not something DeLay’s office would disclose.

One report, however, said more than 30 senators and 100 representatives participated in the two-hour session. That report by Focus on the Family’s Citizen Issues Alert, a weekly, faxed newsletter, said participants sang, read the Bible and prayed.

“I see a lot of political events in this town, and they are very public, and they always have sound bites,” Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R.-Kan., told Citizen Issues Alert. “It was just a different atmosphere tonight — no cameras, no reporters, no staff. Just us with our chaplains, talking about how this nation has honored our Lord and Savior, how it has honored God. It wasn’t political at all. It was a time of prayer.”

Rep. Mark Souder, R.-Ind., told the newsletter, “There were liberals, conservatives, women and men, black and white praying to our Lord and Savior, and it was amazing.”

One of the most affecting times in the assembly, Souder said, was when members began singing “Alleluia” and other songs, spontaneously closing with “God Bless America.”

According to the report, Souder said, “This was a moment — a time in America — when we realized that we needed to gather together. Yes, we’re going to have passionate differences, but we needed to pray to a higher power than just us, because we cannot cope as a country with just human strength.”

Lloyd John Ogilvie and Daniel Coughlin, the Senate and House chaplains, respectively, attended, according to the report.

The House approved a resolution in October authorizing the event. The Senate passed a similar measure in mid-November, approving an assembly at which members “may gather to humbly seek the blessings of Providence for forgiveness, reconciliation, unity and charity for all people of the United States.”

Robert Reccord, president of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, encouraged Southern Baptist churches to set aside Dec. 4 as a day of prayer for the country in conjunction with Congress’ recognition of National Day of Reconciliation. Numerous Southern Baptist and other churches opened their buildings for people to pray.

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