I have thought a lot about chaplains this year. These are ministers of the gospel called to serve people in special settings and they are often in danger behind the scenes. I have wondered what it would be like serving in an assisted living center or a hospital this year with the risk of contracting COVID because their job cannot be done remotely.
Recently a chaplain friend of mine got COVID working in a hospital here and now she has been a patient there for weeks. While we thank God for courageous health-care workers and pray for them, we should remember the chaplains, too.
My appreciation for chaplains increased this week after the riot at the Capitol where protestors were climbing over walls, breaking windows, trashing the offices of our congressional representatives, and attempting to break into the House Chamber during the certification of the electoral college votes.
I was listening to the radio as one lawmaker described the scene where the men and women we have elected heard screams and glass breaking outside the chamber as they put on gas masks, dove under their desks, and barricaded the doors with office furniture while armed guards pointed guns at the windows of the chamber to keep the protestors from breaking in. He continued, “and the chaplain went to the microphone and began praying for us.”
The courage of this chaplain touched me. I tried to find out more information about this chaplain and the prayer that came during the riot but all I could find online was “A chaplain prayed as police guarded the doors to the chamber and lawmakers tried to gather information about what was happening.” No one took that picture, but to me that would have been the most important one of all.
I commend all our congressional representatives for reconvening later that evening to finish the work they had begun before the riot broke out. At 4 a.m. Senate Chaplain Rev. Barry Black closed that traumatic day with a prayer that has been lauded for its power and call for unity.
“Lord of our lives and sovereign of our beloved nation, we deplore the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life, and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.
"These tragedies have reminded us that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue. We have been warned that eternal vigilance continues to be freedom's price.
"Lord, you have helped us remember that we need to see in each other a common humanity that reflects your image.
"You have strengthened our resolve to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies domestic as well as foreign.
"Use us to bring healing and unity to our hurting and divided nation and world. Thank you for what you have blessed our lawmakers to accomplish in spite of threats to liberty.
"Bless and keep us. Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to do your will and guide our feet on the path of peace. And God bless America. We pray in your sovereign name, amen.”
The Rev. Susan Smith is associate pastor of Exodus Missionary Outreach Church.