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[PCUSANEWS] GAC executive director attends inaugural prayer service

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Date Tue, 10 Feb 2009 16:49:54 -0500

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GAC executive director attends inaugural prayer service

Valentine calls experience 'inspiring,' 'exciting'

>by Bethany Furkin
>Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE - On Jan. 20, eyes around the world were focused
on Washington, DC, to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as
president of the United States.

Two of those eyes belonged to Linda Valentine, executive
director of the General Assembly Council. She joined other
staff at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Center here to
view the broadcast of the inauguration. But her view of the
historic events surrounding the transfer of power wasn't
limited to the television screen.

On the evening of the inauguration, Valentine headed to
Washington to attend the 56th Presidential Inaugural Prayer
Service held Jan. 21.

"You could just feel the excitement in the air," she said
about the atmosphere in the nation's capital. "There was
just a real celebratory feel in the air."

Watching Obama begin his first day of office with prayer
was inspiring, as was the diverse gathering of religious
leaders at the service, said Valentine, who represented the
PC (U.S.A.) along with Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the
General Assembly, and Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the
218th General Assembly.

Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu leaders were
among those in attendance. Valentine, Parsons and
Reyes-Chow had seats in the front row in the transept, and
had clear views of Obama and his wife, Michelle, Vice
President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, and Secretary of
State Hilary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill
Clinton. They also were able to see the religious leaders,
who sat together.

"Just to see three or four rows of all these religious
leaders from so many religious expressions was really an
inspiring sight," Valentine said. "There was just a real
sense of reverence."

The service itself was also powerful, she said. The sermon
was given by the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, general minster
and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
in the United States and Canada. Watkins directly addressed
Obama several times in the sermon, encouraging him to hold
on to his ethical center for the sake of the nation.

"We need you, Mr. President, to hold your ground. We need
you, leaders of this nation, to stay centered on the values
that have guided us in the past; values that empowered to
move us through the perils of earlier times and can guide
us now into a future of renewed promise," she said.

The themes of the sermon were ones that are important to
all people, not just political leaders, Valentine said. "It
was a very compelling sermon," she said. "She really spoke
in terms that spoke to us all."

Obama's election has been widely associated with a new hope
for America and a promise of change for the better. These
themes of hope and renewal are also seen in the Bible, and
the PC (U.S.A.) works to proclaim these values, Valentine

As a church leader, Valentine said she appreciated the ways
that Obama's transition team has reached out to different

"The presidential transition team was very active and
deliberate in engaging religious communities as they're
making plans," she said. "We are open and interested with
engaging with any administration so the voice of the church
is heard in matter of justice and matters that the church
cares a lot about."


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