Joe Biden’s Household Bible anchors opening occasions formed by religion

(RNS) – President-elect Joe Biden plans to be sworn in with his powerful family Bible when he becomes the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday, January 20.

It is one of many ways religion will be a facet of the opening activities surrounding the country’s second Catholic President.

“It was just a family heirloom on the Biden side of the family and every important date is there,” Biden said in a December appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “Every time I was sworn in for something, the date was on it and it’s written in the Bible.”

The Bible is so large – with a leather cover, metal clasps, and 5 inches thick – that his wife Jill Biden held it in two hands when he was sworn in as Vice President of President Barack Obama.

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Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris plans to use two Bibles, one from Thurgood Marshall, the first female judge on the Black Supreme Court, and the other from Regina Shelton, a friend of the family, said a spokeswoman for the president’s opening committee. Harris put her hand on her friend’s Bible during their swearing-in ceremonies as a US Senator and California Attorney General.

In a greeting to its alumni, Howard University’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel plans to ring 49 times on inauguration day in honor of Kamala Harris, the 49th vice president, the spokesman said.

On the eve of the inauguration, ringing church bells and illuminated buildings across the country were to be linked to an official COVID-19 memorial for the 400,000 people who died of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. The Bidens, Harris and the second gentleman Doug Emhoff looked at the first lighting around the Reflecting Pool in the National Mall with 400 lights.

During the largely virtual memorial, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, called gospel singer Yolanda Adams “Hallelujah” and nurse Lori Marie Key of St. Joseph Mercy Health System in Michigan called “Amazing Grace”.

“The inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris marks the beginning of a new national journey – a journey that renews their commitment to honoring the fallen and reaching greater heights in honor of them,” said Tony, CEO of General Committee Allen in a statement. With that in mind, it is important that we pay tribute to those we have lost – and their families – and come together to unite our country, contain this virus and rebuild our nation. “

The choir loft of Washington National Cathedral. Photo by Francisco Daum / Creative Commons

Prior to the opening ceremony, Rev. Kevin O’Brien, President of Santa Clara University and Jesuit priest, will hold mass with a non-partisan delegation at St. Matthew Cathedral on Wednesday morning.

Aside from the invocation and blessing at the inauguration itself and a virtual opening prayer on Thursday at Washington National Cathedral, unofficial events will be largely online and will be very different from the celebrations of previous years.

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Four years ago, some churches in Washington opened their doors to people who wanted to watch President Donald Trump’s inauguration or to oppose some of his administration’s planned actions. The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, for example, provided viewers on the day of the inauguration in 2017 with a large screen in the room that traditionally housed the homeless for Sunday breakfast.

But this year, the lockdown and security fences in downtown Washington following the January 6 storm and pandemic restrictions have resulted in plan changes.

“(W) We decide not to open next week and are following advice from local and federal authorities to keep people at home,” said Rev. Heather Shortlidge, interim pastor on New York Avenue, three blocks from the White House removed, Religion News Service said in an email a week before the inauguration day.

People of the faith across the country planned to attend prayer and organize events in the days before or after the inauguration.

Latino leaders of evangelical, Pentecostal and historic Protestant churches held a public vigil on Facebook Tuesday night, focusing on Biden and the nation.

“The leaders of the Latino Church urge all people of the faith to pray together for our nation at this critical time in our history,” said Rev. Carlos L. Malavé, Executive Director of Christian Churches Together. “We hope that all Christian leaders reject acts of violence that seek to undermine our democracy and threaten the lives of political leaders, law enforcement officers and the public.”

Dozens of organizations – including Faith in Action, Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice, and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness – are joining forces for “The People’s Inauguration,” a virtual 10-day initiative that will take place on Thursday the day after the inauguration. begins. The series of events will be led by Valarie Kaur, a Sikh activist and founder of the Revolutionary Love Project, who will speak at the interfaith prayer service in the National Cathedral on Thursday.

The multi-day initiative is described on their website as an attempt to create an “anti-racist, just and sustainable” nation. It will include teach-ins, vigils, and musical and artistic events.

The organizers of the initiative have asked attendees to take an oath modeled on the one Biden will declare when he is appointed president: “I (insert name) solemnly swear that I have my role in healing, reshaping and rebuilding faithful to exercise our country and will do my best to preserve, protect and defend dignity, justice and joy for me and for all around me, and I will do so with love. “

Jack Jenkins contributed to this report.

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