Taking Part in History
Unitarian Universalists (UUs) have traveled to Washington to participate in events leading up to and following the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.
On January 18, Rev. William G. Sinkford, who leaves the office of Unitarian Universalist Association President in June, was honored by Unitarian Universalists from the Washington, D.C. area at an “Inaugural Ball” at All Souls Church, Unitarian. Sinkford, accompanied by his wife, Maria, was deeply moved by the event which celebrated his ministry and faithful witness as leader of the UUA.
In front of the Lincoln Memorial that afternoon, UU folk singing icon Pete Seeger was one of the performers at an Inaugural Concert attended by hundreds of thousands. Seeger joined his son and Bruce Springsteen, near the end of the concert, in leading the crowd in “This Land is Your Land.”
On January 19, the Olive Branch Partnership sponsored an interfaith celebration at All Souls Church, Unitarian, which Sinkford and All Souls Senior Minister Rob Hardies participated in. The event also included remarks by Rev. James Wallis and Rev. James Forbes, Rabbi Michael Lerner, and Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, among others.
On January 20, Rev. Sinkford and Maria Sinkford attended the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama. Also taking part in the festivities were Rev. Meg Riley, UUA Director of Advocacy and Witness, and Rev. David Pettee, UUA Director of Ministerial Credentialing.
Pettee said, “Despite getting in line at 7:30am and having a ticket to the event, the crowd was so vast (and the crowd control so completely nonexistent and complicated by a power failure at the security checkpoint which held everything up) that we never got into the area where people could watch the ceremony. I ended up watched the Inauguration on TV in (U.S. Rep.-MA) Barney Frank's office.”
Even so, Pettee said, “sitting in the Rayburn building and hearing the crowd explode in joy after Obama took the oath of office, the noise was so loud that it sounded like a sonic boom, which came three or four seconds before the oath ended on TV because of the tape delay.”
Pettee said he was particularly moved by Rev. Joseph Lowrey's benediction that began with the words from "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and “knowing that this hymn, once known as the Negro National Anthem, was such a source of pride for African Americans during Jim Crow; watching the tears of joy on the faces of the elderly and dignified women of color from Alabama, dressed in their Sunday best, with whom we sat in Frank’s office.”
Tonight, Sinkford, Rev. Rob Hardies, and UUA Director of Identity Based Ministries Taquiena Boston have tickets for the Peace Ball, which may include an appearance by Obama. Adam Gerhardstein, Acting Director of the UUA’s Washington Office, expects to attend the Peoples’ Ball.
On January 21, Sinkford will attend the National Prayer Service being held at Washington National Cathedral, before returning to Boston.