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January 22, 2009
Rev. William G. Sinkford, who traveled to Washington, DC, for
events keyed to the inauguration of Barack Obama as 44th President of
the U.S., reflected on the dramatic shift
he has observed over the last five days in the nation’s capital. Sinkford arrived in Washington on Sunday evening, January 18, direct from the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board of Trustees meeting in Boston.
That evening, Sinkford was honored by All Souls
Church and Unitarian Universalists of
area for his leadership and ministry as UUA President. The atmosphere was festive, with the
church full of music and packed to
overflowing with attendees.
Sinkford said, “This was so gratifying and humbling. I was so thankful to Rev. Rob Hardies
and the All Souls folks.” Speakers, who praised Sinkford’s ministry, included
Hardies, Rev. Meg Riley (UUA Director of Advocacy
and Witness), Thomas Hargrave, Susan Milner, Paula Cole Jones, and UUA Washington Office Acting
Director Adam Gerhardstein.
Sinkford said that while it was gratifying to hear such praise, “I am
keenly aware that there are no solo acts in religious life… this is what we do,
On Martin Luther King Day, Sinkford participated in an
Interfaith Peace Revival service at All Souls
Church, Unitarian, along
with Rabbi Michael Lerner, Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, and other progressive faith
On January 20, Sinkford had the experience of trying to get
to the National Mall to see—at least through Jumbotrons and speakers—the
inauguration ceremony. While he and
his spouse, Maria, held tickets, they found themselves unable to enter their
assigned area. Even so, Sinkford
said, “The most striking thing is the sense of community that I, and we, have
experienced here. On the street, in
the hotel, on the Mall, the attitude is one of friendliness, of people trying to
help one another. It’s as if we
allowed our hopes to come true, around a different way of being together.” Sinkford also noted: “The presence of
people of color here is different…. Whole families have come with their
children. People have come representing generations long gone, all wanting to be
able to say, ‘We were here.’ The
importance of Barack Obama as a symbol of those hopes is not to be denied.”
Sinkford also attended the National Prayer Service, held on
January 21, at the National Cathedral.
Sinkford, seated less than fifteen feet from the President, said, “The
intent is for the new administration to start out on a prayerful footing. Rev. Shannon Watkins, President of the
Disciples of Christ, preached a wonderful sermon using the Native American story
of the grandfather telling his grandson about how we have two wolves inside
us: one of greed, avarice, hatred,
fighting the wolf of generosity, compassion, and love. In the story, the grandson asks
the grandfather, ‘Who wins the war?’ And the grandfather answers, ‘The wolf you
feed.’” The service was, Sinkford
said, “just what it should have been as a tone is set for this new
administration…. If you feed compassion, love, generosity, that is the
world you build.”
The language in Washington, Sinkford said, “has changed,
almost overnight. We are now in a conversation about how to bring people
together, not about what keeps us apart, and it is dramatic, and powerful,
change that we need to pay attention to. Years from now the question of ‘Were
you there?’ will become a question on everyone’s lips. And the mere fact of seeing all those
people standing as far back as the Lincoln Memorial to be there on that day…the hope pinned on
these times, is huge.”
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Last updated on Thursday, June 3, 2010.
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The Capitol at sunrise on Inauguration Day.
Rev. William G. Sinkford at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
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PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly: Religion and the Obama Inauguration
PBS Bill Moyers' Journal: Melissa Harris-Lacewell on Religion, Race, and the Inauguration
UUWorld.org: "Watching the Evidence Change" by Rosemary Bray McNatt
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