National Cathedral to host customary post-inaugural prayer service

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Dec 22, 2016

Then-Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, third from left in front row, joined faith leaders from around the country Jan. 21, 2009, for the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral that culminated the Obama-Biden inaugural events. The service, traditionally held the day after the inauguration, will be offered again Jan. 21, 2017, for Donald Trump and his administration. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Washington National Cathedral will again play out one of its traditional roles in U.S. life next month by offering Donald Trump and the nation a chance to come together in prayer.

The 58th Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service will take place Jan. 21, the day after Trump is sworn in as the country’s the 45th president. No other details have been made public.

“The cathedral is a sacred space for the nation to come together at moments of national importance, including the inauguration of our presidents,” a statement from the cathedral said. “The Inaugural Prayer Service is a moment for our next president to pause and contemplate the incredible responsibility he has been entrusted with and to listen as the faith community offers prayers for the office of the president.”

Official confirmation of the service came when a schedule of inaugural events was posted on the Presidential Inauguration Committee website. No other details were released either by the committee or the cathedral.

Beginning with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inauguration in 1933, presidential inaugural prayer services have taken place at the cathedral, which calls itself a “house of prayer for all people.” That tradition has been more recently consistent since President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985. The exception was President Bill Clinton, who chose Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, the historic black church in downtown Washington, for both of his inaugural prayer services. Washington National Cathedral has also been the location of funeral and memorial services for nearly all the 21 U.S. presidents who have died since the cathedral’s founding.

The cathedral dean, the bishop of the Diocese of Washington and the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop traditionally have had roles in the service. “I will be at the National Cathedral praying with [Trump] and all those who gather for the post-inauguration prayer service, which we just gathered to plan yesterday,” Washington Bishop Mariann Budde said in a Dec. 20 interview on NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show.” The show focused on faith leaders working to unite a country divided by the presidential campaign and Trump’s election.

“I will be praying with and for the president and his new cabinet and all those – and the country,” Budde said. “All faiths will be represented, at his request, and we will pray for the good of our nation.”

Typically, the services have been both ecumenical and interreligious. The service held Jan. 22, 2013, to mark the beginning of President Barak Obama’s second term included nearly two dozen religious leaders, representing Roman Catholicism, mainline Protestantism, evangelical Christianity, Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.

The same was true in 2009 for the service at the beginning of Obama’s historic time in office. Nearly 3,200 people attended the invitation-only service, including members of the administration, Congress, the diplomatic corps, faith leaders and other invited guests.

The Washington Post reported that Trump plans to attend a private family church service at St. John’s Episcopal Church near LaFayette Square near the White House the morning of the Jan. 20 inauguration. The parish has traditionally offered that opportunity to incoming presidents.

The cathedral service will be held on a Saturday morning, during the Jewish Sabbath, when observant Jews are forbidden to drive or use electricity, among other restrictions, potentially complicating efforts to find a rabbi to participate in the service, the Associated Press noted. Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner are Orthodox Jews and would face the same Shabbat limits. The inauguration is constitutionally mandated to be held on Jan. 20, and the prayer service is usually held the next day.

Johnnie Moore, a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, which meets weekly, told the Associated Press that decisions about religious events related to the inauguration would be made by the president-elect’s aides, not the advisory group on which he sits. “It’s going to be reconciliatory,” said Moore, a public relations executive who leads The KAIROS Company. He said the ceremony will underscore “the president-elect’s commitment to having a presidency for all Americans.”

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (64)

  1. PJcabbiness says:

    Excellent and exciting! Let us all pray for Mr. Trump and his Cabinet.

  2. Craig Kauffman says:

    The article did not mention whether Presiding Bishop Curry will be there — Episcopal News Service, any comment??!! —

    1. Mary Frances Schjonberg says:

      ENS is awaiting confirmation of the presiding bishop’s plans.

      1. robert hunter says:

        He may be on travel with the Jesus Movement

      2. robert hunter says:

        He may be on travel with the Jesus Movement. This is not a repeat statement

    2. robert hunter says:

      The Rockettes may attend and present a liturgical dance

  3. Doug Desper says:

    After the shellacking of accusation and hysteria that Mr. Trump (and Conservatives in general) have taken from loud voices in our Church I would not blame the Inaugural Committee for moving the Service to DC’s Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

    1. henry wester says:

      he need to be saved by Jesus. such a sick man!

  4. Charlotte Hand Greeson says:

    Won’t Mr. Trump become our 45th President?

    1. Mary Frances Schjonberg says:

      Yes, and thank you for calling that to our attention. The story has been corrected. President-elect Trump will become the 45th president but he will be the 44th person to serve as president.

      1. The Rev. William J. Adams says:

        . I understand that the Cathedral is “National” in flavor, but it is “Christian” in character and Episcopal by denomination. It is hard for me to believe that my Episcopal Church, that instituted the ordination of women when so many forces would have stopped such a gift to our Church, would participate in a celebration of the inauguration of a man who is on video record indicating that he has the power and right to grab women by their genitals simply because of his celebrity status. It is hard for me to believe that my Episcopal Church that has fought so hard against racial discrimination would participate in the celebration of a man who’s primary advisor is an Alt Right white supremiscist. It is hard for me to believe that my Episcopal Church whose signature introduction into every town and district is, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You,” would celebrate in the inauguration of a man who builds walls and proposes Muslim bans. It is hard for me to believe that my Episcopal Church that preaches Christ’s particular love and care for the underprivileged, disenfranchised and downtrodden would actually celebrate the inauguration of a man who publically, on video record, mocks disabled people, who wishes to deport Dreamers, and reject refugees. It is hard for me to believe that my Episcopal Church who stands for peace among nations would participate in any way in the inauguration of a man who flirts with nuclear weapons on social media of all places.

        Dean Hollerith, the list could go on as I’m sure you must be aware. I will stop here and plead with you to reconsider participation in the inaugural events, not on the basis that you are the Washington NATIONAL Cathedral, but on the basis that you are the Washington CHRISTIAN Epsicopal Cathedral. Please don’t forget that you have a prophetic role as well as a national role to play out here.

        Faithfully in Christ,

        The Rev. William J. Adams

        1. PAUL RESZEL says:

          Judge not
          forgive and you shall be forgiven

  5. Michael Patterson says:

    This is difficult. In general, I do not approve of churches that actively side with particular political parties. Regrettably, in this case, I fear that the National Cathedral will be contributing to the normalization of a leader whose campaign promoted violence against certain minorities and the repression of women. Sure – one might argue that the Cathedral is providing a forum where Mr. Trump will hear from many people of faith. Perhaps this will have a positive impact on the incoming president; however, I am not at all optimistic. Years from now, I think all institutions that participated in the upcoming inaugural events, including the National Cathedral, will rightfully be viewed in a very negative light.

    1. Dr. William A Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

      I think it is a wonderful idea to celebrate the beginning of a new administration that may well make America greater than it has ever been. Our prayers should always be for our President and our country. God bless America and her next President, Donald Trump. I am waiting to see if the more progressive parishes will pray for Donald in their Prayers of the People or if they will omit the traditional prayer for the President of the United States. It is shameful to let politics destroy the many friendships that have been damaged by a political pulpit and parish this election. The time for healing is here. Thanks Be To God.

    2. Jon Spangler says:

      Michael Patterson,

      I welcome any and all prayers for our nation, for its welfare, for the health and welfare of its diverse peoples and lands, and that God’s Kingdom and God’s will be done to promote peace, justice, healing, sound stewardship, and human welfare around the world.

      As someone who voted for Barack Obama twice and Hillary Clinton (once, in 2016), I am glad that our National Cathedral is hosting this service for POTUS 45, Donald Trump. After all, our nation will perhaps need prayer–especially prayers for justice and peace–even more urgently under his watch than we have in the past.

      As much as I feel the strain of doing so, I am praying that Trump and his administration are as successful, wise, and just as possible over the next four years–as defined by their adherence to Biblical principles of justice, care for the poor and needy, welcoming the stranger, planetary stewardship, and peace. I am praying especially that he not commit the kinds of blunders (out of ignorance, willfulness, etc.) for which we already have a great deal of worrisome predictive evidence. It is ALWAYS right and proper to pray that our leaders will be guided by wisdom, justice, and grace, and that our nation be protected from harm, whether the “enemy” be foreign or domestic. (In this case, I fear that the “enemies” from whom we are at greatest risk are some of the people elected to office in November.)

      I fear more for our nation’s future today–especially with regards to the likelihood of war, the elimination of civil liberties, and the fate of those who are poor and already disenfranchised–under the current GOP leadership in Congress and Donald Trump as POTUS. This is driving me even more to pray for peace, social justice, and wisdom on the part of our elected leaders.

      William Flint need not fear that “progressive” parishes have forgotten the Gospel or the need to pray over the next four years: indeed, prayer is our only and best hope as we #resist the forces of darkness and evil. God calls us to oppose those who seem ready to bring harm (injustice, poverty, oppression, sickness) to His people in a quixotic attempt to bring back “the good old days.”

      There is a great deal of objective evidence (from GOP leaders’ statements and president-elect Trump’s appointments) that “the good old days” include increases in: racism, misogyny, untrammeled greed, medical care only for the rich and male, classist rule by oligarchy and corporate interests; the increasing repression of workers, minorities, and those whose gender identification/ orientation is “different;” and the subjugation of women. The Trump administration’s values also seem to include the ruination of God’s creation without regard to stewardship. None of theses I understand God’s Word, are acceptable to The Creator.

      So, by all means, pray without ceasing. “Pray for peace and work for justice.”

    3. Eugenia Davis says:

      That is a disgusting attitude but you are entitled to it. You should pray for a more optimistic attitude.

  6. Nancy Stein Miller says:

    Why? I wonder what Dean Francis Sayre would have done?

    I was for years a Washingtonian, a writer for higher education
    And international transportation. Confirmed by Bishop Creightin
    And now retired and bed confined in Laurens, SC with membership
    At The Church of the Resurrection in Greenwood I wonder should we
    Plea falling gargoyles? I am disappointed.

    1. robert hunter says:

      He may be on travel with the Jesus Movement. This is not a repeat statement
      Dean Sayre as a child was in the Whitehouse when his Grandfather Woodrow Wilson previewed the racist film “Birth of a Nation”. Wilson was supportive of the Klan–If his son had not been the Cathedral Dean , Wilson would have not been entombed at the Cathedral and The Confederate Windows to Lee and Jackson would have not been installed
      Sayre did employ John T. Walker who later became Bishop of Washington–He made a trip to Selma, Ala and he invited Dr. King to preach at the Cathedral–King’s sermon was the most prophetic sermon preached at the Cathedral

  7. Dr. William A Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

    I noticed on the news that the Trumps attended Christmas Eve Mass at an Episcopal Cathedral near their Florida home and were greeted with cheers and best wishes from the congregation. Not all Episcopal parishes have a problem with Donald.

    1. Doug Desper says:

      The News footage shows the standing ovation:

      1. robert hunter says:

        To Desper—I try hard not to continue my naive hypocrisy that my Episcopal Church as well as myself are not hypocritical witnesses to Jesus. I am not supporting of Trump; but he has the hidden support of plenty of Republican Bishops and Cathedral Deans. Yes Trump and spouse were celebrated at a Christmas Service in Florida. I believe the celebration took place at the passing of the peace, just before THE PROSPERITY OFFERING.

    2. henry wester says:

      the town of palm beach and trump have a lot of things in common. black were not permit in the town without a id. the town burn the part of the island down where blacks live. i don,t see myself going to episcopal church in palm beach. they just don’t have anything i want!

    3. Patricia Farley says:

      That is correct. People also took photos of Mr. Trump at Holy Communion. Evidently, people’s minds were on politics and celebrity when they should have been on God. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, that kind of behavior really was NOT appropriate.

  8. PJcabbiness says:

    Thank you for the wisdom expressed in your posts Dr. Flint.

  9. Revd Robert T (Tim) Yeager says:

    A church that doesn’t have a problem with the statements, behaviour and policies of Donald Trump is a church that does have problem with the gospel of Christ. This isn’t simply a matter of “politics.

    1. Dr. William A Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

      A church that supports Hillary Clinton with the many lies she has told to advance herself in the political world is a church void of respect for the Gospel. It is a two way street my friends. Let’s leave politics at the door of the Nave and seek only to worship God in spirit and truth.

      1. Kenneth Knapp says:

        Well said.

      2. Linda Stough says:

        But Hillary doesn’t grab women as he does. She didn’t pay for many abortions as he did when he had affairs with married women (according to himself on Howard Stern), she didn’t give the strong impression that people of color, Latinos, and Muslims were not important, but he did, and she didn’t make it clear that only those who are successful and rich are to be respected. Where does that leave Jesus? Where is Trump’s humility? How can I as a Christian follow a man who is the Anti-Christ in every way that I have ever been taught?

        1. Kenneth Knapp says:

          Were you ever taught that you should refrain from judging others and return good for evil?

          1. Carolyn Brock says:

            If I have the opportunity, I will certainly do good to Donald Trump personally, but as a citizen. I will watch and evaluate every move he makes as President. I will not be led down some slope like German Christians were in the thirties. “Be wise as serpants and harmless as doves.”

          2. Kenneth Knapp says:

            As citizens and Christians, we are well advised to be wary of all politicians. “Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth, for there is no help in them.” – Psalm 146:2

        2. Christine says:

          Thank you!

      3. Jon Spangler says:


      4. Jon Spangler says:

        Dr. Flint,

        Can you **really** claim in good conscience that Donald Trump–who has a record of misogyny (hating women), sexual predation, and of willful deceit (lies) in many of his public campaign statements–was or is the morally superior candidate? (“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” ROM 3:23) After all, we know that no human being is perfect–except One.

        Doug Desper is quite correct–we are ALL imperfect. (Yes, even **I** am… ) 😉

        But it is also quite clear that God wants us to love Him and to love (and serve and care for and welcome and protect) our neighbors and the strangers/sojourners among us. We are called to heal, teach, and bless everyone in His name–regardless of their immigration status, race, gender, orientation, or other details. The calls for justice, peace, and compassion are divine calls, and so is the call to truth. We, as people of faith, should not be afraid to stand up for justice, love, and peace and to oppose oppression, hate, greed, and fear.

      5. robert hunter says:

        The Washington National Cathedral should not be designated as a “sacred” space; instead it would more properly be called a “neutral” space where the Nation can gather to celebrate the spirit of “nationalism”.

    2. robert hunter says:

      I wonder if the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception would accept such a public ecumenical service of different Christian preachers and ministers of other religions. I would think that the National Presbyterian Church would be a viable alternative.
      The service to be held at the Washington national Cathedral does pave the way for the Cathedral Chapter to seek more gifts of prosperity

      1. Doug Desper says:

        Robert — I was thinking more about avoiding hypocrisy. Some of our Church’s leaders who condemned Mr. Trump and berated conservatives and the non-elites out there in “fly-over” land also crave the attention that believes that the National Cathedral is a House of Prayer for All People. A lot of cards were shown by leading voices in our Church and it was not pretty or helpful to that whole “dignity of everyone” belief so often referred to. Frankly, too many of our Church’s leading voices sounded like the elitists over at CNN and MSNBC — erudite, but wholly out of touch with those that Mrs. Clinton called “deplorable”. So, why be hypocritical and hold a Service at Nat Cat?

        1. robert hunter says:

          He may be on travel with the Jesus Movement. This is not a repeat statement
          Dean Sayre as a child was in the Whitehouse when his Grandfather Woodrow Wilson previewed the racist film “Birth of a Nation”. Wilson was supportive of the Klan–If his son had not been the Cathedral Dean , Wilson would have not been entombed at the Cathedral and The Confederate Windows to Lee and Jackson would have not been installed
          Sayre did employ John T. Walker who later became Bishop of Washington–He made a trip to Selma, Ala and he invited Dr. King to preach at the Cathedral–King’s sermon was the most prophetic sermon preached at the Cathedral

    3. Jon Spangler says:


    4. Eugenia Davis says:

      God does not really condone your judgement do you think?

  10. Carolyn Brock says:

    We have all lied in many ways many times although we call it something else when we or our friends have done it. But no one running for office has come close to the lies and insults and slurs that have come from Mr Trump. Prayer for Mr Trump and the country he intends to run is every Christian’s profound responsibility. Please everyone just pray

    1. robert hunter says:

      The Washington National Cathedral should not be designated as a “sacred” space; instead it would more properly be called a “neutral” space where the Nation can gather to celebrate the spirit of “nationalism”.
      To Brock; The myth that George Washington never told a lie was put forward to say that all American Presidents never tell a lie; all Presidents misrepresent the Truth. That is the Truth

      1. Patricia Farley says:

        I can’t agree with this. A cathedral is, by its very nature, not a “neutral” space. It is, indeed, sacred. If the nation needs to gather to celebrate a “spirit of nationalism,” many secular locations around the D.C. area would be appropriate for that purpose.

    2. Scott McNairy MD says:

      Ever read Wikileaks’s? The DNC and Podesta big lies revealed in their own words. HRCs emails still in hiding but likely the same. There are no Saints here just deeply flawed beings on all sides.

  11. Doug Desper says:

    We don’t get “a Jesus” when we go to the polls or when we look for direction from among our neighbors. Until the Lord’s Prayer is fulfilled (“Thy Kingdom come on earth….”) we have to live here and pick from the realities of living in the shadow lands of our eternity. We can flatter ourselves into believing that our choices are always moral and just, but the inner look will reveal that we still are flawed. Our leaders are adulterers like FDR and JFK and MLK. They are clay. ANYone who believes that we had the best of choices in this election is deluded. Each candidate was intemperate, and had a horrible past — each in their own way. Each candidate had a very questionable morality. Yes Donald and Hillary and Bernie and Jill — and Gary when he could remember that he was running — were not our first pick if we wanted morality, consistent truth-telling, good leadership records, and a resume’ of constructive compassion for everyone from the unborn to the soon to die. I am convinced that the truly gem-studded moral leader likely doesn’t exist. That’s mainly because he or she would come from among us and then have to lead US. Look at all of us carefully and wonder what sane person would subject themselves to the tyranny of demands, squalling, entitlement mentality, and complexities of being Santa Claus. Mitt Romney had about as clean a moral record as one could have but he was savaged and run into the ground for being wealthy (as though anyone who ran last time or this time around wasn’t a multi-millionaire or more). Truly successful people are shamed and often degraded because they are successful so they mind their own business and stay away from limelight and don’t seek public leadership. So, we get clay-footed leaders instead. Moses didn’t hold with asking for anyone’s opinion and he was obstinate and a murderer. God picked him. King David was a murderer, an adulterer, and a liar. And God anointed him and used him. One thing that made this election different was that people KNEW that their pick was flawed, but they picked the person most likely to make their lives more livable. If we believe that God is still active then we should get the oil out and anoint our new leader, pray for him, advise and critique, and temper ourselves every day to remember that the world doesn’t rise and set in us — and that we’re no great and easy catch to lead.

    1. Craig Kauffman says:

      Doug Desper, good points!
      Before the election, our priest mentioned that parishioners had subtly and not-so-subtly asked him what candidate he might be supporting. In his sermon before the election, he said that our God is big enough for whomever might win the election. I thought that was a great response. I’m still not sure who he voted for!

    2. James Gilliam says:

      A brilliant and inspired assessment. All other posts pale in comparison. We are called to reconciliation. Get over it. God calls us to support and respect our nation and our President.

  12. Fanny Belanger says:

    “Our God is big enough for whomever might win the election”….But will Muslims, Latinos, LGTB and immigrants will be strong enough?
    Yes, God can make something good out of something evil, but at what cost? It’s scary theology to think that God is in control of governments: What about Hitler, Stalin, Napoleon, Herod?
    It’s not so much about who Trump is – yes, we are all sinners after all – than about what he plans to do. The EC should not endorse that in any way.

    1. robert hunter says:

      The Washington National Cathedral should not be designated as a “sacred” space; instead it would more properly be called a “neutral” space where the Nation can gather to celebrate the spirit of “nationalism”.
      To Brock; The myth that George Washington never told a lie was put forward to say that all American Presidents never tell a lie; all Presidents misrepresent the Truth. That is the Truth

  13. Norm Morfod says:

    Too bad it isn’t scheduled Jan. 18, 2017, a couple of days BEFORE Trump takes the oath of
    office and it ought to be called A SERVICE OF CONFESSION [for his bullying and other

  14. Norm Morfod says:

    Please correct the spelling on the comment above — last name is MORFORD Thanks!

  15. robert hunter says:

    Franklin Graham said God had a hand in the election of Trump—Good Protestant Predestination–If this is true then God must be answering the cursing prayer of Jeremiah Wright for God to……America; by Americans electing the agent of their…… We must be wary of a President who is under PTSD—Personality Trump Stress Disorder

  16. wanda valentine says:

    I am Episcopalian and after reading all of these war of words on this site, all I can only offer the words of our outgoing President Barack Obama:
    If you are tired of arguing with strangers on the internet- try talking with them in real life!

  17. Al Underwood says:

    A novel concept: “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”…JC

  18. Bill Louis says:

    As I read through the comments on this article I am sickened and embarrassed by the so called Christians who spew their hateful comments and accusations regarding our new president’s and the prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. Christ invited the worst of the worst into His fold and real Christians would do the same. Their hatefulness words make me embarrassed to be an Episcopalian. I pray for Mr. Trump and for those that have seemed to have lost their way.

    1. Andy Kaye says:

      Three cheers for you, Bill! Spot on!
      But I would note that the Christians are not alone in the hateful comments and accusations ~ there are many other self-righteous folks out there, from many “faith groups” who have been quite willing to foster suspicion and division, and to deny the new president even an honest chance.
      All I am saying is, “give peace a chance”! (Hmmm ~ that could be set to music!)

  19. Lavon Dickens says:

    I wish you all could listen to yourselves as you speak. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. No one stands here today unblemished or perfect. Let’s pray for our Leaders and be glad that our current president stood in front of our nation and other nations and proclaimed God as our protector.I will continue to pray that God will give him and those around him wisdom to carry on.

  20. Andy Kaye says:

    Where can I get a copy of the Order of Service, and where can I get translations of the prayers and readings that were offered in languages other than English? The TV coverage did not provide enough information as to who was who, and I would really like to know who was speaking and what they said.

    1. Mary Frances Schjonberg says:

      The Order of Service is here ENS coverage is coming up soon.

      1. Andy Kaye says:

        Outstanding! Got it, and thanks so very much.
        Numbers 6:24-26

      2. Scott McNairy MD says:

        I await reading Bishop Buddes end of service Blessing . Missed it but saw her shake the President s hand.

  21. john geoffrey band says:

    I am 82 yrs of age resident in UK and I was greatly moved by the most beautifuö National Prayer Service for President D Trump. Could someone please tell me the title of th hymn played at the end of the Service and leading to the extroit?. Again – a beautiful service – thank you. May all blessings with you all.

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