Church leader urges Obama to embrace global neighbours

By agency reporter
January 22, 2009

In her sermon at a service attended by US President Barack Obama after his inauguration, the Rev Dr Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), called on the leader who, she said, would "set the tone" for the nation, to chose compassion, faithfulness and love over vengefulness, anger and fear.

Preaching at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC on 21 January 2009, Watkins, a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, declared: "Even in these hard times, rich or poor, we can reach out to our neighbour, including our global neighbour, in generous hospitality, building together communities of possibility and of hope."

In a 20 January letter to President Obama, representatives of WCC member churches in the United States, declared that they wanted to "roll up [their] sleeves and partner with [Obama] to help bring about the changes that are so desperately needed for the United States and the world to more closely reflect God's vision for humankind and all of creation."

WCC general secretary the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia assured Watkins of the Council's joy and pride over her role as preacher in the inaugural service. Watkins is the first woman to fulfil this responsibility in US history.

With regard to domestic and international challenges that will have to be addressed by the new administration, he wrote in a 19 January letter: "Your prayers will be much needed."

Watkins' sermon took on a recent suggestion by Muslim scholars worldwide for love of God and love of neighbour as "common basis for building a world at peace", explaining that the best way to express love of God "is by facing hard times with a generous spirit: by reaching out toward each other rather than turning our backs on each other."

Full text of the Rev Dr Sharon Watkins' sermon is here (*.PDF file):

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