President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden began the first day of their second four- year term at a prayer service meant to underscore the nation’s diversity of faith.
The two leaders went to Washington National Cathedral, which has served as the backdrop for U.S. leaders in times of celebration, crisis or sorrow.
The cathedral “will once again bring Americans together to pray for the nation at the start of a new presidential term -- a service it has provided since 1933,” according to a statement on its website. The interfaith service included voices of faith from several Christian denominations as well as Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.
“We’re in need of a new common national vision,” said the Reverend Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, who gave the sermon.
“To many Americans, we feel like a House divided that cannot stand” on issues from the debt ceiling to health care, he said. Government leaders should serve with humility and compassion, and when times get tough and people “feel like giving up,” Hamilton said it is “faith that sustains us. He will renew your strength.”
Besides Obama and Biden and their wives, the White House said administration officials and Cabinet members attended, including Jack Lew, Obama’s nominee as Treasury secretary, Attorney General Eric Holder, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. House Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer also were there, the White House said in a statement.
Prayer services have been a tradition dating to George Washington, the first U.S. president, and services have been held at the cathedral since Franklin Roosevelt’s first inauguration in 1933.
It marked the third consecutive day Obama attended church. He went to Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington on Jan. 20 and St. John’s Episcopal Church one block from the White House yesterday.
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