“Let’s get someone who can pray for us”

Chaplain Barry Black spends a decade in prayer & ministry for the U.S. Senate


June 29, 2013

Barry Black has served as U.S. Senate Chaplain for ten years, but the tradition of having someone in the post dates back to the Continental Congress in 1789.

Before the United States had an Establishment Clause separating church and state, members voted to elect three officers: a secretary, a sergeant-at-arms, and a chaplain. Black, appointed in July 2003, is the first African American to fill the role.

“It was one of the first actions of the new congress in 1789, ‘Let’s get somebody who can pray for us,'” said Black. “The chaplaincy was established before the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

“That historical reality makes it clear that the framers intended there be a spiritual dimension to government. In other words, the separation of church and state does not mean a separation of God and state.”

Besides opening most Senate sessions with prayer, Black leads Bible studies and prayer breakfasts for Senators and staff throughout the week.

“At the end of each of the prayer breakfasts, these Senators stand up, hold hands, and they pray,” he said. “Now that’s something that the C-SPAN cameras never see, but there’s tremendous community there.”

Watch the above video for more on Chaplain Barry Black, his role in the Senate, and his process for crafting the prayers that frame each legislative day in one of the most powerful legislative bodies in the world.

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