Chaplain’s prayers at Trump impeach trial: Truth, wisdom, honor

/ 05:38 AM January 31, 2020

WASHINGTON—”Lord, grant that this impeachment trial will make our nation stronger, wiser and better.”

With US lawmakers often at each other’s throats in an era of bitter divisions fueled by Donald Trump’s presidency—and Democrats’ efforts to remove him from office—one figure in Washington rises above the fray to command respect and humility from both sides of the political aisle.


Senate Chaplain Barry Black has offered divine guidance to the 100-member chamber virtually every session since he took up his post in 2003.

Before the pledge of allegiance to the flag, before any rancorous debate, Black leads lawmakers in prayer. In times of political upheaval, he has used his ministerial bully pulpit to offer timely, persuasive calls for compromise.


The past two weeks have been no exception as Black, 71, has opened each impeachment trial session by urging Democrats and Republicans to put aside their differences and seek truth.

“Eternal God, you are our rock and fortress. Keep us from dishonor,” he intoned in his slow, soothing bass voice on Jan. 21, just before Democrats launched into their opening arguments against Trump.

Wisdom during trial

The following day, he asked God to bestow “wisdom” on presiding Chief Justice John Roberts and the senators who are compelled to sit quietly for the trial’s duration.

“Help them remember that patriots reside on both sides of the aisle, that words have consequences, and that how something is said can be as important as what is said,” he said.

Black, raised in low-income housing in Baltimore, is a Seventh-day Adventist and retired US Navy rear admiral.

He is often clad in a suit and colorful bow tie and his daily prayers, part of a centuries-old ritual that begins the Senate’s proceedings, usually hew to religious propriety or inspirational guidance. But in times of crisis, they can come across as startling ministerial chidings.

“Have mercy upon us, oh God, and save us from the madness,” Black said back in 2013 as lawmakers struggled to end a government shutdown.


Was the chaplain pleading for compromise, or throwing some well-deserved Biblical shade?

Appeal for fairness

His Monday prayer carried a less despondent plea, but Black did appeal to senators’ sense of fairness.

“May they hear the words of Jesus of Nazareth reverberating down the corridors of the centuries,” he said, “that you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

Black also invoked NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, who both died in a helicopter crash the previous day.

“Remind us that we have a limited time on Earth,” he offered.

With the impeachment trial drama swirling, observers have praised the chaplain’s steady hand.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Donald Trump, Kobe Bryant, Senate Chaplain Barry Black, Trump impeachment
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

© Copyright 1997-2020 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.