Saturday, January 23, 2010

Barry Black, Senate Chaplain.

From radio station KOSU, a look at the meaning of separation of church and state:

Most mornings, after the gavel is struck in the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill, a prayer is offered in that most secular body — a practice that goes back to the founding fathers at the Continental Congress in 1774.

Chaplain Barry C. Black delivers the prayer, offering up some of the first words heard each day in the chamber.

Black works from an office in the Capitol building, a well-appointed room with high, arched ceilings and wall-to-wall mahogany bookcases. Compared with the number of people working for senators, the chaplain’s staff is downright humble. He has an executive assistant, a director of communications and a chief of staff.

But from this third-floor perch in the Capitol building, Black enjoys one of the best views of the National Mall’s mosaic of cherry trees, museums and monuments.

Biblical Analysis For Earthly Decisions

The role the chaplain performs for the Senate stands almost at the meeting point between church and state. He’s a religious leader and shepherd to what is essentially a secular flock. This includes the Senate lawmakers, their families and their staffs, as well as all the other people who work on the Senate side of the Capitol — nearly 6,000 people in all.

His job entails coordinating events with other spiritual leaders throughout the year, from rabbis to Muslim imams. He officiates at weddings, funerals and christenings for lawmakers, their families and their staffs, and offers one-on-one counseling on matters both spiritual and private.

He also leads five Bible study groups each week, including one that is made up of just senators. Black says he thinks that for almost any issue the Senate is debating, there are biblical aspects that can be discussed in the study groups he holds.

“For instance, when the health care bill was being debated in the chamber, the people at my Bible study were from both sides of the aisle,” Black says. “And though we did not talk directly about the health care bill, I did a study on euthanasia and what the Bible says about ‘end of life.’ “

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