Local Pastor to Serve as Guest Chaplin in United States Congress
Jul 18, 2008
By Congressman Michael Turner
At the beginning of every Congressional workday, members of the House of Representatives are led in prayer by the House Chaplain. Sometimes these duties are filled by a special guest Chaplain nominated by a Member of the House of Representatives. I am honored to nominate an outstanding member of our community, Pastor Kelly McInerney of the Bible Baptist Church in Wilmington, to come to Washington, D.C. and lead the House of Representatives in prayer on July 24, 2008.
Pastor McInerney is a respected community leader who is devoted to his congregation, his family, and his faith. Pastor McInerney has led the congregation of the Bible Baptist Church of Wilmington since its inception in 1995. In addition to his service to Bible Baptist Church, Pastor McInerney is also currently the chaplain for the Southwest District of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Clinton County Sherriff’s Office, and the Wilmington Fire Department. As part of his service to the first responders of our community, Pastor McInerney also holds an annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at his church. The event recognizes outstanding members of the law enforcement community and pays tribute to all the officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in the history of Clinton County. Pastor McInerney’s family includes his wife Theresa, and his sons Kenton and Kaden.
As with virtually everything done in the House of Representatives, there is a great deal of history behind the office of the House Chaplain. According to the Congressional Research Service, the practice of having guest chaplains offer prayers for our nation’s legislative body is in many ways as old as the country itself. The namesake of my hometown, Jonathan Dayton, recorded a prayer request during the Constitutional Convention made by Benjamin Franklin where he said: “I will suggest, Mr. President, the propriety of nominating and appointing, before we separate, a chaplain to this Convention, whose duty it shall be uniformly to assemble with us, and introduce the business of each day by an address to the Creator of the universe, and the Governor of all nations, beseeching Him to preside in our council, enlighten our minds with a portion of heavenly wisdom, influence our hearts with a love of truth and justice, and crown our labors with complete and abundant success!”
The tradition of beginning the legislative day with a prayer continued during the initial days of our Republic when Rev. William Linn was elected Chaplain of the House on May 1, 1789. In those early days, the House Chaplain traded duties with the Senate Chaplain, an Episcopal bishop from New York named Samuel Provoost, on a weekly basis.
In addition to their duties in the House of Representatives, the early chaplains conducted Sunday services for the then very small community of Washington, D.C. in the House Chamber every other week. From the beginning, prayers were offered on an informal basis by guests to the Congress and in many cases guests participated in the Sunday services held in the Capitol. Those interested in seeing the room where the services were held can travel to Washington, D.C. and stand in Statuary Hall which used to serve as the House Chamber before the current chamber was built.
Since Rev. Linn’s election in 1789, the House has been well served by chaplains of various denominations, including seven Baptists, sixteen Methodists, and fifteen Presbyterians. Our current House Chaplain, Father Daniel Coughlin, was selected in 2000 and is the first Catholic to be so honored. In addition to overseeing the Guest Chaplain program, Father Coughlin also serves as a source of close personal counsel to Members of Congress and is greatly respected on both sides of the aisle.
Pastor McInerney will join a long and distinguished history of people, such as the Reverend Billy Graham, who have led the House of Representatives in prayer over the past 200 years. I look forward to introducing him to the Congress and listening to his inspiring words on the House floor.