Tuesday, Jan. 9

Governor, constitutional officers light unity candle at prayer service to begin 2007 inaugural festivities          Send a link to a friend

[JAN. 9, 2007]  SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and the first family welcomed the constitutional officers to First Presbyterian Church in Springfield on Monday for an inauguration prayer service. Under the theme of "Peace," a diverse clergy led the interfaith service, which ended with the constitutional party lighting the unity candle as a coming together to serve the people of Illinois.

"I am heartened to be surrounded by family, friends and fellow state leaders as we begin four more years of working for the people," Blagojevich said. "I'm honored and humbled to serve as governor, and I pray for the guidance and wisdom every day to continue to make decisions that help make things better for working families."

The program brought together traditions from many of Illinois' religious groups. In addition to the clergy leading the service, the constitutional officers invited their religious authorities to lead their prayers of commitment. Musicians and choirs from Springfield, Decatur and Chicago provided various musical selections. All parts of the program fit within the peace theme, which was chosen to symbolize embracing humanity and the citizenry to move the state forward in addressing the most basic human needs -- be it health care, education or safety.

The First Presbyterian Church in Springfield also boasts a history rich in Illinois traditions. Abraham Lincoln and his family worshiped there from 1850 to 1861, when Lincoln left Springfield to assume the duties of president. The Lincoln family pew, from the church's original location at Third and Washington streets, is still kept in the church.

The service began as organist Dr. Rudolf Zuiderveld invited parishioners into the First Presbyterian Church with a selection performed on the church's John Brombaugh Opus 35 pipe organ. The organ was crafted explicitly for the church by master American organ builder John Brombaugh. The organ features 3,250 pipes, three manuals and a pedal with 46 stops and has captured national and international attention since its installation in 2000. A native of the Netherlands, Zuiderveld serves as the First Presbyterian Church's organist as well as professor of music and college organist at Illinois College.

As the procession of constitutional officers and clergy walked toward the pulpit, choirs of First Presbyterian Church and New Mission Church of God in Springfield, led by directors Susan Harris and Merle McNeese, led the congregation in "America the Beautiful."

Driss El Akrich, principal of the Sunday Islamic School at the Islamic Society of Greater Springfield, read a passage of scripture. The Islamic Society, which serves close to 200 families in the Springfield area, helps Muslims to carry out religious, social, civic, charitable and literary activities according to the teachings of Islam. Since its founding in 1994, the society has focused on education and communication with Muslims and non-Muslims alike to create a better understanding of Islam.

Rabbi Michael Datz of Temple B'rith Sholom in Springfield read another passage of scripture. Temple B'rith Sholom, the oldest Jewish congregation in central Illinois, boasts services that are known throughout the community for their beauty, dignity, music and inspiration. Datz has been at Temple B'rith Sholom since 1992, in that time serving as a board member for many of central Illinois' important charitable organizations, including the Central Illinois Food Bank, the Springfield Jewish Federation, the Springfield Board of Jewish Education and the Springfield Liturgical Arts Council. Before coming to Springfield, Datz led congregations in South Africa and the Netherlands.

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The choirs of the First Presbyterian Church and New Mission Church of God led the congregation in "Let There Be Peace on Earth."

Then the Rev. Dr. Clifford J. Hayes of the First Presbyterian Church delivered a prayer of dedication. Hayes' pastoral focus is church revitalization and spiritual development of leaders. He concentrated his studies for his doctor of ministry degree in mediation and conflict resolution. Since 1999, he has trained in family systems in congregations, including healthy congregation facilitator training.

The Kingdom Come Ministries Praise and Worship Team of Decatur sang "Total Praise," by Richard Smallwood, a song which gives thanks to the Lord for giving strength in times of struggle. The worship team is led by Apostle William and Lady Donna Rogers, ministers of Kingdom Come.

Following the musical selection, each constitutional officer was led in a prayer of commitment by clergy of their choosing. Bishop Arthur Brazier of the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago led Blagojevich in his religious oath to the people of Illinois. The governor was followed by the Rev. Richard LaPata, president of Fenwick High School in Oak Park leading Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn; the Rev. Mike Byrnes, pastor of the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, leading Attorney General Lisa Madigan; the Rev. Marvin Alexander of Union Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago leading Secretary of State Jesse White; the Rev. John A. Farry of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Chicago leading Comptroller Daniel W. Hynes; and Father John Kalomas of St. Andrew's Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago leading Treasurer-elect Alex Giannoulias in their prayers of commitment.

Following these prayers, the worship team from Decatur sang "Open the Eyes of My Heart," by Paul Baloche.

The Rev. Sen. James T. Meeks of Salem Baptist Church in Chicago then gave a message to the congregation. Meeks has been the pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago since 1985, and the church has grown from 200 to 24,000 followers under his leadership. As a state senator for the 15th District in Chicago, he has advocated for school reform and housing affordability. Meeks is the chairman of the Housing and Community Affairs Committee and vice chairman of the Commerce and Economic Development Committee. Additionally, he is a member of the Senate Commerce, Appropriations, Education, Higher Education and Senate Education Funding Reform committees.

Finally, the constitutional officers came together to light the unity candle in celebration of another four years serving the people of Illinois in harmony.

Georgia Northrup, senior elder of First Presbyterian Church, and the Rev. W.G. Robinson-McNeese, M.D., of New Mission Church of God then recited the benediction.

As the constitutional officers made their way through the recession, the participating choirs from the First Presbyterian Church, New Mission Church of God and Kingdom Come Ministries came together to sing "Let There Be Peace on Earth," bringing the theme of peace full circle.

[News release from the governor's office]

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