President-Elect Obama has selected the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins to lead the national prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral that is traditionally held on the day following the inauguration. She is the first woman ever selected to lead the service.
Ms. Watkins...is the president and general minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a small, liberal-leaning Protestant denomination with 3,754 congregations and about 690,000 members in the United States and Canada. Ms. Watkins was elected to the post in 2005, the first woman ever chosen to lead a mainline Protestant denomination.
But Ms. Watkins is not well known nationally. She came to the attention of Mr. Obama at a meeting he held during the campaign last summer to introduce himself to a politically and theologically diverse group of ministers. At that closed-door meeting, some of the conservative ministers bluntly questioned Mr. Obama on certain issues. Ms. Watkins was asked to give the closing prayer.
“Sharon was able to conclude in a way that tied everyone together,” said the Rev. Joshua DuBois, director of religious affairs for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, who was at the meeting. “It left folks on a buoyant note, with a degree of hope and optimism that we could find some common ground.” [NY Times]