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Faith leaders join Baker and Polito in prayer on eve of inauguration

  • Gov. Charlie Baker addresses the Inaugural Prayer Service held for the governor and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito on the eve of their inauguration for a second term. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault
  • Faith leaders and the congregation extend their hands in prayer over the governor and lieutenant governor. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault

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BOSTON -- Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito gathered with the leaders of Boston's various faith communities for a prayer service at Morning Star Baptist Church on Jan. 2, the evening before their inauguration for a second term.

Bishop John M. Borders III, senior pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church, presided over the interfaith prayer service. He said Baker requested that the event take place in Mattapan. Bishop Borders thanked Baker "for making a statement as powerful as that."

Leaders of Boston's Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, and Jewish communities took turns sharing reflections, reading scripture passages, and offering prayers for Baker and Polito.

The service was punctuated by musical performances from Morning Star Baptist Church Choir, Concord Baptist Church Men's Choir, and soloist Phaedra, accompanied by the Boston Arts Academy Choir.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley gave an invocation and spoke of the collaboration and shared responsibilities of political and religious leaders.

"This evening we give thanks for the collaboration between elected officials and our many and diverse religious communities. Among the responsibilities of religion and politics is protecting the dignity of the human person. Collaboration among political and religious leaders focuses on the issues that impact the wellbeing of the people that we serve," he said.

He expressed gratitude to Gov. Baker's administration for exemplifying civility in public life, "a virtue that we need to model for our children."

Several speakers recalled the inaugural prayer service that took place four years earlier, before Baker was sworn in for his first term as governor.

At that time, Rev. Susan Cartmell, senior pastor of Pilgrim Congregational Church in Harwich Port, compared Baker to King David. This year, she compared him to Moses by reading a passage from Exodus 17, in which Moses stretches out his hands so the Israelites can prevail in battle. When his hands grow tired, other people hold them up for him.

"In the first place, I think this story tells us that good leaders are practical. Like the ancient leader, you have always kept your eye on practical solutions to complex problems. And that's one of the keys to your effectiveness. Secondly, Moses was humble. He knew there were limits to what he could achieve alone, and he needed other people to help him. And he wasn't afraid to ask for help. One of your gifts is your increasingly unique ability to invite everyone to the table to look together at the problems we all face. And that's a refreshing way to lead these days," Rev. Cartmell said.

Polito and Baker shared their own remarks and Scripture readings toward the end of the service.

Polito thanked each of the faith leaders for being present, with particular gratitude to Cardinal O'Malley and His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston. She said that she was brought up in the Catholic faith, while her husband, Steve Rodolakis, was raised Greek Orthodox.

"It means so much to our family to have both of you here today, and we thank you," she said, addressing the cardinal and metropolitan.

She also expressed how grateful she felt when faith leaders gathered four years ago to pray for her and the then governor-elect. Despite their different perspectives, she said, they came together for a common purpose: to pray for the administration. "[That] put us in the right perspective coming into office," she said.

Polito spoke of how, as Bishop Borders had earlier mentioned, she visited each of the 351 towns and cities in Massachusetts. She said that meeting people with different backgrounds and priorities helped her to grow both as an individual and as lieutenant governor.

"I also learned that when you focus on things you disagree on, because you come from different perspectives, different faith and maybe different places, then you have an inability to move forward. And in too many places the focus is there, whereas for our leadership and our management style we have chosen to focus on the things that we agree on and to seek that out and to find that common ground," Polito said.

She thanked those present "for allowing that tremendous opportunity to come into our lives."

"In politics, we call this bipartisanship. In common workplaces, we call this collaboration. And in the Bible, we call this togetherness," she said.

She quoted 1 Corinthians 12:25-26, which describes the relationship between different parts of a body.

"Working together to improve the lives of others has been, and always will be, our common purpose," Polito said.

She then introduced Baker, who shared remarks on the importance of faith.

"What made this event so special four years ago was it wasn't about government. It was about faith and about community," he said.

Baker quoted James 1:2-4, which encourages the reader to be joyful in trials because the testing of faith produces perseverance. Baker said that when he was young, the idea that something hard could be good for him was something he heard from his parents and his church. However, he did not think it was true. Now, he said, he realizes his parents were right.

"In this job in particular, you spend a lot of time with people who are going through some terrible, awful tragedies," he said.

What carries most of them through, Baker said, is their faith.

"The power of faith, especially in those darkest moments, is a glorious thing," he said.

He acknowledged that during the past four years, when terrible things have happened in other parts of the country, he has reached out to faith communities for help in dealing with them, and they respond.

Addressing the faith leaders sitting behind him, Baker said, "I am so grateful for what you do, who you are, and what you stand for."

Before the evening ended, Rev. Gloria Hammond, co-founder and senior pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston, invited everyone in attendance to participate in a "laying of hands" prayer.

The faith leaders placed their hands on Baker and Polito and formed a chain as those in the pews stretched out their hands as a sign of blessing, while Rev. Hammond prayed for the governor's administration.

Rev. Hammond thanked God for giving the commonwealth "a model of what's possible when integrity reigns" and "leaders who see politics not only as a career but public service as a calling."

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