We had only a few weeks to organize "Pray and Act: A Service for Peace and Justice" on January 20, the holiday of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. We knew the service in the Washington National Cathedral and a procession to the White House for a candlelight vigil would succeed only if "the moment" carried the day. John Chane, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, felt strongly that this could be an historic event, and that the cathedral was hosting a service that could challenge the nation's rush to war.
Almost 25 leaders from denominations, religious orders, and national faith-based organizations appeared and the middle of the sanctuary began to fill as the service participants gathered, many in their clerical collars and stoles. This was a genuinely prayerful event, not a political rally, so we joined hands to pray that God's will be done in this service and in our nation. As we processed to the front of the cathedral, the aisles nearest the pulpit seemed full, but from where we were sitting, I couldn't see beyond the first 20 rows.
From the start, the music, the readings from Dr. King's last Sunday sermon (preached in the National Cathedral), the biblical texts, and the prayers and meditations created a profoundly spiritual environment.