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June 17, 2014

Prayer at the City Pulpit’

Harry M. Covert

It sure is nice and sweet for local leaders to be so inclusive to assorted lifestyles. It sure is more of a blessing the lawmakers want to open their public sessions with prayer. Perhaps the invocations will have a soothing effect on deliberations and keep things smooth.


However doubtful such agreeable meetings may be, the celestial musings are now taking on new and interesting directions.


Apparently this coming Thursday, Frederick’s mayor and Board of Aldermen have charted a new course. They will introduce a Hindu ecclesiastic. The latter is not even local. He is like a traveling evangelist “spreading The Word” of the Universal Society of Hinduism.


Rajan Zed’s historic presentation drew attention in July 2007 when he opened the U.S. Senate’s daily orders. This did bring about some anti-Hindu protestors labeled Christians troublemakers. The latter is a good attention getter, especially if some people don’t like any public religious declarations.


For the record, no Hindu temples are operating in Frederick as far as is known. There are, according to the statistical keepers, about three million Hindus in the U.S. As Zed said, “Many people don’t understand Hinduism.” He’s right about that.


According to local news reports Zed will open and close his meditation with “Om,” the “mystical syllable containing the universe.”


It now seems logical that every denomination of every sort will be on the podium at official city meetings. Imagine the brouhaha today if fire-breathing Christian evangelists along the line of Billy Sunday invaded Frederick’s meetings. He was a popular outfielder of the National League’s Chicago White Stockings in the 1880s. He converted to conservative Christian evangelism. He was the nation’s hottest preacher in the first two decades of the 20th Century.


Billy Sunday, even today, could pack Harry Grove Stadium or the Frederick Fairgrounds. He could teach baseball and then have local protestant churches packed on Sundays, even local synagogues on Friday evenings. The Weinberg Center downtown would be unable to handle the patrons with Sunday.


In today’s world, religious fervor of lots of mealy-mouthed churches are more worried about a football team nicknames instead of concentrating on the real purposes of ministry. That’s a story for another day.


The city says its invocations are open to all religious persuasions. There are rules to abide by quite naturally.


There are enough pastors and preachers in Frederick, and the county, too, to fill up the praying schedule at City Hall. I’d like to see a broader variety of testifiers making their way to the public pulpits and to see the schedules in advance. I’d like to hear orthodox, conservative and reform rabbis, the Amish, Swedenborgians, Moravians, Free Will Baptists, Southern Baptists, Independent Baptists, foot washing Catholics, the West Virginia snake handlers, perhaps some Sunnis or Shiites, Southern Methodists, regular Methodists, Wesleyans, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Anglican-Baptists, universalists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and perhaps some others, the list of which is too long to record here.


The story goes that Jack Dempsey, the famous pugilistic champion, bet another boxer $5 he couldn’t say the Lord’s Prayer. The fellow said oh yes I can, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”


Dempsey paid off the wager, “I didn’t believe you could do it.”


For all this, welcome Chaplain Zed for Thursday night. I wonder if he knows the old Christian admonition, “where two or three gathered, take up a collection.”


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