WASHINGTON — House Chaplain Margaret G. Kibben begins many of her prayers in a familiar place — “Would you pray with me?”
The new chaplain has invited people to pray with her often, on some of the most difficult days Congress has seen in many years. Since being sworn in on Jan. 3, Kibben has prayed after the death of a Capitol Police officer, during a bitter partisan debate on pandemic aid and as she stood in the chamber on Jan. 6 while a pro-Trump mob beat on the barricaded doors.
That day started off with an electric charge, and by about 2:30 p.m. the fuse had been sparked.
Her prayer on the morning of Jan. 6 asked God to “defend us from those adversaries both foreign and domestic. Outside these walls and perhaps within these chambers, who sow seeds of acrimony to divide colleagues and conspire to undermine trust in your divine authority over all things.”
As she sat watching the action of certifying ballots, she began to notice members of House leadership had slowly been pulled from the chamber one by one. Then, chaos. As rioters banged on the doors, she could see a clerk clap their hands in a prayer motion, summoning her to a sacred moment as people donned gas masks.
“I left my seat and went up to the podium and offered a prayer,” she said in an April interview. It reminded her of combat, but it felt like she was exactly where she needed to be.
“I felt God’s covering and God’s calling as to my role in that moment to be a spiritual leader,” she said.
Kibben, as she stood at the podium to lead the chamber in prayer, was continuing a duty that dates back to the earliest days of the union when the first chaplain, Rev. William Linn, was elected in 1789.
The mission remains pretty much the same: Provide pastoral counseling to the House community, schedule guest chaplains and arrange memorial services for members of the House and its staff. (The Senate has its own chaplain.)
Political but not partisan