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Interfaith service blesses Oklahoma Democrat Kendra Horn for her new role in Congress

The Rev. Joseph Alsay, rector of St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City, anoints U.S. Rep.-elect Kendra Horn, D-Okla., with chrism, a consecrated oil, on Dec. 16, 2018. Representatives of various religions surround her at an interfaith prayer service at the Episcopal church. RNS photo by Bobby Ross Jr.

OKLAHOMA CITY (RNS) — U.S. Rep.-elect Kendra Horn, D-Okla., knelt at the front of the sanctuary as the Rev. Joseph Alsay, rector of St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, anointed her with chrism, a consecrated oil.

“Kendra, may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done,” Alsay said as he prayed over Horn.

He then invited other religious leaders to join him in prayer.

Representatives of nearly a dozen religious traditions — Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh leaders among them — took part in an interfaith prayer service Sunday night (Dec. 16) for Horn, who pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2018 midterm elections.

U.S. Rep.-elect Kendra Horn, D-Okla., before an interfaith prayer service for her at St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City. RNS photo by Bobby Ross Jr.

The public demonstration of her faith marked a transformation of sorts for Horn, a 42-year-old native Oklahoman who grew up Southern Baptist but said she fell in love with the Episcopal Church’s “combination of intellect and liturgy” as an adult.

“My faith has always been something more personal to me, so it has been an interesting journey working on sharing that and my expression of it,” Horn said in an interview with Religion News Service before the prayer service.

In one of the reddest of the red states, Horn defeated incumbent Republican Steve Russell by 1.4 percentage points in the Nov. 6 general election, turning Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District blue for the first time in 44 years.

Horn received 121,149 votes (50.7 percent) to Russell’s 117,811 votes (49.3 percent). A pre-election analysis by FiveThirtyEight had given her only a 1 in 15 chance of winning.

Political observers pointed to Horn’s engaging personality and laser-like focus on issues important to constituents, such as health care and education, as crucial factors in her unexpected victory.

Changing demographics — younger and more Democratic-friendly — in the urban and suburban district that includes Oklahoma City didn’t hurt either, analysts said.

But in a district where evangelical Christians represent about half the voters — and a state where 3 in 4 residents describe themselves in Gallup polling as “moderately religious” or “very religious” — Horn also showed a willingness to engage people of faith.

“Kendra is a model for candidates across the country,” said Michael Wear, who directed former President Barack Obama’s faith outreach during his successful 2012 re-election campaign. “She did not pretend to be someone she is not. She showed up, speaking to shared values and calling out the better angels of all voters, even those who might not be expected to vote Democratic.

“Because she was willing to authentically meet evangelicals where they are and ask for their votes, she was able to give her candidacy a chance even in a deep red district,” added Wear, author of “Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America.”

Oklahoma’s 5th District was one of 31 congressional districts nationally where Vote Common Good, a group of progressive evangelicals, brought its bus tour and staged pre-election rallies. Democratic challengers unseated Republican incumbents in 16 of those districts. The group describes itself as nonpartisan but opposed to President Donald Trump’s agenda.

U.S. Rep.-elect Kendra Horn, center right in red, D-Okla., poses with religious leaders after an interfaith prayer service for her at St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City on Dec. 16, 2018. RNS photo by Bobby Ross Jr.

Doug Pagitt, a Minnesota pastor and Vote Common Good’s executive director, said one result of the group’s efforts was that Democratic candidates such as Horn realized they could, in fact, talk publicly about their faith.

“That was a really new experience for a lot of Democrats because Democrats don’t often reach out to faith groups,” Pagitt told RNS.

Horn, an attorney and activist, traces the development of her faith to women important in her life.

Those women include her late maternal great-grandmother, Mattie Creeach, who stayed busy cooking and serving at the First Baptist Church of Chickasha, a small town about 40 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

“She was an example of a consummate servant,” said Horn, the first Democratic woman elected to Congress from Oklahoma. “She never had a lot — she had five girls —and they were always scraping everything together. But no matter what, if anyone needed anything, she was there to do it.”

On her father’s side, Horn grew up hearing about her great-grandparents, who were in the grocery business, and how they gave away food to people who were destitute and hungry during the Great Depression.

They didn’t talk about their religion, Horn said. They lived it.

But the Vote Common Good experience has made Horn more open to talking about how her faith informs her desire, for example, to serve marginalized communities, she said.

“Service, justice and faith require creating paths to right historical wrongs by erasing the remnants of racism, sexism and other barriers that relegate our idea of leadership and faith to a narrow description of race, color and religion, based in a narrow power dynamic,” Horn told the crowd at Sunday’s interfaith prayer service.

Ali Dodd, a 35-year-old Republican mother, voted for U.S. Rep.-elect Kendra Horn, D-Okla., and came to an interfaith prayer service for Horn at St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City on Dec. 16, 2018. RNS photo by Bobby Ross Jr.

Ali Dodd, a 35-year-old Republican mother who came to the service, described herself as “elated” by Horn’s election.

Dodd characterizes herself as a fiscal conservative. She indicated that she votes for the candidate she favors — not strictly along party lines. She didn’t support Trump in 2016, but she did vote for Oklahoma Republican U.S. Sen. James Lankford, a pastor who occasionally preaches at the large Southern Baptist church just across the street from St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church.

“Why wouldn’t I support her?” Dodd said of Horn. “She’s not going to represent just Democrats. She’s going to represent us all. I find it really important, whether we’re Republicans or Democrats, to support her in any way I can. I know she’ll listen.”

Another attendee, Mike Korenblit, who is Jewish, said he started wearing a yarmulke after Trump’s election to show support for marginalized communities.

“I was Jewish and proud of it. I belonged to the temple and the synagogue. But nobody would have known it,” said Korenblit, who noted that he was as surprised by Horn’s 5th District win as he was by Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016. “Now they do, wherever I go.”

Sunday’s service celebrated the election of Horn — a St. Augustine parishioner — and focused on the need for unity among people of diverse backgrounds.

“We come together to pray for and with Kendra — to offer our petitions to the God who has made all humanity from one blood,” said Alsay, who organized a similar service for Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt before his swearing-in this past spring.

Holt, a fellow St. Augustine parishioner and former Republican state senator, declined to say whether he voted for Horn. However, the top elected official in this city of 650,000 residents stressed that he supports her now. The mayor attended Sunday’s service with his wife and two children and gave a reading from James 1:22-25, 27.

“It’s a diverse community we both represent here in Oklahoma City, and many kinds of diversity are encompassed in that, and religious diversity is certainly part of that,” said Holt. “I think we both felt as we took office that that was an important thing to acknowledge.”

Imam Imad Enchassi of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma asked that God would inspire Horn “to be a pioneer, a trailblazer.” L.S. Multani of Sikh Gurudwara of Oklahoma prayed that Horn would be blessed “with wisdom, compassion, faith and a sense of what is fair.” Charlene Morrow of the Urantia Book Society of Oklahoma asked for “continued strength and courage” for Horn.

“Peace be, peace be, peace be with you, and God be with you, congratulations,” said Venkataraman Kalyanaraman of the Oklahoma Hindu Temple.

Giving the homily at the end of Sunday’s service, Horn said that throughout her two-year congressional campaign, she began and ended each day with these words from St. Francis of Assisi:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

“O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

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Bobby Ross Jr.

23 Comments

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  • And putting the Great Kibosh to work in eliminating such verbiage in the future:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  • Horn, a 42-year-old native Oklahoman who grew up Southern Baptist but said she fell in love with the Episcopal Church.

  • Had she been a Christian, she would not have left the church for an obvious heretical/apostate assembly
    “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” 1 John 2:19

  • The Great Kibosh of All Religions will live forever while said Congresswomen will soon be forgotten.

  • I didn’t say that, although I can see where you got that impression. Most Episcopal are not Christian, if they are following Curry. Christians don’t lead people to Hell (edit)

  • It is very difficult to when she has chosen an apostate assembly. If she was, giving up Christ for politics, is very ssilly

  • Someone following Christ would not be caught dead in a pagan assembly that Curry heads. There is yet a portion of the Episcopal who do want to follow Christ, but last I heard Curry was going to have a chat with that bishop. Curry is worse than a heathen and nothing Christian will come out of anything in his control.
    Any Christian would recognize this, as have members of the assembly already. Christians are taught to shun the appearance of evil

  • I won’t be judged, but thank you for your concern.

    Ephesians 5:5For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7Therefore do not become partners with them; 8for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

  • You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Luke 6:42

  • That would be if I were doing the same thing and I attend a godly church, but thank you.
    “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24

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