An Opportunity for Prayer By William “Rusty” DePass O

n Monday, October 28, 2019, Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas, senior pastor of the First Presbyterian Church (ARP) of Columbia, SC, gave the opening prayer in the United States House of Representatives. Dr. Thomas was invited to give the prayer by Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) who has been a member

of our church for almost 50 years and whose family has attended for five generations. Joe was particularly im- pressed by a prayer given by Dr. Thomas at a Sunday worship service in June, 2019, in which he prayed earnestly for healing in our nation, and the Congressman was moved to ask if Dr. Thomas would be willing to give the opening prayer at a session of Congress. Dr. Thomas and his wife Rosemary flew to Washington on Sunday. On Monday, we gathered in Congressman

Wilson’s office in the Longworth Building at 11:00 AM, took some pictures and admired all the mementos hanging on the walls of his office (more, I’m sure, than any other office in Washington). My wife and I worked the event into a trip to visit family and see some sites we had never seen in Virginia.

Harry Jeffcoat flew up to Washington Monday morning. We were joined by Congressman Wilson’s wife Roxanne and members of the Congressional staff which includes Drew Kennedy, who is also a member of our church. They escorted us to the Capitol Hill Club for lunch. After lunch we walked over to the Capitol for the 2:00 PM event. Dr. Thomas and Congressman Wilson went

to the office of the Chaplain of the House while the rest of us were escorted by staff to the visitor’s gallery. Metal detectors are everywhere, of course, and you don’t just turn off your cell phone when you enter the House cham- ber, you deposit it with the Sergeant-at-Arms, who graciously returns it to you when you leave. As we sat in the gallery Dr. Thomas and Congressman Wilson walked onto the floor. When the proceedings

began, Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL) was presiding and she announced that Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas of the First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, South Carolina would deliver the opening prayer. After the prayer Congressman Wilson gave a brief biography of Dr. Thomas and proudly described our church

as a congregation of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod and the long association of his family with it. As Dr. Thomas left the House chamber he received a text message from his 91-year-old mother in Wales say-

ing she had seen and heard the whole thing on her I-pad. The wonders of modern technology! I know she was proud of her son, a farm boy from Wales, who had just delivered the opening prayer in the United States House of Representatives! We then gathered for more pictures on a balcony overlooking the Mall with the Washington Monument in the

background. Our next stop was the Congressional Prayer Room, which is open at all times for all members of Congress although it is physically located on the House side. The George Washington Prayer Window in the room (pictured) is especially impressive and was an anonymous gift. The House Chaplain is a Roman Catholic, Father Patrick J. Conroy of Oregon. He was nominated in 2011 by

Speaker John Boehner in consultation with then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. When I thanked him for his gra- cious welcome, he said, “We often have visiting ministers, but very few of them bring half their congregations with them!” There were only eight of us, but I’m sure that’s more than accompany most ministers. The Rayburn Room just off the House floor was our next stop. This lovely room is used by members for meet-

ings with constituents and lobbyists. Our picture taken under the magnificent portrait of President George Wash- ington is published with this article. Roxanne Wilson and members of the Congressman’s staff then led us on a tour of the Capitol and the Visitor’s

Center, which is a fairly new addition to the Capitol Complex. It was an interesting but exhausting day we were all privileged to share with Rosemary and Derek Thomas, and we are especially grateful to Roxanne and Joe Wil- son for their incredible hospitality. For those of you who are trivia lovers, you may be interested to know that the first Chaplain was a Presbyterian

minister. On May 1, 1789, in one of its first acts, the U. S. House of Representatives elected Rev. William Linn of Philadelphia as the official chaplain of the House.?

William B. “Rusty” DePass, Jr., is a commercial and industrial real estate broker in Columbia, SC, an elder in the First Presbyterian Church and first knew Joe Wilson at Camp Carolina in 1957.


The Associate Reformed Presbyterian


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