theGrio’s 100: Barry Black, Senate chaplain praying for Congress

Who is Barry Black?

Since 2003, Black has been the chaplain of the U.S. Senate, opening each session of the chamber with a prayer and also serving as a spiritual adviser to members and their families and staffs. He came to the Senate after serving as a Navy chaplain for 27 years. He is the first ever African-American Senate chaplain.

Why is he on theGrio’s 100?

Few people outside of Washington or even inside of it had heard of Black until last year. But in the midst of last year’s government shutdown, Black turned into a kind of conscience of the Congress. His opening prayers were unsubtle lectures to the feuding lawmakers. He was expressing, in a religious way, the anger many Americans felt about the shutdown.

“Give Us This Day, Our Daily Senate Scolding” was the New York Times headline in a story on Black.

“We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness and our pride,” in one prayer,” the Times noted. “Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.”

What’s next for Black?

Black’s prayers, for now, aren’t as passionate, as both parties have avoided another government shutdown. But his one-minute prayers were praised during last year’s shutdown, and he is likely to use his forum to blast lawmakers if another impasse happens again.