Monday’s inauguration in Washington had a Charlotte connection: The Rev. Luis León, who gave the benediction, or closing prayer.
Since 1995, he has been rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, across the street from the White House. But from 1977 to 1980, León was assistant rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in uptown Charlotte.
On Monday, León presided over a prayer service with President Obama before the inauguration.
Then, later, the Cuban immigrant gave the benediction – including a few lines in Spanish.
In his prayer, León called for national unity at a time of great division in the country.
“We pray for your blessing, because without it we will see only what the eye can see,” León said. “But with your blessing, we’ll see that we are made in your image, whether brown, black or white; male or female; first generation immigrant or Daughter of the American Revolution; gay or straight; rich or poor.”
León replaced Obama’s original choice to give the benediction. Atlanta megachurch pastor Louie Giglio withdrew from the ceremony recently after a sermon he gave years ago surfaced in which he condemned gay relationships.
Four years ago, at Obama’s first inauguration, the president-elect started his day at St. John’s Episcopal. Greeting him as he and wife Michelle arrived – the first photo op of the day – was León.
Since then, the president and his family have worshiped several times at León’s church, as well as a few other churches in Washington.
Built in 1815 to give presidents a place to worship, every White House occupant since James Madison (No. 4) has attended St. John’s Episcopal at least once. It has been known over the years as “the presidents’ church.”
Row 54 in the church is called “The President’s Pew.”