Senate chaplain Barry Black was appointed to his post in 2003. (Jeff Franko / Gannett)
Who’s got the toughest job in the Senate during the government shutdown?
Even some of the chamber’s 100 senators might concede it belongs to Barry Black, whose job as Senate chaplain to provide counsel, wisdom and prayer is being put to the test.
The Seventh-day Adventist minister and former chief of Navy chaplains has become “a daily conscience check” for the U.S. Senate, as The New York Times put it Monday. Every day since Oct. 1 when the government has been left without funding for the fiscal year, Black has delivered a sharply worded prayer to the men and women who hold a key to breaking the nasty budget impasse.
“Forgive us also when we put politics ahead of progress,” Black said Monday in his deep baritone.
Another of Black’s prayerful admonitions: “Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable. Remove the burdens of those who are the collateral damage of this government shutdown, transforming negatives into positives.”
Black, like thousands of other government workers, is not being paid during the partial federal shutdown. He began his current job in 2003, after 27 years in the U.S. Navy and retirement as a rear admiral. Black, who grew up in a public housing project in Baltimore, is the first African-American chaplain in the Senate.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democratic leader, paid tribute to Black on Monday by entering the NYT article into the Congressional Record. Durbin said Black is “being given awesome responsibility to prove the power of prayer in the midst of the government shutdown.”