Throughout the years, the United States Senate has honored the historic separation of Church and State, but not the separation of God and State. The first Senate, meeting in New York City on April 25, 1789, elected the Right Reverend Samuel Provost, the Episcopal Bishop of New York, as its first chaplain. Since then, all sessions of the Senate have been opened with prayer, strongly affirming the Senate's faith in God as Sovereign Lord of our Nation. The role of the chaplain as spiritual advisor and counselor has expanded over the years from a part-time position to a full-time job as one of the officers of the Senate. The Office of the Chaplain is nonpartisan, nonpolitical, and nonsectarian.
Duties of the Senate Chaplain
In addition to opening the Senate each day in prayer, Chaplain Black’s duties include counseling and spiritual care for the senators, their families and their staffs, a combined constituency of six thousand people. Chaplain Black’s days are filled with meeting senators about spiritual and moral issues, assisting senators’ staffs with research on theological and biblical questions, teaching Senate Bible study groups, encouraging such groups as the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast, and facilitating discussion and reflection small groups among senators and staff.
In order to stay informed of the needs of the Senate community, Chaplain Black maintains a program with a volunteer liaison in each office to assist him. A member of his staff directs this program.