Longtime Great Bend pastor, the Rev. Bill Johnson, traded his pulpit at the Immanuel United Church of Christ in Ellinwood for a dais at the head of the U.S. House of Representatives chamber Wednesday morning. Each member of Congress gets to invite a pastor to deliver the opening prayer once per year, and Johnson spoke at the request of Congressman Roger Marshall.
“God, we pause and thank you for the blessings we’ve seen down through the ages,” Johnson said in his typical reverent baritone voice. “These blessings you give us often come at the hands of others.”
He also thanked the “honorable men and women of the U.S. House of Representatives and all those in service of our great nation.” And, “as we approach Memorial Day, we gratefully remember men and women of the armed forces of the past, the present and the future.
“Let us remember that greatness is not the number of people who serve us, but the number of people we serve,” he said.
He also called on the youth of the nation taking their next steps into the future and the rest of us to learn from them. “May the season graduation inspire us to grow in knowledge in order to equip ourselves as servants and citizens for God and country.”
For Marshall, the selection of Johnson for the opening message was a deeply personal one.
“I’m often asked what I value in life,” Marshall said in his speech introducing Johnson on the House floor. “I speak of the four pillars of my life – faith, family, community and education. Today, I honor faith.
“It’s a thrill and honor for my life to have my pastor here today to open this Congress like we do every morning with prayer,” he said. “I honor pastor Bill Johnson and all the pastors across the country. There are many freedoms we value, there is nothing I value more than freedom of religion.”
He said for more than 40 years, Johnson led his church and served the community as the pastor of the First Christian Church in Great Bend. “I’m so proud to have the pastor that baptized my four children, officiated my daughter’s wedding, and guided my family and our faith here to open this Congress with prayer today.”