This opens a window into a side of Wednesday’s events we haven’t heard before, telling how the newly installed chaplain for the House of Representatives, Rear Adm. Margaret Grun Kibben, a Presbyterian minister, cared for those inside the Capitol as the attack was unfolding.
It was just her third day on the job.
Kibben told RNS she doesn’t remember the exact details of her initial prayer… She was made keenly aware of the looming danger as she approached the microphone: An aide handed her an “escape hood” — a protective mask developed as a precaution in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Kibben, who has served in combat, was not rattled. Instead, she set the mask aside, gathered herself and prayed.
“It was a matter of asking for God’s covering and a hedge of protection around us,” she said, remembering the House recorder was diligently documenting her words as she prayed. “And that in the chaos, the spirit would descend in the room to offer us peace and order. That we would look to care for each other, even as we are under stress.”
Capitol police began swiftly escorting lawmakers and House staff out of the room…
“There were people of varying abilities, health conditions and emotional states,” she said. “My concern was to keep an eye on who was frightened, who was struggling, so that I could come alongside them — and there were a few under duress.”
The group eventually reached a secure location, but tensions continued to run high.
Kibben was asked to pray once again. She began by reading from the Bible’s Psalm 46, the same passage she had included in her scheduled prayer before the House that morning. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.”
She then prayed for a “covering of peace and shelter” and lifted up prayers for those ransacking the Capitol — that those “who felt so strongly against us” might come to understand that the lawmakers they decry ultimately want precisely what the attackers insist they were denied: “That our legislative process is appropriate and legal and representative.”
As she finished, the room was quiet.
Kibben then engaged in what she called a “ministry of walking around,” talking to members of Congress, staff and Capitol police who appeared to be in distress. She said it helped that she wore a clerical collar; having not even completed her first week, she was meeting many in the room for the first time.
And she had this to say about the value of chaplaincy.
“It’s important because … our daily lives are not separate from God’s involvement in them,” she said. “God is very much present and very much has come alongside each and every one of us as we labor in the vineyard. And if that labor is tedious, God understands the tedium. If the labor is under siege, God understands the crisis and walks beside us in still waters — as well as in the shadows of danger.”