Following his inauguration as the nation’s first president, in 1789, George Washington walked up Broadway to St. Paul’s for the service, attended by his wife,
as well as both houses of Congress. The inauguration took place at Federal Hall, formerly New York’s City Hall, on Wall Street, a short walk from the chapel.
Washington attended St. Paul’s for two years, while the newly created city of Washington DC was under construction and New York functioned as the nation’s
capital. He sat in the specially designated Presidential Pew at St. Paul’s, as the main church had yet to be rebuilt after the Great Fire.
LCMS World Relief and Human Care was invited to be with families and first responders at the gathering for 9/11 down in what they called “the pit”. That was a remarkable moment. Leaving there and going up a hill we came upon St. Paul’s. Remarkably, the site was spared even when the huge towers came down around it. It became a staging place and a rest area and if my memory serves the fire department chaplain who died at the towers was laid upon the altar there. The old cemetery behind it was covered in debris and dust and now the area is a kind of museum and memorial.
I thought about that experience this morning. I watched a program about Washington last night and it was interesting but the man himself really needs to be studied as a whole. There is the wanna be soldier and officer. There is the land owner and farmer and husband. There is the wanna be politician and President in the wings. Then there is the President and eventually the “Father of the Country”. Pretty heady stuff. In this day and age when everything is called into question and what we once held in a kind of warm glow of respect is joked about and belittled or even declared to be void, folks might want to sit in that Presidential pew and then go out to the cemetery and stand under that huge sycamore tree that many believe protected the chapel, and think. A prayer would be appropriate as well.