Soon after the Rev. Silvester Beaman joined Wilmington’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the early 1990s, he met U.S. Sen. Joe Biden at a church event.
The minister and the politician hit it off.
“He just became a friend and mentor and later on I became another preacher, community leader that he talked to and relied on,” Beaman told WHYY News.
The pastor also grew close with Biden’s son Beau, who was elected Delaware’s attorney general in 2006 and later was deployed to Iraq with the Delaware National Guard. That bond intensified when Beau was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013.
“We talked, we shared, and when he passed [in May 2015], the family asked me to participate in the funeral,’’ Beaman recalled.
And when violence hit Wilmington and other U.S. cities in June after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, Biden restarted his campaign at Beaman’s church with an event that focused on listening and healing.
The friendship culminated Wednesday on the steps of the U.S. Capitol at the finale of Biden’s inauguration as president. That’s when Rev. Beaman delivered the sacred benediction, which he calls the “blessing from God” for the nation.
“I’m honored to be drafted into this duty,’’ Beaman said, calling the benediction a time “for the pastor to stand before the people of God and pronounce God’s final grace and blessing upon the worshippers.”
Beaman said the benediction at this inaugural has extraordinary importance, especially “after all that we’ve been through with the civil and social unrest, the election, and the celebrations attached to that, the president using fake news to say the election was stolen, all the way up to the seditious act at our national Capitol.”
Beaman said Biden had called on him to deliver the prayer on Jan. 3, three days before supporters of President Donald Trump led a deadly insurrection of the Capitol building.
“I was in my pajamas,’’ Beaman said. I had no idea what it was about and I said yes, in 10 seconds. I was like, ‘Wow. The president-elect of the United States is asking if I would be available for the benediction. That would be a yes!’”
Ever since, filled with what he calls “reverential fear,” the pastor has been writing the prayer, which he expects to run about three minutes. He plans to deliver what he calls a blessing for unity. He also provided WHYY News with a preview of what he might say.
“No matter who you are, whether a descendant of the indigenous Native Americans to the people who a week before the inauguration got their citizen papers, and everybody in between — black, white, Republican, Democrat, regardless of your persuasions in life, regardless of who you voted for — we are no longer blue states or red states,” he said. “At that moment he takes office we are the United States of America.”
He called Biden the right man for this perilous moment in history.
“President Biden has the courage and the spirit to heal the fissures and the wounds of this nation,’’ Beaman said. “I believe that he has the right temperament and he is open to the inspiration from God to heal this nation. And we need divine intervention.”
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