(With last month's retirement of U.S. Senate Chaplain Richard C. Halverson, many in Washington are adjusting to the departure of a devoted Christian servant. Before Halverson's retirement, Karen Feaver, a former congressional aide, returned to her old stomping grounds to survey the legacy of the chaplain's tenure.)
Dr. Halverson would often walk into our Friday lunch-break Bible study with a bounce in his step, singing an old Cole Porter tune. His ruddy complexion, snow-white hair, twinkling eyes, and vaudevillian manner sometimes seemed humorously at odds with his role as the chaplain of the United States Senate. But congressional staffers like me, eager for a sweet hour of spiritual encouragement in the midst of the commotion of Capitol Hill politics, saw Christ's peace enter the room with the chaplain's welcome.
That was five years ago. These days Chaplain Halverson walks to the Senate floor a bit more slowly, but his eyes still twinkle with the same joyful presence that used to make me look forward to Friday lunches. Those he greets throughout the Senate respond to his "God bless you" during the closing days of this congressional session with a deep sense of gratitude tinged with sadness. After 14 years of service, the man Florida governor Lawton Chiles calls the "soul of the Senate" is retiring.
In a city where it is all too easy for the political mission to eclipse the spiritual, Chaplain Halverson has been a beacon, quietly calling us back to first things. His witness reminded us not to allow our zeal in the political to "shut the door to dialogue" on the eternal. Following prayer each Friday, his benediction sent us out in the knowledge that the greatest opener of hearts is the Spirit of Christ cloaked in our bodies ...