Religion and faith were on display at the Illinois Governor’s Prayer Breakfast as around 200 Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and others gathered at the Executive Mansion in Springfield May 26.
Yet, even in this setting with representatives of several religions, Jesus was lifted up. The gospel was clearly presented in song through the harmonies of The Gibson Girls, Scripture readings from Isaiah 2:1-4 and John 17, and prayer.
At the event, Governor Bruce Rauner asked attendees to pray for the state government. “I hope you will join us and people all around the state of Illinois in prayer. Keep us in your prayers. We need prayers for inspiration and to have good judgment.”
He also shared from his own personal faith background. His father is Catholic, while his mother is Swedish Lutheran. Rauner said he was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopalian Church and his wife is Jewish. “We have interesting conversations around the dinner table,” he joked.
But Rauner said he was inspired by his grandparents’ faith and the lessons they taught him: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” from Luke 6:31 and “For whom much is given, much shall be required,” from Luke 12:48. He spoke of the responsibility he felt after earning his own wealth, and said it was their examples that lead him to set up a charitable foundation to give to causes as well as to serve.
The governor shared about the importance of continuing the tradition of the breakfast, which some feared would not take place this year. In early May, a member of the organization that normally hosts the event, told media the breakfast would not be held due to state budget problems. Upon hearing the news, the Rauner expressed his disappointment and his office sought sponsors to host the event. Three organizations — the Abundant Faith Christian Center, the One Nation Under God Foundation, and the Illinois Executive Mansion Association — stepped up to sponsor the event, held every year since 1963. No government dollars were used to pay for this years event.
Bob Vanden Bosch, chairman of the One Nation Under God Foundation, told the Springfield State-Journal Register last week, “For us, this is a faith initiative. It’s not something that’s political. … I believe that prayer could be used by the state of Illinois right now.”
The event did include a reading from the Koran, but the overall tone of the event was Judeo-Christian.
Illinois Southern Baptists were represented at the event by two of the Illinois Baptist newspaper’s editors, Eric Reed and Lisa Sergent.