Photo Credit: Andrew Harnik / Pool / Reuters
The Presiding Bishop of the US-based Episcopal Church is leading the State Funeral for former US President George H W Bush in Washington National Cathedral. President Bush was the 41st President of the United States, and the father of the 43rd President, George W Bush. He died on Friday (30 November) at his home in Houston, Texas. He was 94. In addition to Bishop Michael, today’s funeral is also being led by the Bishop of Washington, Mariann Edgar Budde; the Dean of Washington National Cathedral, Randy Hollerith; and the Rector of ST Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Dr Russell Levenson Jr.
Only a small number of US Presidents have received State Funerals, including Dwight Eisenhower, Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. President Woodrow Wilson is buried in Washington National Cathedral. A state funeral in the US is a seven- to 10-day event in three stages: ceremonies within the state in which the president was in residence; ceremonies within Washington DC; and ceremonies in the state in which the individual has chosen to be interred.
The President’s body lay in state in the Rotunda of the US Capitol on Monday (3 December) before being taken to St Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, where he lay in repose until earlier this morning when his coffin was taken to Washington National Cathedral. After the service his body will be transported to his home-state, ahead of the burial.
Paying tribute to President Bush Senior, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said: “With a grateful nation, and many around the world, we of the Episcopal Church give thanks to God, the source of life and love, for the life, the public and private witness of President George Herbert Walker Bush.
“Through his enduring commitment to public service and his steadfast devotion to his family, he lived the way of Jesus through a life shaped by faith, hope and, above all, love. Through his unswerving service to our country and to the human community around the globe, he embodied the noblest ideals of his faith and his country.
“President Bush will be an enduring reminder that virtues like kindness, gentleness and goodness are among the things that truly endure, and that chart the way to our living as the human family of God. In him we have beheld a great soul, and been reminded of the hope that, by God’s grace, we can live likewise. May his soul and the souls of all the departed rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.”
Also paying tribute was Bishop Mariann Budde and Dean Randy Hollerith. In a joint statement they said: “Across his 94 years, President Bush served his country with integrity, honour and distinction. He embodied the decency of his call to a ‘kinder, gentler’ politics, and provided a steady hand to our nation as unprecedented winds of change swept across the globe. Facing the collapse of Communism and war in the Persian Gulf, President Bush’s leadership was defined by a sense of deliberation, humility and thoughtfulness.
“His commitment to service and volunteerism remains an enduring testament to the rigor of his character and his gentleness of spirit. His unfailing support for the Americans With Disabilities Act was shaped by the compassion of his heart. Indeed, of his famed Thousand Points of Light, President Bush’s example burns brightest.
“His graciousness in defeat and his continued service to his country reflects the President’s depth of character and his sense of decency. Beyond the loss of a honourable patriot, we mourn the passage of a kind of politics that was rooted in the prophet’s call to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. How much this nation longs to reclaim those better angels of our nature.
“Yet beyond the political achievements and historic accolades, President Bush was committed most to his family and his faith. He and his beloved Barbara poured their love into their children and raised them in faith. President and Mrs Bush were here at this Cathedral, on 29 September 29 1990, as workers set the final stone in place after 83 years of construction.”
They continued: “George and Barbara Bush’s example of mutual devotion, fidelity and commitment is inspiring, and it should give everyone great joy to know that Mr and Mrs Bush’s love continues into eternity.”
Before the service, a number of tunes were played on the cathedral’s Carillon, including God of our fathers, Praise my soul, the King of Heaven, My Shepherd will supply my need, and O beautiful for spacious skies. Inside the cathedral, music before the service included Elgar’s Nimrod, from the Enigma Variations, John Williams’ Hymn to the Fallen, and America, the Beautiful by Samuel Augustus Ward.
During the service, tributes were given by President George Bush, the presidential historian Jon Meacham; the former Prime Minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney; and the former Wyoming Senator Alan K Simpson.