The Rev. Steven R. Bailey, a local United Methodist pastor, will give the invocation Thursday night at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
The prayer on July 21, he told United Methodist News Service, “is intended for a worldwide audience. It speaks of how all faith traditions recognize God as our creator. It lifts up a request for God to transform us and make us a greater, more courageous people.”
Bailey is the North Coast district superintendent for the denomination’s Ohio East Conference. The district includes Cleveland and surrounding areas. He previously was pastor of New Philadelphia First United Methodist Church, south of Cleveland, for 16 years and has served as a police chaplain.
listen to the prayerWatch the Rev. Steven R. Bailey give the invocation July 21 at the Republican National Convention.
The invitation to participate in the convention first came to Ohio East Bishop John Hopkins. The bishop, who is retiring, asked Bailey if he could give the invocation.
Others scheduled to offer prayers throughout the convention included a rabbi, a Catholic priest from Brooklyn, a Greek Orthodox archbishop and a Sikh-American Republican leader from San Francisco.
Taking the convention stage
Although he has spoken before “hundreds” of people before, Bailey admitted that he would face his largest audience so far when he appears on the convention stage at the Quicken Loans Arena.
His main guideline from convention officials — who did not put limitations on the prayer’s content — was to keep the prayer to three minutes or less. Three minutes, he noted, “is adequate time to raise concerns or seek requests or promote healing.” More time than that would become a speech and less time “would feel superficial,” Bailey said.
“When you write a prayer, that’s a very intimate thing,” he explained. “It has occupied my mind for some time.”
The prayer, which Bailey submitted on July 19 for teleprompter preparation, is “not really intended to be an endorsement or repudiation of any political party,” he said, but a prayer for God’s people “at this time in our lives.”
He said his invocation identifies serious issues, including racism and sexual trafficking; advises against “belittling people who don’t agree with us;” makes the connection between power and responsibility and asks God to help everyone have “grace, courage, compassion and hope.”
On Thursday morning, Bailey will attend a rehearsal and have an opportunity to work with the teleprompter. He intends to wear a business suit “and represent the average United Methodist pastor” at the live event, anticipating that the invocation will occur at 8 p.m. “or just before.”
Bailey said he doesn’t expect to meet Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee for president of the United States, but added, “Who knows?”