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Baptist pastor prays at D.C. tree lighting


WASHINGTON (BP) — When Baptist pastor Roger Freeman last visited Washington, D.C., it was far from a normal trip.

Freeman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., delivered the opening prayer Dec. 6 for one of the more popular yearly traditions in the nation’s capital – the lighting ceremony of the National Christmas Tree in front of the White House, held first in 1923. He, his wife Priscilla, and their 17-year-old daughter Sarah were on stage alongside President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush and other participants.

“They contacted me about three months ago [to tell him he had been chosen], and I didn’t believe it was real until they sent the [airline] tickets about three weeks ago,” Freeman said Dec. 4.

Freeman was surprised partially because his prayer mentioned “Jesus” and had to be pre-approved by the National Park Service.

“I was surprised they even asked me in the first place,” he said. “I think it was just God. The fact that Clarksville is a strong military town [located near Fort Campbell, Ky.] may have been something that was on their mind – to have a pastor from a town with a strong military presence. I made myself a promise years ago that if I couldn’t pray in the name of Jesus, I wasn’t going to pray a prayer in public.”

Freeman was nominated to deliver the prayer by Amy Spiceland Scofield, who attended his church as a youth and now works for the National Park Service in Washington. Freeman has served as pastor of the church since 1993 and is a former president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.