Both the new president and vice president have the personal experiences with the breaches in America that will help them heal the country’s wounds, Bishop William J. Barber II said in the sermon he delivered as part of the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service.

“The breach is when we say ‘one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’ with our lips while we see the rich and the poor living in two very different Americas.

And every now and then, a nation needs breach repairers to take us forward,” Bishop Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, said during the recorded sermon. 

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris invited Bishop Barber, president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach and minister of Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Goldsboro, North Carolina, to deliver the homily during the interfaith service hosted by the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. 

President Biden knew the breach of economic struggle in his childhood and the breach of a broken heart, while Vice President Harris has known the political and social breach of racism, which tried to place a breach between her intelligence and the school she could attend, Bishop Barber said. 

Bishop Barber, who also is a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, noted prophet Isaiah’s conviction that “We don’t have to put up with things as they are. We can contradict the breach with every prayer, every policy, every sermon from every pulpit, and every call to the people.” 

“No, America has never yet been all that she has hoped to be. But right here, right now, a Third Reconstruction is possible if we choose,” he said. 

The Poor People’s Campaign is a movement of people who also know the nation’s breaches with state activists and leaders who organize around an agenda that includes a living wage, health care for all, union rights, paid sick leave, housing and just COVID relief.  

When then-candidate Joe Biden joined the Moral Monday Mass Assembly on the voting power of poor and low-income people in September front of over 1 million viewers, he vowed that, “ending poverty will not just be an aspiration, it will be a theory of change — to build a new economy that includes everyone, where we reward hard work, we care for the most vulnerable among us, we release the potential of all our children, and protect the planet.” 

In December, more than 30 leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign, including poor and low-income people, economists, public health officials, clergy, organizational partners representing millions across the country, met online with members of the Biden-Harris domestic policy team. 

The Poor People’s Campaign also released 14 policy priorities for the first 50 to 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration, including the establishment of a permanent president council to advocate for its agenda. 

In his sermon, Bishop Barber said the nation cannot accept that 140 million Americans were poor or low-income even before the pandemic. 

“We must address the five interconnecting injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, war economy, and the false distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism,” he said. 

“These are breaches that must be addressed, and, according to the text, repairing the breaches will bring revival,” Bishop Barber said. “If we the people, with God’s help, repair the breach, revival and renewal will come. Weeping and mourning may endure in this night of our discontent, but joy will come in the morning.”