When Gregg Smith, a retired pastor at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church, served in the U.S. Army, he worked in the public affairs office. His job was to craft, design and execute state funerals.

After coordinating former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s state funeral, Smith received this thank you letter from her children, Caroline and John.

So when President George H.W. Bush died this week, he encouraged OLUMC’s senior pastor, the Rev. Rachel Baughman, to attend the viewing at the U.S. Capitol.

The Rev. Rachel Baughman

Perkins intern Mara Morhouse accompanied her.

Mara Morhouse

Baughman said there was nothing political about her trip. She went to Washington to witness and reflect on history.

Baughman and Morhouse arrived at the Capitol at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, and were surprised that there was no line. Because the crowds hadn’t arrived, they weren’t rushed through and spent about 10 minutes with Bush’s flag-draped coffin.

Baughman said, out of respect, no photos of the casket were allowed.

She reflected on his time in office. As president, he signed the Ryan White Care Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. While no one credits him with creating or guiding the legislation through Congress, he did sign them, enabling them to be enacted.

Both pieces of legislation have had a significant impact on those with HIV. Since it was enacted, Ryan White has funded a number of housing, food and treatment programs.

The American with Disabilities Act included those with an AIDS diagnoses. The work of former Texas state Rep. Glenn Maxey is what got it included in the law and Maxey was invited to the White House for the signing ceremony. Among other things, someone with an AIDS diagnosis could apply for disability, which meant many people could afford food and rent after they got sick.

Baughman said during her trip to Washington she reflected on a time we’re nostalgic for. There was more civility. There was less demonizing. A president worked for the common good. Experience and knowledge mattered.

As part of their trip, the visited D.C. monuments that reflect on justice.

She said she was reminded as a church leader that it’s not her job to assign blame but to unite both sides.

David Taffet