Sioux Falls pastor offers encouragement in the aftermath of Capitol riot

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — A Sioux Falls pastor, who’s ministerial duties included leading the U.S. Senate in prayer, sees Wednesday’s riot at the U.S. Capitol as a tragic symptom of not just a political, but also a spiritual crisis facing the country. Jeff Wheeler, the lead pastor at Central Church, served as chaplain for the day in the Senate chamber in 2015. Wheeler is offering a message of hope to his congregation, in the aftermath of the violence.

Pastor Jeff Wheeler says delivering an opening prayer before members of the U.S. Senate in 2015 was a daunting calling.

“It’s just intimidating to know these are some of the most powerful people in the world and you have a moment to influence them in a direction,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler served as chaplain for the day at the invitation of U.S. Senator John Thune, who’s a member of Wheeler’s Sioux Falls congregation.

“His ministry has, and is continuing to impact, people all across our community, across our state and across the region,” Thune said in 2015.

Wheeler says he was shocked by Wednesday’s rioting inside the Capitol, considering the tight security he encountered in 2015.

“That’s the reason you feel like this can’t happen, because you feel like you can’t breath, or move without people being aware that you’re there and what you’re doing, and there’s eyes on you all the time,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler says the protests expose a country deeply divided politically, racially and spiritually.

“We’ve seen chaos and anarchy in our major cities, to see that spill over into our nation’s capital in one sense, it isn’t that surprising. But I think it’s just a spiritual reflection of a world that’s lost,” Wheeler said.

Pastor Wheeler says he’s been hearing from church members who are having a difficult time coming to terms with the rioting at the Capitol.

“I tell them that we don’t need to be discouraged and withdraw. This is our moment to be the light of the world, this is our moment to engage the world and show them the difference that Christ can make,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler says it was an “amazing honor” to be selected to deliver the opening prayer to the Senate, a tradition that goes back to 1789.

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