updated 1/11/2009 5:04:38 PM ET 2009-01-11T22:04:38

The Rev. Sharon Watkins, pastor of a Protestant denomination with about 700,000 members in the United States and Canada, will deliver the sermon at the National Prayer Service that caps the inauguration activities of Barack Obama.

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Watkins will be the first woman to give the sermon at the traditional event, to be held Jan. 21 at the National Cathedral in Washington.

In a statement from the Presidential Inaugural Committee, Watkins called her selection an honor. "I hope that my message will call us to believe in something bigger than ourselves and remind us to reach out to all of our neighbors to build communities of possibility," she said.

Watkins is the president and general minister of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, the first woman to hold that job.

The church says its work is "influenced by its founding ideals of our unity in Christ with openness and diversity in practice and belief."

The National Prayer Service will include prayers, readings and hymns delivered by religious leaders of a variety of faiths.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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