By Melissa Nordell and Mark Ellis
ASSIST News Service
Surrounded by a small group of family and friends, Gov. Rick Perry was publicly re-baptized in Little Rocky Creek near Independence, Texas, the same place Sam Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas, was also immersed.
The prolonged Texas drought left the creek choked with algae, so the local volunteer fire department had to clear a decent place for the governor’s baptism, according to The Texas Tribune.
Mac Richard, pastor of Lake Hills Church in Austin, conducted the baptism in March, the governor’s office reported.
Perry visited nearby Independence Baptist Church after the baptism, played the organ and soaked up the colorful local history. Since 1839, Little Rocky Creek has served as the natural baptistery for the church, which is the oldest continuously operating Baptist church in Texas, according to The Tribune.
Perry hunkered down at the circa-1874 pump organ and belted out a soulful gospel hymn. “It’s not easy to play a pump organ. You’ve got to move your feet while you play,” Phil Hassell, pastor of Independence Baptist Church, told The Tribune. “I thought he played well.”
Hassell showed the governor around the tiny historic church where he was able to see the actual pew where Sam Houston had carved his initials and those of his wife nearly 158 years ago.
“Gov. Perry has a deep and abiding faith in God. Like many people of faith, the governor wished to reaffirm his commitment in a way that holds great personal meaning,” said Felix Browne, a spokesperson for the governor.
Former Perry aide and speechwriter Eric Bearse said he wasn’t surprised that Perry renewed his faith in a private, intimate ceremony. “Baptism is a very personal expression of faith,” Bearse told The Tribune. “He has a deep and abiding faith, and it influences his view of the world and how he lives his life.”
When Sam Houston emerged from having his ‘sins washed away” at the same creek in 1854, he was said to proclaim, “I pity the fish downstream.”
Houston served as governor of Tennessee in the late 1820s and then became the first elected president of the Republic of Texas in 1836, after helping lead settlers to victory in their war of independence from Mexico. Houston was christened in the Catholic Church, a necessity in order to own land when it was Mexican territory.
Later, his wife, Margaret Lea Houston, prayed for him to become a Baptist and God granted her wish after 14 years of persistent prayer. When Texas became a State, Houston represented it in the U.S. Senate and later became its governor.