Voices: 180 years and counting: Now, that’s a legacy

Historic Independence Baptist Church in Independence, Texas. (Photo courtesy of Texas Baptists)

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In 1839, a small group of early Texas Baptists began meeting in Independence for Sunday morning church. They have been meeting every Sunday since then. Independence Baptist Church is the oldest Baptist church in Texas in continuous existence.

This past Sunday—and every first Sunday of June—Texas Baptists meet together in the old church for our Texas Baptist Legacy Award Sunday. This year, we recognized Coach Grant Teaff and Rev. Isaac Torres. It was a great day.

History of the Legacy Award

Our annual Legacy Award actually is a continuation of a Texas Baptist award started in 1959 and called the “Elder Statesman Award.” The Elder Statesman ran its course through 2012 and was passed along graciously to the Baptist General Convention of Texas by one of my predecessors, Executive Director Bill Pinson, and a few others who worked with him on the annual award recognition and program.

In 2013, we decided to continue on with an award but with a different purpose. The Elder Statesman was designed to recognize men and women who made a significant impact in Texas Baptist life in the field of education.

Our new Legacy Award was expanded to recognize more than one person a year and to seek to identify individuals who will leave a lasting and positive legacy on the mission and ministry of the BGCT. We have recognized 14 people so far, and their names are on paving stones in the courtyard outside the old church at Independence.

With the decision to continue an award, the question was asked, “What will we call it?” The late Dan McClinton, longtime Texas Baptist minister of music, and his wonderful wife Myla came up with the name Texas Baptist Legacy Award.

I was finishing up my time as interim pastor at First Baptist Church in Waxahachie when I became the BGCT executive director and these decisions were being made. Dan and Myla were both on staff at First Baptist in Waxahachie, and Myla was my first administrative assistant at the BGCT.

Visiting Independence Baptist Church

I encourage you to visit the old church in Independence, just north of Brenham. The Texas Baptist museum is located there. The pastor of Independence Baptist Church, Phil Hassell, is also the manager of the museum, and he would be honored to give you a tour. You can sit in the pew where Sam Houston sat. His initials are carved in the pew in front. The sermon must not have been that great that Sunday.

So much more history is in Independence. You can visit the birthplace of the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor and Baylor University. And just a few miles down the road, you can visit the birthplace of Texas.

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Finally, please consider joining us on Sunday, June 7, 2020, when we honor two more deserving Texas Baptists.

Legacy of Independence

Little did that small group of Texas Baptists know what their commitment to worshiping God would produce, though maybe they dreamed of the possibilities. Whether or not they knew or only dreamed, we are here 180 years later changing the world in Jesus’ name.

What might your commitment to worshiping God produce? Can you dream of the possibilities? Now, that’s a legacy!

God bless you all.

David Hardage is the executive director of Texas Baptists. The views expressed here are solely those of the author.

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