Bolivar’s Mike Parson was sworn in for his first full term as Missouri’s 57th governor at the 2021 Bicentennial Inauguration on Monday, Jan. 11, in Jefferson City. But first, he kicked off his inaugural celebration with a nod to his faith in the place he calls home.
Bolivar’s Southwest Baptist University played host to a pair of inaugural prayer services Saturday afternoon, Jan. 9, with members of the governor’s church family, along with his own family, coming together to pray for Missouri’s leader.
The service was held just under three miles away from Bolivar High School, where Parson first announced his campaign on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019.
Parson soundly defeated Democratic challenger Nicole Galloway in the Tuesday, Nov. 3, general election with 57% of the vote to Galloway’s 41%, according to results provided by the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office.
Parson was elected lieutenant governor in 2016, and will now serve his first full term in the state’s top office after taking over the job following the June 2018 resignation of former Gov. Eric Grietens.
As the BH-FP previously reported, Parson is the first Missouri governor to call Polk County home.
“Mike, God has brought you a long way,” Ray Leininger, pastor emeritus at First Baptist Church, Bolivar, told the governor at Saturday’s service. “Don’t you dare forget where you came from.”
Parson first came from Hickory County, Leininger told the congregation in SBU’s Pike Auditorium, where around 100 had gathered.
From that farm in Hickory County, Parson joined the U.S. Army, serving two tours in the Military Police Corps. Returning to Missouri, he opened a service station with his wife, Teresa, who handled the books.
“You took on the mantle of fatherhood, then county sheriff, then state representative then state senator then lieutenant governor and now governor of the great state of Missouri,” Leininger said.
In addition to those at that service, another 200-250 attended a second service, while around 400 to 500 watched online, Parson’s communications director Kelli Jones told the BH-FP on Sunday, Jan. 10. Find streams of both the prayer service and inauguration ceremony at mo.gov/live.
SBU acting president Brad Johnson said in an email the university was honored to host the service.
“We feel deeply fortunate for the opportunity to partner with the governor and first lady in prayer at such a significant moment in the life of our state and nation,” he said.
The governor’s faith and rural roots set him apart, Leininger said, and his ties to southwest Missouri are long-reaching.
“You were blessed with a humble spirit,” he said. “We are among those willing to help you maintain that humble spirit.”
Parson’s faith, and God’s hand in Missouri’s fate, were key elements of Leininger’s message.
Sarah Howes, an assistant professor of music at SBU, performed the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” accompanied by members of the SBU band, and “Be Thou My Vision,” accompanied by a university string quartet and pianist.
“Mike, there was a mantle placed on your shoulder you never asked for which God has chosen you to bear,” Leininger said. “You’re not the Messiah. But you are a disciple of Christ. Serve him with humility and obedience, as you’ve sought to do. Missouri desperately needs it.”
The governor did not take the stage or speak at the event, but stood, masked, along with the first lady, as Leininger and those gathered prayed over him.
“We want a special blessing on the Parsons,” he said. “They’re gifted, dedicated smart people, but they need blessing on top of any of that and all of that.”