A pastor in Texas has been killed by an electric shock after grabbing a microphone while performing a baptism in water.
The Rev Kyle Lake, 33, was partly submerged at University Baptist Church in Waco — only 14 miles from President Bush’s Crawford ranch — while baptising a woman in front of 800 people. He reached out to adjust a microphone when he was killed.
The church, co-founded by David Crowder, one of the biggest “rock stars” of Christian music, is popular with students from nearby Baylor University, the oldest higher-education institution in Texas and the largest Baptist university in the world.
“He was grabbing the microphone so everyone could hear,” Jamie Dudley, a church business administrator, said. “It’s the only way you can be loud enough.”
Doctors in the congregation rushed to help Mr Lake, who collapsed after being struck by the fatal jolt of electricity. An emergency medical crew tried to revive him. He was taken by ambulance to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Centre, where he was pronounced dead.
Church colleagues described him as a charismatic religious leader. Blair Browning, a former church leadership team member, said: “I think we all gravitated to him because he looked cooler than all of us, but he was really smart. People that would never have darkened the doorstep of a church felt comfortable talking to Kyle.”
Mr Lake is survived by his wife, Jennifer, a five-year-old daughter and three-year-old twin sons.
“At first there was definitely confusion just because everyone was trying to figure out what was going on,” the Rev Ben Dudley, the community pastor of the church, said after he saw his colleague die. “Everyone just immediately started praying.”
Mr Lake had been at the church for nine years, the past seven as pastor. At a remembrance service attended by about a thousand people on Sunday night at First Baptist Church, also in Waco, Mr Dudley told the congregation that they would move forward as a church.
He said: “I don’t know how, when, why, where or what’s going to happen, but we will continue as a church in the community because that is what Kyle would have wanted.”
Student officials also attended the gathering on Sunday. Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, interim vice-president for student life at Baylor, said: “Kyle and the other staff have been very gifted in reaching students and making the Gospel come alive for students. It is a huge loss for the university community.”
The University Baptist Church was co-founded in 1995 by Mr Crowder as a mission of Beverly Hills Baptist Church.
Yesterday the church’s website displayed a simple message: “We are confident that Kyle is in Heaven today because of his trust in Jesus Christ as his saviour,” it read, before quoting a passage from the Book of John.
The town of Waco, with a population of 114,000, has made more headlines than would be expected for a town of its size.
In the late 1880s it became infamous for its red-light district, now abolished, and the soft drink Dr Pepper, which was invented at Waco’s Old Corner Drug Store.
During the same period, William Cowper Brann published a newspaper called Iconoclast, which accused officials at Baylor University of importing South American children recruited by missionaries and making them act as house servants. Mr Brann was shot by a Baylor supporter, but managed to shoot dead his assailant before dying from his wounds.
The most notorious incident happened in 1993, when a stand-off between federal agents and a religious sect, the Branch Davidians, resulted in their compound being destroyed by fire, with the loss of 76 lives.