posted at 2:08 pm on May 13, 2009 by Tanya
My sister lives pretty far out in the country, but she and her friends go to church not just in the city, but in a pretty bad part of downtown. She says many of the congregants are homeless, and some even show up drunk on Sunday morning. But no one is criticized, and all are welcome. It’s kind of a place for people that other churches won’t take, I guess. And as much as it makes me a little uncomfortable for her to go there (for her safety, not because of the company), I think these are probably the people who need ministering the most.
But to say that there are people in my family who find her choice… questionable, would be an understatement. So this story was interesting to me.
[T]here are certain drawbacks to setting up a church for cowboys in northeastern Ohio. “A lot of pastors don’t like me and don’t like the idea of [the cowboy church],” [Pastor Royce] Gregory says, referring to mainstream religious leaders in a part of the country not exactly lacking in places of worship. “But if you read the Bible, it is simple. It’s only man that made church hard.”
Faith and the Western way of life have long been linked. But in recent years cowboy churches have adopted a distinct identity – favoring riding arenas and barns instead of church buildings, carrying out baptisms in horse troughs, welcoming wranglers whose blue jeans are ripe with the smell of a working ranch – that has allowed them to grow faster than their founders thought possible.
Services are short, sermons coated in Western allegories, and no one passes a collection plate (or boot, or hat), lest the suspect materialism of megachurches and televangelists encroach on simple faith.
There are 145 of these cowboy churches, across this country, with 20,000 attendees each week. So I’d say it’s become a movement.
I know there are a lot of religious people here — of rather varied personal views. What do you think of these cowboy churches? I’m not sure what to make of baptisms in horse troughs, myself. Is it kitsch or serious? Disrespectful or necessary? And would you try it, if there was one in your area?