Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tanya Writes About Cowboy Church

I couldn't resist sharing this information on "sermons on the mount" after reading an article recently that was syndicated from the Chicago Tribune.

With Bibles in one hand and reins in the other, Stetson-wearing pastors like Steve Hamson of Southern Illinois hold divine services on horseback, in riding arenas, barns--even on dusty trails. Sermons of course are memorized because, "you have to pay attention to the horse and you can't hold notes," explains Rev. Hamson.

No pipe organs here in cowboy church. Parishioners whoop and clap to banjos and guitars and sometimes even washboards! While horses wicker, guys chew tobacco. Some worshippers don't saddle up but sit on bleachers, enjoying country music in their Western regalia. The sacrament of baptism is often performed in a horse trough, and the offering is collected in a ten gallon hat. Worshippers holler and jam and produce converts in some 600 cowboy churches across the United States.

In the days of the Wild West, most cowboys saw God in nature and were "less Christ-centered, more aware of God's providence in their surroundings," according to Ferenc M. Szasz, author of Religion in the Modern American West. While most cowboys from Mexico would have had Catholic backgrounds and those from the South would claim Baptist roots, little evidence supports their involvement in traditional church worship or any evangelical Christianity.

But today's cowboy reverends and church-goers compare their country-western worship to suburban mega-churches that rein in newcomers with gospel rap and rock music. However, critics feel the current cowboy church movement is more geared to entertainment than preserving Western lore.

"The cowboy church works because we are people who like to ride and also who love the Lord," explained Jonathan Schnautz, a farmer and member of Pastor Hamson's congregation. "But I'm sure people up in the city sure must think it's weird."

After a closing prayer from the saddle, the worshippers rode off singing "Happy Trails to you...until we meet again."

Well, I'm a suburban girl and don't think it's weird at all, beckoning folks to mosey on home to Jesus. Of course I like the pipe organ and rose window at our church...but it dates from the 1880's, so I'm kinda in the old West ballpark.

Make that riding arena LOL.

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