Monday, August 4, 2008

City reporting

at its best. Today, our local Cowboy Church held at Hutch's was featured in the Chicago Tribune.

It is a fine example of WHY southern Illinois people have no use for Chicago ways---they could not have played us to be bigger idiots if they were paid to---it is insane. Here is the article

Where prayers come with a twang

Cowboy churches, with a Western feel and a country-music sound, multiply as they draw flocks from farms and ranches in rural Illinois and across the country

Singing during service

Monte Adams plays guitar while daughter Taylor, 14, sings during services at the New Frontier Cowboy Church in Mt. Vernon. (Tribune photo by Candice C. Cusic / June 13, 2007)

MT. VERNON, Ill.—Wearing a white cowboy hat and preaching atop his horse, Coby, Rev. Steve Hamson gives a modern-day meaning to "sermon on the mount."

With a Bible in one hand and the reins of the horse in the other, Hamson strikes the fear of God in his parishioners—more than a dozen of them listening on horseback in a humid riding arena.

The cowboys put their hats over their hearts when Hamson prays for those who are missing because they "had to do hay." Some men had wads of chewing tobacco in their cheeks, digesting Hamson's words while their horses made "brrrr" sounds and kicked their hooves.

No one minds the equestrian outbursts or the chewing. This, after all, is cowboy church.

At least 600 cowboy churches are scattered across the U.S., according to leaders in the movement and published accounts. In central and southern Illinois, an estimated two dozen congregations meet in barns and arenas, on the dusty trails and in churches—some decorated with Western memorabilia.

Some evangelical Christians have questioned whether the churches only offer gimmicks and fail to provide a meaningful spiritual experience.

But pastors and churchgoers said their services are divinely inspired. Like the suburban megachurches that beckon teenagers with gospel-themed rap and rock music, cowboy sanctuaries promote country-western worship while seeking to attract those who find traditional rural church settings unattractive.

In a cowboy church, the music has a twang, the lyrics beckon men to mosey on home to Jesus, and 10-gallon hats are passed around for offerings.

Preachers tell corny jokes. Worshipers whoop, holler and clap. The bands jam with banjos, mandolins, guitars, drums and sometimes a worn washboard. It's not unusual to be baptized in a horse trough. And the sermons usually last just a few minutes so as not to make the audience restless.

"You don't want to scare 'em off," said Pastor Susie Deeters, who along with her husband, John, runs the Ranch House Cowboy Church in a converted Baptist church about 120 miles north of Mt. Vernon in De Land, near Champaign. "You want to give 'em just enough to hook 'em."

Far from the big cities and suburbs—inquiries found no cowboy congregations in Chicago or its suburbs—cowboy churches are apparently a uniquely modern American phenomenon.

In the Wild West days, most cowboys were Catholics from Mexico and Baptists from the Confederacy, historians say, but there is little historical evidence of traditional church gatherings. Cowboys usually were not atheists; they saw God in nature. But they were indifferent when it came to evangelical Christianity.

"They were less Christ-centric and more aware of God's providence in their surroundings," said Ferenc M. Szasz, author of "Religion in the Modern American West."

The modern-day cowboy church movement seems rooted more in entertainment than cowboy lore.

One group—Cowboy Church International—was spawned out of the country music entertainment hotbed of Nashville in the 1990s by the sister of Johnny Cash.

Today, crowds flock to such tourist areas as Branson, Mo., for foot-stomping worship from cowboy bands. Many in the audience have never saddled up in their lives but love country gospel and wearing Western garb.

Another movement, though, grew out of a Baptist outreach to ranchers in Texas that spread like a wildfire, spawned megachurches and now even sends cowboy missionaries to Africa. Texas cowboy Baptists claim some 7,000 converts to Christ this decade.

In Illinois this summer, cowboy services are being held at rodeos and county fairs, bull-riding events and trail rides in forests.

As the cowboy churches gain publicity, some wonder about their Christian authenticity.

The evangelical magazine Christianity Today asked in a blog in May: "Clearly something is going on here, but what?" Blog moderator Derek Keefe questioned whether the movement expanded or collapsed the Christian gospel message.

"I'm definitely nervous about what appear to be 'tribal' markers that bind the movement," he wrote.

But 160 miles south of Chicago at the First Christian Church in Farmer City, the octogenarian crowd at a recent Sunday night cowboy service seemed anything but cultist. After a Midwestern potluck, they clapped to country gospel and praised the Lord.

About 11 years ago, one of the congregants from the town of 2,000 went to a cowboy church in Nashville and came back hooked. He helped convince the elders it would work as a Sunday night outreach.

Since then, nearly a dozen cowboy churches grew out of the ministry, including a Gospel Opry outside Bloomington.

A few years back, service leaders John and Susie Deeters were so smitten with the cowboy ministry that they quit their work in real estate and fashion, and literally took up a giant wooden cross on the rodeo circuit. They knew the Lord had led them like a horse to water when at one road show, a cowboy answered the prayer call dead drunk and left stone sober, the couple said.

In recent years, they left the road and took over a rundown Baptist church about 7 miles south of Farmer City and outfitted it with Western memorabilia.

The lights are in the shape of wagon wheels. The walls are adorned with ropes, lassos, cowboy hats and curtains with pictures of horses.

Some 140 miles to the south, outside Mt. Vernon, parishioners arrived at church on a recent Thursday night towing trailers for their horses.

Before the service, men and children rode in a dust-bowl arena while women gathered in a side room for Bible study centered on a Christian nutrition program. Jonathan Schnautz, a farmer and horse rider who attends weekly, churned peach ice cream in a wooden bucket for an after-church dessert.

"The cowboy church works because we are people who like to ride and also worship the Lord," he said. "So it fits who we are. But I'm sure people up in the city sure must think it's weird."

As the service began, riders circled behind Hamson while other worshipers sat in front of him on bleachers. Hamson asked for prayer requests. Singers performed from the bleachers and on horseback.

Hamson acknowledged that preaching from a horse is a learned art.

"You have to pay attention to the horse, and you can't hold notes," he said. "So you have to memorize most of what you want to say."

Luckily on this night, the horses were on their best behavior. There were none of the equine mishaps that have befallen some services.

After a closing prayer from the saddle, the congregation was dismissed. Folks rode off to the old cowboy ditty made famous by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

"Happy trails to you. Until we meet again."


The photo included is of my secret weapon, and his daughter Taylor who has a Slybaby (always have to throw in that plug).

This article irritates the pee out of me. I do not go to this service very often, but I have been, as it is just down the street from me and these are my friends.

There is nothing cultish about it--certainly no more than any Baptist church around here (and I was raised Southern Baptist so I have an idea what I am talking about). While the article makes fun of the people there, they have no idea what they are talking about or are purposely ignoring all the other information they were presented. I know they interviewed one attorney but I guess reporting that not everyone there is some sort of backwoods hillbilly does not make a good story. The ice cream maker they quoted is a farmer and a preacher who is married to highly respected principal who I am sure was also there--guess that does not make good press when you are trying to portray the whole group as a bunch of Red Man chewing rednecks. And WHY do they insist on referring to farmers in some sort of derogatory way? Find me another profession who works as hard as they do, day in and day out. I know these people, many of them and some of them extremely well and it is not only comical that they are portrayed this way, it is insulting.

Am I making too much of this because of my defensiveness at the years of being considered somehow inferior for living south of I-80? Or is it as condescending as it appears?


Lazy A Ranch said...

That article pisses me off too.

Anonymous said...

Cowboy Churches- - - -

and others - - - -

No comment


Holly said...

annoyed me.

But then I am easilyannoyed dot com anyway.

the city folk have .no. clue what it takes to do what some of these folks do, how much physical work it is and how many of the members of these congregations have other, very skilled, very impressive jobs.

the reporter needs to quit being so slanted when s/he does the job.

Lorna said...

I think you sure do have a reason to be po'd...

The Chicago Tribune couldn't hit a broad side of a barn with a decent thought if they tried! (lke the pun?)

Heck the "chicago-ians" would prefer you to sit in front of Rev Wright or Flager...

Talk about cult-ish.

Good, down home common sense with roots just doesn't seem to be "in" anymore...

(comments from a "chicago-ian")

Anonymous said...

I was prepared to be more offended than I was after reading this. It is typical of that northern attitude, though. Too bad they didn't pursue backgrounds in a little more depth. The average level of education would have surprised them, I'm sure.
Just try to be tolerant and forgiving of their crass, arrogant ignorance. I'm sure God would, if they ever meet Him. They can't help it.
Love you,

Paige said...

Well as you can tell, I ain't God.

I think the quote with all the colloquilisms is offensive and the comment about praying for people who "had to do hay" is condescending. Why did they put it in quotes like it is a euphamism for something bad instead of just doing their jobs?

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