An area man hopes a traditional idea will lead to a new worship idea in the Newville area.
Larry Flood would like to bring a cowboy church to the Newville area, and he’s inviting local residents to an informational meeting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and a Christmas candlelight service at 7 p.m. Dec. 17. Both events will be held at Ye Olde Country Auction, 40 Shepherd Road, Newville.
If there is enough interest, a cowboy church could be holding regular services locally within a few months.
Cowboy churches offer informal nondenominational Christian services without membership requirements or a dress code. They are relatively new in the Northeast but became increasingly popular in the West over the past 40 years, and in the southern part of the East Coast in the past 15 years.
“It’s a more informal style of worship,” Flood said. “There are hundreds around the country. They just haven’t made their way to the East yet. We’re hoping to change that.”
He said the roots of cowboy churches can be traced to cowboys who started holding church services while on the rodeo circuit.
“Most of the rodeos traveled around the country, and they put on their shows at different arenas,” he said. “They’re away from home, away from any chance of attending church on a regular basis, so they started gathering together on Sunday mornings and having worship in the rodeo rings.”
Flood said the idea is “the perfect fit for our rural culture.”
“What we’re looking to do is have a regular church service — the difference is in the style of worship, which is more of an informal style,” he said.
The church would meet in the auction house. Flood, who is certified as a lay speaker and working toward his ordination, would serve as pastor and offer a weekly sermon. The congregation would sing hymns, and other music would be provided by guitarists and possibly a country or bluegrass band, Flood said.
He compared a typical cowboy church service to the contemporary service “that is so popular today with young people, except that we’re going to sing a lot of the old hymns.”
“The music would be different, but the contemporary style would be similar,” he said.
Flood, who once served as a state park chaplain, said this type of service is much like the worship service offered to campers. In fact, that’s where he got the idea to start a cowboy church.
“It was back while I was doing my chaplaincy that I got the idea,” he said. “There were several times when people said they didn’t have a regular church, but they would attend (state park services). It got me to thinking, what do they do the rest of year. There’s a need here.”
He said casual dress is also a plus for many people.
“People don’t go camping with anything but their camping clothes,” he said. “Cowboy churches are like that (because) there are people who don’t feel comfortable in the dress-up custom that has become common.”
Flood said he was encouraged by attendance at an earlier informational meeting.
“The turnout was more than a dozen,” he said. “We had people in their 80s and some in their 30s and one teenager. There was a large variety of ages and where they came from. To get people coming out of curiosity to see what it’s all about, I was tickled with that. If we can get that many Saturday, I think people may be interested in something like this.”
Flood said Saturday’s meeting will help to determine if there is enough interest to hold regular services, and the Christmas service will be the perfect opportunity for people to see for themselves just what a cowboy church is all about.
“We just want to provide something for people who are looking for something,” he said.
For more information, email Flood at Larry.firstname.lastname@example.org.