Guitars and fiddles played lively music at Cowboy Church services at the Fort Worth Stock Show on Sunday. And worshipers got an added treat: a Western-style wedding.
A couple from Iowa wearing cowboy regalia were united in holy matrimony after the worship at Will Rogers Auditorium.
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat, B. J. Penning of Corwith, Iowa, and his bride, Kim Kelly of Clear Lake, Iowa, took their wedding vows onstage and invited worshipers to a small reception with cookies and coffee afterward.
“We attended Cowboy Church here at the Stock Show last year and we decided this would be a good place to get married,” said Penning, who raises corn on 1,500 acres.
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Russ Weaver, pastor of the Shepherd’s Valley Cowboy Church in Egan, led the wedding vows after preaching to several hundred.
“The wedding is a first for our cowboy church services here,” said Weaver, whose church has sponsored worship during the Stock Show for the past six years. He will lead services at Will Rogers Auditorium at 9 a.m. for the next two Sundays.
Several attending said they were grateful to the Stock Show for scheduling worship as a part of events.
“We feel blessed to be here,” said Addy Mauwood of Bartlett, Tenn., who was with her daughters, Ruth, 13, and Anna, 9, and son Cabod, 10.
She said her son heard they were going to the Stock Show and said he didn’t want to be the kind of person who missed church on Sunday.
“I told him we were going to the Stock Show and the Cowboy Church and it was going to be fun,” she said.
David Rice of Stamford, a farrier doing some horseshoe work during the Stock Show, attended and said the services are ideal for many.
“A lot of cowboys will go to this and they won’t go to a church where you have a coat and tie,” he said.
Ray Lindamood and his wife, Nelda, who have a ranch south of Benbrook Lake, said they like the relaxed atmosphere of Cowboy Church services. Both are members of the Shepherd’s Valley church.
Another worshiper, Tommy Phelps of Haltom City, said he skipped services at his church, St. Luke’s United Methodist, to escort his daughter, Stephanie Dallas, a Fort Worth resident, to the Stock Show.
Dallas said it was her first experience with cowboy-style worship.
“I like the music and it’s nice to go to church and not have to put on a dress and high heels,” she said.
Weaver, who formerly competed in roping events in pro rodeos, wore his cowboy hat during his sermon, preaching a message about changing America.
“It’s time for Christians today to let our influence be known,” he said. “But we don’t want to do it like a jerk or a knucklehead. We need to be friends with those who have the power to make decisions.”
Weaver’s Shepherd’s Valley Cowboy Church, with about 1,200 members, is one of the largest in the nation.
His wife, Anna, said one reason that many like cowboy churches is the ongoing romantic image of the cowboy.
“All of America still loves cowboys,” she said. “There’s a romance about cowboys that will never go away. Whether it’s trendy or not. It’s foundational and we understand the cowboy culture was one of the basic beginnings of America.”