Cowboy Churches Attract Many for Informal Worship

Mar 11, 2003 02:30 PM EST

ENUMCLAW, Wash. – Cowboy Churches grow across America as more people search for a less formal way to worship. In the past few months, cowboy churches have emerged in Enumclaw, Marysville, Ferndale, Ellensburg, Buckley and Quincy.

Paul Jerome, pastor of the cowboy church at Enumclaw holds service wearing cowboy boots and hat; in his right arm, he carries a Bible, in his left, a guitar.

"The protection you need is the protection of the Lord Jesus Christ," said Jerome, 50, of Marysville.

The first night of worship at the new Cowboy Church attracted more than 50 gatherers. During weekdays, the Church serves as an auction barn with ads for farm equipment, a stallion service and meatpacking facilities posted on the walls.

Pastor Jerome, like his church, also holds a supplemental job; by day, Jerome, graduate of the Northwest School of the Bible of Bothell, serves as a forklift operator. He was ordained at the Cowboy Church International Conference in Laughlin, Nev., in 1996.

The informal ‘come as you are’ services offered by Jerome’s and other cowboy churches have appealed to many Americans who are unwilling to dress up or are simply prone to the cowboy way of life.

Coy Huffman, founder of Cowboy Ministries International in 1980 says, "It's real people for a real God. It's not complex. We keep it simple, keep in fun. My mission is to help people in life."

Sharon Peetz, who founded the Cowboy church in Enumclaw, was once an outspoken Pentecostal with a lively style of worship. Her husband Gary was a solemn Lutheran. After a spiritually renewing experience, the two decided to start a church with Gary as the pastor.

"I thought, 'Why me?'" said Gary Peetz, a 48-year-old truck driver. "I'm no preacher."

Now, as the ordained pastor of Cowboy Church, Gary is able to bring many towards God and towards worship.

Mary Lou Murray, 63, of Buckley said she was delighted with the church, with the hats, boots and Western music. She may be a teacher by day, she said, but "I'm a cowgirl at heart."

By Pauline J.