Cowboy church takes to trail

Monday, October 18, 2004

MORLEY, Mo. -- The eatin' was beans, taters and corn bread. The seatin' was hay bales and lawn chairs. The singin' was country gospel music.

More than 400 people enjoyed a cool Sunday afternoon of a "ranch style" worship service in Morley with the Cape County Cowboy Church at Fruitland.

"Every now and then they come to us, so every now and then we take it to them," said Jim Matthews, pastor of the Cape County Cowboy Church. The outing was intended to provide the "outer edges" of the counties with an opportunity to worship whenever and wherever, he said.

The event included a long period of twangy gospel music performed by the Cowboy Band, a short bit of preaching by Matthews and a lot of socializing over food.

"Sixty years ago this is all I knew," Jess Hopple of Cape Girardeau said, referring to the relaxed atmosphere with food served after services. He and his wife, Freida Hopple, 71, regularly attend the church's weekly services.

For neighbors Harriett Heuman, 65, and Dorothy Turnbo, 84, of Bertrand, Mo., the outing was their first encounter with the church.

"We just liked the idea of the informal," Heumann said, as long as it stays in line with the Bible.

The dress code was "come as you are," which ranged from cowboy hats, jeans, boots and vests to name-brand hoodies and sweaters.

"These people have a common interest of getting back to the basics," said Vince Draper of Benton, Mo., owner of the 2D Land & Cattle Co., where the gathering was held.

Food for 800 people was planned by Wayne and Duzy Wiedefeld of Crump, who added a rustic touch by cooking with cast-iron and copper kettles over open fires.

The cowboy church is a mission church from Red Star Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau and Fruitland Community Church in Fruitland. Two weeks ago, the cowboy church started to officially take in members, Matthews said, and numbers have grown to around 100 people. The church caters to the rural lifestyles of those who attend, offering services during the week and imposing no dress code.

"It's not so much about building us up," Matthews said. "It's about building others up."

jmetelski@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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