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Riddles Bend Church saddles up to reach people in local cowboy culturecomment (0)

April 22, 2010

By Jeremy Henderson

The skies were not cloudy all day April 10, which meant the view of the Coosa River from atop the mountain behind Riddles Bend Baptist Church, Rainbow City, was as perfect as ever.

And the discouraging words were so few that Pastor Gary Walker is thinking about leading his Etowah Baptist Association congregation to organize another trail ride. “It was just a great day in the Lord,” he said. “Kids came and rode the wagons, and we were able to go on the trail there behind the church and preach a message there on top of the mountain.”

In addition to serving as a lead-in to this year’s Vacation Bible School — the main LifeWay Christian Resources theme is “Saddle Ridge Ranch” — the event was an outreach to the more rural population of Rainbow City and Etowah County, including those people who identify with what Walker called “bovine/equine culture.”

Cowboys, in other words.

“I’ve been involved with that culture over the years, not to the extent that I’m ready for cowboy church or anything … but I do know that a lot of folks in that culture feel disenfranchised with the local churches,” Walker said. “This was just a way for us to reach out and invite those in that culture to come and be connected with our church.”

He said it was also a way to introduce church members “to a culture they might not be privy to.”

“It was great seeing the smiles on the faces of the kids that came that have never seen a mule-drawn wagon and were able to see some real cowboys, guys that train horses,” Walker said. “It was a good time.”

Riddles Bend Baptist members served the approximately 50 attendees a pancake breakfast before embarking on the two and half hour ride up and back down the mountain.

Kenneth Payne helped lead the way.

“We took them up to the cell phone tower up there and had a devotion and then came back down,” said Payne, deacon chairman at Riddles Bend. “I think it reached some of the people that might not ordinarily come to church. We’ve started thinking outside the church walls, which is what you need to be doing anyway.”

Walker agreed and he’s ready to start making the most rural members of the surrounding community feel as at home in the pews as they do on the range.

“They don’t feel like they’re welcome for whatever reason,” Walker said. “We want to reach out to make sure they know that Jesus loves them and we do, too.”

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