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349: Penning for Jesus Cowboy Church, near Rosanky, Texas
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Penning for Jesus Cowboy Church, Rosanky, Texas
Mystery Worshipper: The Wandering Texan.
The church: Penning for Jesus Cowboy Church, near Rosanky, Texas.
Denomination: Non-denominational ministry specializing in rodeo cowboys, ranchers, those in the horse and cattle industries.
The building: The church is located on the grounds of the Walnut Creek Roping Arena. Worship services and adult education are held under an open pavilion and children's Sunday school in an adjacent portable building. The altar area is decorated with western-themed materials. The altar rail was bales of hay covered in blankets, the pastor's pulpit was made of welded horseshoes and the cross was crowned with barbed wire.
The church: The church's name, "Penning for Jesus," refers to the sport of team penning where cowboys cut out a group of cattle and drive them into a pen at the opposite end of the arena. The fastest team wins.
The neighbourhood: The church is located in a rural area that is still mostly a cattle ranching community, though a number of people commute and work in nearby Austin.
The cast: Pastor Bill Pearson and music director Barbara.
What was the name of the service?
Regular Sunday Service.

How full was the building?
Quite full, around 80-100 participants.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was welcomed warmly by several members of the congregations and by Pastor Pearson as well.

Was your pew comfortable?
Seating was a collection of wooden pews from different sources as well as a few folding chairs. My pew was comfortable and had a hymnal.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The pre-service atmosphere was very homey, conversational, and people mixed freely. A few blue heeler dogs wandered casually in and out of the church.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"We have come to celebrate Jesus."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Individual worshippers brought their own Bibles and it looked like the New International Version predominated. The hymn book was Maranatha Music: Praise, Hymns & Choruses.

What musical instruments were played?
There were no instruments played, all hymns were sung to pre-recorded backing music of the Christian soft pop/rock variety.

Did anything distract you?
South Texas in July can be unmercifully hot and still and this Sunday was no exception. There were several ceiling fans going in the roof and the shade helped; but it was still a scorcher. The sound system has one instance of feedback and the pre-service music might have been a bit loud.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was pretty upbeat and the singing was enthusiastic. It reminded me a lot of a Southern Baptist service with the altar call following the sermon. Many of the worshippers raised their hands during the services and there were frequent amens.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
The sermon ran about 20 minutes, followed by an open communion and altar call.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The pastor's delivery was very sincere and his dedication to his church showed. He quoted frequently from scripture and gave chapter and verse. He got a bit rushed sometimes in giving out the verses and I noticed a number of folks were writing them down for later study.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was on Jesus's intercession on the behalf of all and the promises of God for those who accept his intercessions. He urged the male members of the congregation not to be ashamed to ask for help or hide their emotions from Jesus, as Jesus himself was not too macho to cry.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Seeing people's obvious devotion to their church.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
As Union General Sheridan once said, "If I owned Texas and all Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell" – although some Texans have responded by complimenting him on his loyalty to his homeplace. It would have been uncomfortable to those unused to the heat. I'm a fan of more traditional music, but didn't find the soft pop approach too bad.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After the service, one of the ladies of the congregation helped me make up a plate of food to take home. Several other ladies came up and told me how glad they were I had come.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was a catfish fry, with french fies, hushpuppies and a variety of desserts. A member of the congregation had volunteered to fry up the fish and it was really good.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – Although I have a regular church in the area, I would certainly consider revisiting the Cowboy Church.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, the people were honest in their faith and were so welcoming.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Dinner on the grounds and the pastor's style of preaching all reminded me of my Southern Baptist childhood in east Texas.
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