COLUMBIA — A hundred and one members of the Gateway to the High Country Cowboy Church gathered Monday for worship at the Central Missouri Events Center.
The church holds a worship service every Monday evening and "is for anyone that has that independent American Cowboy Spirit and likes the idea of a laid-back, come-as-you-are church in a unique setting," according to its website.
Cowboy preacher Dale Larison, the church's leader, began his ministry as an ordained Southern Baptist preacher. He was preaching at a church in Bend, Ore. when he heard about a church one town over that met in a horse arena and became intrigued by the idea of a Cowboy Church.
When he returned to Missouri, he said he felt like God was calling him to start the Cowboy Church.
"I called all my friends in all the churches I’d pastored in central Missouri and said 'Come to my house, we’re having a prayer meeting, and I want to ask you something,'" Larison said. "I told them that’s what I was thinking about, and they said 'We’ll help you.'"
For the past three years, the congregation has welcomed newcomers to a relaxed worship environment.
"We’re a come-as-you-are church. They don’t have to dress up here, and no one is putting on any airs," Larison said. "They’re just being themselves. I think that’s the most rewarding part about it."