American Federation of Cowboy Churches host annual gathering at Hardy Murphy Coliseum

Over the weekend, the Hardy Murphy Coliseum hosted a special series of competitions. For the first time, the venue held the American Federation of Cowboy Churches’ Annual Gathering, and according to Outreach Director Homer Dickey the group will likely be returning in the future.

“We’ll probably be here for the next two or three years I’d imagine, and we might even be here longer depending on how things work out,” Dickey said.

Assistant Director Jeff Bishop added that Ardmore’s location is one of the greatest advantages for hosting the group’s gathering.

“In the past we’ve tried to move the annual gathering around because we have cowboy churches from as far away as Florida and California,” Bishop said. “Oklahoma happens to be in the middle of everything, plus this is a great facility with a great staff who have been really good to work with.”

The group first formed in 2000 and they help resource and develop cowboy churches across the country. They thought that western, cowboy culture was an unreached audience that did not always fit in with a more traditional church setting. The AFCC focuses on creating a environment that makes this group more comfortable.

“It’s tough to come into church on a Sunday morning smelling like horse and cow manure,” Bishop said. “We emphasize western culture but that certainly doesn’t mean that you have to have a hat and wear a pair of boots to come to cowboy church.” 

This weekend’s gathering drew over 300 contestants from as far away as Tennessee and Alabama, along with numerous contestants from Texas and Oklahoma. Contests included a women’s ranch rodeo, a youth ranch rodeo and ended Saturday evening with the “Built God Tough Rodeo.”

Bishop pointed out that not everyone who competes actually attends a cowboy church, or for that matter any church at all and the gathering provides an excellent opportunity to spread their word.

‘“At every event the Gospel is presented on the dirt as well during our Sunday service,” Bishop said. “So over the course of three days, we’ve presented the Gospel six times. Usually it’s a testimony or devotional, but it’s always backed up by scripture.”

Bishop said that presenting the gospel is one of his favorite parts of the event, along with the fellowship with others.

“There’s probably 50 or more cowboy churches represented here this weekend, so just getting to visit with other parts of our family is always a treat,” Bishop said.