Pastor Kenny Rice recently started the Life Connection Cowboy Church on Black Jack Road in Flowery Branch at the site of the former Life Connection Baptist Church.
and Michael Marquez, right, continue to renovate the former Life Connection Church on Black Jack Road
to fit the style of the new Life Connection Cowboy Church.
Inside the Life Connection Cowboy Church, pastor Kenny Rice continues to add a country flavor to the decoration of the sanctuary with rough-worn wood for a down-home feel. (SCOTT ROGERS)
Pastor Kenny Rice has established Life Connection Cowboy Church in Flowery Branch, giving blue-collar workers a place to practice their faith or explore it for the first time.
said the new church, which began holding services in July, is reaching out to a population that previously might not have had its spiritual needs addressed.
"What we're trying to do is reach out to those people in the Western culture (such as) farmers, ranchers, cowboys, who feel uncomfortable going into a traditional building with a steeple," the preacher said.
"Although everyone is welcome to come, we're emphasizing our ministry on the Western culture."
felt the call to build a cowboy church when he
learned how many members of "Western culture" often felt ostracized by other churches, particularly by their formality.
"A lot of these guys don't have dress-up clothes," Rice
"It's kind of like going into a foreign environment to dress up and go there.
What happens is they usually just don't go to church."
Life Connection Cowboy Church
meets in the former building of Life Connection Baptist Church.
Rice served as the pastor of both, converting the latter into the former when he saw a spiritual need among the Northeast Georgia cowboys.
parishioners began repurposing the modular building off Black Jack Road in Flowery Branch to make future parishioners feel more comfortable.
After only a month, Rice
has seen his
congregation grow from five or six to almost 20.
According to cowboy ministries based in other areas, which Rice
used as a model for his
new venture, many individuals who attend cowboy church are admirers rather than members of the Western-style culture.
"Two-thirds of the people that attend a cowboy church are not cowboys," Rice
"They're just drawn to the Western culture.
People wear their hats in church.
The pastor preaches in his
cowboy hat and takes it off to pray."
To Rice, a Washington state native who became an ordained minister in 1992, the lack of formality is more than refreshing.
"It's amazing," he
"Like being set free."
After the current renovation is finished, he
plans to develop the surrounding 5 acres to suit his
"It seems perfect to be able to raise a barn, and eventually we'll have corrals and horse events here," Rice
"We're looking to make a Christian equine center in Northeast Georgia, kind of similar to (Chicopee Equestrian Center) but Christian-based."
While some of the customs and parishioners might be nontraditional, the message of Life Connection Cowboy Church
remains the same, albeit a bit more personal.
"Pastor Kenny uses Scripture, but he relates his own life to things in the Scripture and it helps you," Cofield said.
"(Pastor Kenny) has lived through hard times, so he understands the people (who) come to his church.
While Life Connection Cowboy Church
has its message and premises ready to go, it needs one last element to make its services complete: the sound of music.
"We really, really need country/western/bluegrass musicians and singers," Rice