Red kerchiefs and simple prayers: A Sunday at Durango’s Cowboy Church

by DGO Web Administrator

I ain’t church people. I used to be church people. I was raised a Southern Baptist, and then, well, life happened. The closest I get to sanctuary these days is going to rock shows, communing in the soul-warming Church of Holler and Stomp. If I narrowed my beliefs to a manageable creed it’d be, “Don’t be a dick,” or to be less sexist and flippant, “Love and be loved.”

I may not be all aboard the god-train, but I’m ever up for kitsch and kindness. I got a goal to find adventure where I can and stack up conversations with fascinating folks along the way.

Enter Durango’s Cowboy Church.

Though they’re moving into a bigger building in the spring, currently Durango’s Cowboy Church, 2601 Junction St., is an unassuming brick building tucked away in a North Main neighborhood. Inside, instead of pews, it’s congregated with banquet tables and comfy chairs that lead to an altar lined in rough wood railing, blankets, and saddles. You’ve never seen more brightly colored kerchiefs, cordial smiles, fringe vests, string ties, bouffant hairdos, and Bibles in one spot. You don’t have to be a cowboy (or dress like one) to attend Cowboy Church, but you ain’t outta place in worn-in or dapper westernwear.

Random wondering: What do you call an alluring, old cowboy? I don’t know, but hi-yo, Silver, I’d jump on your lap any day. Not that you should use Cowboy Church like Tinder, but yowza, it has some fine looking, plaid-wearing people.

Maybe God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost hitched their horses in the packed parking lot, maybe not. What’s for certain is that folks give a good handshake and you’re gonna get greeted at least twice at the door and three times after you sit down.

Churches always have coffee and usually doughnuts. I went searching. I found not only my pal Liz, but pastor Stan Formby’s wife, Brenda Gail. The charming and chatty Ms. Brenda Gail gave me a Durango Cowboy Church mug. I’m not saying a church automatically wins me over by giving me cool swag, but it certainly didn’t hurt – though I could’ve done without the enormous Scottish bull head named Harry above me. (Yeah, yeah, I’m a delicate non-meat-eater. I find taxidermy equal parts striking and dismal.)

Sitting down and sippin’ java, Liz and I ended up next to a fabulous man named Lew and his lovely wife. Lew hadn’t been to church in 40 years, discovered Cowboy Church, and now never misses a Sunday. Come to find out, Lew was hit by lightning a few years back and counts each day since not drowning knocked out and tingling in a ditch as a blessing. Amen to that.

Service started with a full-tilt western band. We’re talking mandolin, standup bass, pedal steel, two guitars, a piano at the ready, and three side-stage singers. If you go, expect “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah,” “Oh, How I Love Jesus,” and “I’ll Fly Away/Washed in the Blood” medleys with clapping and hands up in praise.

The morning followed typical church structure – music, announcements, greeting of guests, kids being excused to children’s service, an offering, scattered sincere prayers betwixt all of it, and a sermon. OK. OK. So most churches don’t have a cowboy read poetry – that definitely happened. So did Lew telling me about a marvelous, ancient broad who used to sit in my seat, but now doesn’t because she recently went to Jesus.

People riffled through Bibles with crocheted plastic covers. Men took off their hats when they bowed their heads. An air of unguarded faith filled the room as did the smell of the first Sunday of the month chuckwagon dinner while Pastor Stan spoke on Lazarus rising from the dead. See, maybe Jesus wept on the occasion, not for lack of hope, but for the agony he saw in those who had loved and lost someone. This wasn’t any fire and brimstone sermon, more so a message of asking, “What rocks are in my path?” and “How can I have faith and roll that boulder away?” Which, heck yes, I can get behind a dispatch of positive energy and hard work, especially since Miss Brenda Gail cracked jokes and adoringly bickered with Pastor Stan all throughout Sunday service.

I still ain’t church people, but I’d go to Durango’s Cowboy Church again. Why? Free coffee. Nice people. Plus, you never know what’s gonna happen. At the end of the sermon, Pastor Stan called a couple to the front. A tall older gent in a maroon shirt, black vest, and black cowboy hat swaggered up with an elegant, white-haired woman in a white fringe vest. Walkin’ the line of the Cowboy Way, they got married. Ye and haw.


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