Photo Prayer 2021-25 -- Cowtown Rodeo

The audience at Cowtown Rodeo confounded my expectations. I expected a certain uniformity and failed to find it. By any measure including race, this horse and cow spectacle attracts all kinds — two by two but also families and groups of friends. Seeing this, I worry about my church. It is justifiably proud of its racial diversity but varies little in other ways. Most of my fellow Episcopalians are career professionals with financial assets, a fondness for social advocacy, and many candles on their birthday cakes. We say we welcome everyone and mean it, but those who actually show up are very much like those already there. Parents with children are scarce; dating couples, unheard of! There are some wonderful exceptions but, if anything, I fit in too well. Am I part of the problem? Perhaps your church is doing better. Is that because it offers sacred cow roping?

Sunset photo at Cowtown Rodeo, Pilesgrove, New Jersey.
Photo and text copyright 2021 by Danny N. Schweers.

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John wrote:
Incredible photo Danny — and profound thoughts about most churches.

Hugh wrote:
Thanks for going, since I have always wondered about that place.

Ellen wrote:
What a sky!

D-L wrote:
Sacred cow roping…. that is thought provoking in terms of Invite-Welcome-Connect.

Alice wrote:
Yes Danny. You are very right about this. What is the answer to appealing to more and more types of diversity ? To do so you may be disenfranchising your key audience. Maybe we should start from scratch (not literally ) reimagining what Church would be at 8th and Shipley. What would we keep, and what is new?

Emily wrote:
Danny: well said! Right on the money.

Rob wrote:
Nicely crafted Danny!

Dave wrote:
Such good questions to wrestle with.

Cynthia wrote:
Well done, Danny!

Kay wrote:
This reminds me that CowTown is on my "bucket list". Of course, so is growing churches diverse in more than one way. Great piece and while I at first laughed it also makes me reflect on what can we all do together to make true diversity a reality.

Stephanie wrote:
My thoughts: While I love the photographic intensity of the cloud formation and the lighting behind it, I have to say I object strongly to rodeos as exploiters (and often abusers) of animals. That said: In my faith, too, I worry about the sameness of the congregation and the future of the church as this present membership ages out. Maybe future people of faith will depend less on theology and more on compassion. That is my prayer.

Kathy wrote:
We Unitarians struggle with this too.

George wrote:
This brought back memories of my childhood and going to Cowtown on a regular basis, a market, an agora, similar to our weekly visits now to the Booth’s Corner Farmers Market. Meet friends, buy produce or an occasional small item, watch the ebb and flow of a community, and have an ice cream cone at a good price. Many memories there going back to the original building with the dirt floors. Thank you.

Bob wrote:
I like your most recent Photo Prayer, Cowtown Rodeo. I like the picture and the text. Both are very striking. The photo reminds me of the small town and ranch rodeos I went to in New Mexico while working on assignment there [as a photographer]. The text is challenging, like so many of your prayer texts. I liked the previous Photo Prayer as well, Seeing and Seeking, as well. Seeing and Seeking fits with a number of your photos in its geometric graphic design that includes textures and vivid colors. It has that in common with Watch for Something Wonderful.



Perfectly said!

I have only experienced a church like you mention once in my life, and that is The Rock Church in San Diego.

Maybe you need a rodeo clown?

Organized religion is on the way out in the US and I’m good with that

Funny you posted this. It was a discussion I was involved in yesterday about a woman in a church who criticized people for the way they dressed at church. Isn't she missing the point that they were a family and they were there? I don't think God minded… See More

Fewer Than Half Of U.S. Adults Belong To A Religious Congregation, New Poll Shows

The same thing is happening with traditional burials. Everything is becoming more humanistic.

Saving that sky!

Great questions to ponder, Danny. Well said.

Suggestions: Better music, More food, Shorter sermons.

I used to go to the Unitarian Church in Sharpley for the music and the sermons. They also had coffee and you could sit in the lounge, drink coffee and listen to the sermon. The main reason I stopped going is that I had to go back to work full time and I didn’t want to spend half my day on Sunday at Church. Women work now and church is a big time commitment.

We were UU churchgoers before moving to Arden. We had to travel over 60 minutes round trip to attend, go to meetings, special activities. We went to give our kids some grounding in life. There is a UU church 10 min away from where we live now. We have not set foot in it and instead go hiking religiously on Sunday mornings. I can tell you the reasons we don’t go. One of which is that Village of Arden life checks all the boxes of church life. Here I have a meditation group, small group interaction, community in which we have ceremony possibilities for marriage and death, neighborly help, volunteer possibilities, social justice opportunities, book clubs, community suppers, ritual, interaction with all ages, music, and book groups. I find it hard to imagine a benefit that church could give me that I don’t already have. And I don’t see how church could challenge me in ways that I am not already being challenged. With the added bonus that living here makes all these things part of my daily life in a way that living 30 minutes away from church never did.

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