OGDEN -- They may be capitalizing on the Ogden Pioneer Days rodeo to get the word out about their church, but those associated with Wasatch Cowboy Church have met every Friday night since January.
The Western-themed, independent church is using this week's celebration to invite area residents to worship with the congregation that meets each Friday evening in a gathering that includes a lot of fellowship.
"They feel welcome," Pastor Larry Magruder, an Ogden resident, said of those who visit his informal church. "They feel like they have become a part of something that matters."
The church meets at Fort Buenaventura State Park, 2450 A Ave., Ogden, in the log cabin visitor's center on Friday nights.
The services begin each week with a potluck supper at 6 p.m.
The service includes country inspirational music mixed with gospel favorites and a 15- to 20-minute sermon based on Bible Scriptures.
"We are a gathering of people who worship together in a relaxed, western style," the church's information states. "We have a come-as-you-are atmosphere where folks who have felt disconnected from religion for various reasons can come and feel right at home."
And the cowboy garb and background are optional.
"You don't need to be a cowboy or a cowgirl to enjoy cowboy church. ... Some of our people have never been on a horse," Magruder said. The church is designed to appeal to those who like the outdoors and a family atmosphere.
The church emphasizes that "the folks at cowboy church are an outgoing bunch who welcome visitors with open arms," and they believe the worship service should be informal and enjoyable with an absence of ritual.
Magruder said the church is associated with the Southern Baptist Church but remains independent.
"They (The Southern Baptist Church) are more of a support group than anything," he said. "They have helped us with a little bit of money, mostly to promote our church at Pioneer Days. We are independent as far as our meetings."
A deacon at the Mountain View Baptist Church in Layton, Magruder said he is in the process of obtaining his ministerial credentials from the Southern Baptist Church.
But Magruder said his congregation is free to determine its own course of worship.
"We want to reach some folks with Jesus," he said. "We are getting a lot of folks that probably wouldn't go into a normal church setting."
Magruder said the new church is an outgrowth of a "beginning steps" class he has taught at Mountain View Baptist Church for nearly 10 years.
"It's for folks who are wondering what Christ is all about," he said.
Magruder saw a need for the informal church as he watched those who attended his course.
"I saw the same thing over and over," he said. "Folks come into a belief, and they feel lost in a big church setting."
The church leader said that after waiting for people to come to him for all that time, he decided he should be more proactive.
"We should be out there," he said, "looking for people to teach."
Magruder said he came up with the idea for a cowboy church because he has seen a movement nationally for similar gatherings -- and he has a cowboy background.
He was raised on a farm in Fort Morgan, Colo., a place he refers to as Plains Country.
He then raised his family in a smaller but similar setting in Preston, Idaho.
Magruder said he moved to the Top of Utah when his children were raised because he wanted to earn enough money to allow him to retire.
He worked as a heating and air-conditioning technician at Hill Air Force Base.
Now he lives in the city, he said, but still has a lot of the country left in him.
This Friday, the Wasatch Cowboy Church will host a "cowboy revival."
For more information about Wasatch Cowboy Church, call Magruder at 801-458-3254 or visit the church's website at www.wasatchcowboychurch.org.