Tim Kirkpatrick bows his head and slips off his cowboy hat. He begins to pray. Below him, a small terrier mix named Sheriff Woody wags his tail and scampers in the dirt. Kirkpatrick, 40, is a part-time pastor of the Hickory Ridge Cowboy Church. “We started it so we could reach people with an outdoors mind,” he explains. “There's a lot of farmers, horse people and animal people around here. This is the avenue that we use to reach them.” Members meet Saturday nights in a large tent set up on the grounds of Hickory Ridge Community Church in Chesapeake.
Kirkpatrick says he caters to Christians who aren’t comfortable with traditional services. He recalls one uneasy congregant who told him, “If I can come with manure on my boots, wear my blue jeans and if I don't have to put my teeth in, then I'll come.”
“It's God leading it, I'm just along for the ride, said Kirkpatrick. “These are my people, and it's a great way to reach them for Christ.”