November 17, 2021
There have been myriad wonderful narratives shared throughout the COVID-19 pandemic of how Central Texas Conference churches have creatively found ways to continue to be the church for their congregations and in their communities. While many of these exciting new ways of continuing worship services, bible studies and other ministries involved the use of “modern technology,” when the COVID shutdown forced Millsap United Methodist Church to stop meeting indoors, they added an idea that hearkens back to the Circuit Rider days of old to the video and social media tools they employ and moved their services outside to a Cutting Horse Arena.
“It was either come [to the Cutting Horse Arena] and spread out during the COVID or not have church – and we couldn’t do that,” remarked Ann Saunders, member of Millsap UMC.
Being outside and allowing the church to be together while still being safely social distanced not only was well received by the members of Millsap, it also served to attract folks who had never worshiped inside the church’s historic building. “When we branch out and have this service in this environment, and keeping our church family together, it has done nothing but grow us stronger and more enthusiastic and more committed to Christ,” commented Jason Reed, a now regular visitor at Millsap UMC.
The services had become so popular that when in-person meeting restrictions began to lessen, Millsap UMC decided to keep worshiping in the arena – until the cold winter winds blew the gathering back indoors. However, when the warmth of spring and the rise in COVID cases due to the Delta variant returned, the congregation and its visitors were happy to move back outside and return to what the church’s pastor Rev. Jim Sanders has dubbed The United Methodist Cowboy Church at Millsap.
As you’ll see in the following video, not only has worshiping in the horse arena served to welcome new people to the church, it has also inspired a worship band comprised of youth to step up, learn to play several instruments and lead worship each Sunday.