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– By Tiffani Ireland –
“Home grown and old fashioned.” That is how Sandy Quarles, co-owner with her husband, Wesley, of Sandy Oaks Farm, home of the annual Sandy Oaks Rodeo, describes the church services that occur every Thursday night at the farm. Known as cowboy church, theses services are not like those you might see at a regular church gathering on any given Sunday. Likened to the old fashioned prayer meetings and Bible studies, these are come-as-you-are-and-worship services. And that is what Mrs. Quarles thinks makes them so special. “You can work right up to church time and then come to church,” she said. “You don’t have to dress up.” She went on to say, “It’s not a formal thing. We just enjoy being together and being with the Lord.” And while prayer and Bible study are staples, do not expect to hear singing on a regular basis. “We don’t have any singing because none of us can sing,” she joked.
Cowboy church first started at Sandy Oak Farm nearly 4 years ago through a dream, yet to be realized, of Mrs. Quarles to build a church at the rodeo site. Discussions about that dream resulted in a small group gathering together each week to worship. This cowboy church, led by Pastor Tim Sanders, started out with only about 8 attendees. However, they have grown to average over twenty worshipers, with some coming from as far as Aiken and Augusta to attend to the 7 o’clock services. Supported “by the Lord,” as Mrs. Quarles put it, the church does not pass a plate or take up a formal offering. If you are felt led to give, however, Mrs. Quarles said the church is willing to receive. She acknowledges that giving is not always done in monetary form, though. Most of the giving seen at cowboy church is done through meals which Mrs. Quarles said is a regular occurrence at the meetings. They try to serve some sort of food at each service, and there is always something refreshing to drink.
As cowboy church continues to grow, so does their desire for outreach within the community. Mrs. Quarles said the congregation is planning on sponsoring at least 2 children this Christmas and are “planning something big for Easter.” And while the church currently meets under the announcer’s stand at the arena site, that dream for an actual church on the premises is being discussed.
If you would like more information on this truly grass roots church, please contact Sandy Quarles at 637-5369. Mrs. Quarles insists it does not matter if you are a cowboy or not; all are welcome at this cowboy church.