Kentucky Opry Owner Clay Campbell said the idea for the new service began with one simple word, “Jesus.” “This has been a thought of mine for a long time,” Campbell said. “There has been an onslaught in the growth of cowboy churches- it just amazes me.” Campbell said with the Opry’s location and well-established venue, the project came together well, but one thing was missing.
“As my wife will tell you, I ain’t no preacher,” he said with a laugh. And while Campbell admits he wasn’t exactly sure where to go about finding one, he started at square one, by calling the State Line Western Store in Hazel and asking them for a referral. Campbell was led to Chris Clarke, an equestrian minister and founder of Happy Trails Ministry. Clarke travels to rodeos and horse shows, bringing the gospel to those away from home and on the road. In a previous interview on the subject, Clarke said. "Horse enthusiasts are not usually in church on Sundays,” noting that events usually occur on weekends. Clarke now brings church to them.
Together, Campbell and Clarke have combined talents to bring area worshipers the best of both worlds. “We had a facility just sitting here empty on Sunday mornings and always plenty of people willing to come in and sing,” Campbell said. And while the entertainment factor is certainly a draw, both say their main goal lies in a much deeper meaning. “We want to bring the word of God to those who aren’t already in church,” Clarke said.
“There are various reasons why people may not be going to church,” Campbell added. “Whether they are in town and staying in a motel or at a campground, or live here and just aren’t attending church, we want them to know they are welcome here.” It’s a casual atmosphere on Sunday mornings, the two added. “We’re basically puttin’ on our cowboy clothes for Jesus,” Campbell said. “But you don’t have to wear cowboy clothes to come, just be ready to enjoy singing, preaching and fellowship.”
Of his hopes for the new service, Clarke said, “We are doing things the cowboy way here and expect God to do great things at Kentucky Lake Cowboy Church.” This past Sunday marked the first day of service for Kentucky Lake Cowboy Church. Campbell said 54 were in attendance.Campbell said from time to time, guest preachers will speak in Clarke’s place as he continues to travel with his equestrian ministry. This week will feature Jerry Hoover of Heartland Baptist Church in Paducah. The service is open to everyone and begins at 10:30 a.m. For more information, call 527-3869 or see www.kentuckyopry.com.