DEXTER, Mo. – There is no collection plate, but rather a galvanized bucket in which attendees may toss what can be afforded. There is no altar, as such, and no pews. Instead, there are 250 old theater seats that ironically are fixed underneath with a coil of sorts, designed over 75 years ago, upon which cowboys placed their Stetsons.

It is Cowboy Church, and its location lends itself to the name. The church sits southwest of Puxico — cowboy country.

The Cowboy Church movement has sprung up in the Southwest in recent years, and may be found in the deep South, the Northern Plains and even the East Coast. In May 2010, the movement caught on in Puxico, where dusty cowboy boots, western-yoked shirts and Stetsons remain commonplace.

Pastor Scott Sifford says, “We keep it simple. We offer the same gospel message. We just offer it at a different setting and at a different time than others.”

While for insurance purposes, the church falls under the umbrella of the Baptist Ministries, it is, organizers say, non-denominational, welcoming all faiths and beliefs.

The church began to meet at the Puxico Sale Barn initially, later moving to the local VFW, and then to a city park. It wasn’t long before a local musician, Cody Mosbey, offered his services. He’s become a fixture, providing a variety of music for appreciative attendees.

Eventually the church was offered land with an arena already on the grounds, and it added a metal building. The theater seats were found for a bargain price.

“When we saw the hat holders underneath, we knew we had to have them,” says Melanie Stoelting, a church founder.

Attendees come when they can; sometimes by car, sometimes by pickup, sometimes on horseback. Neighbors, many of whom have never greeted each other in a church setting, relax in their denim to hear the gospel message.

“It is designed to encourage those who are usually tied up with the western way of life to spend some time in worship in comfortable and familiar surroundings,” says Keith Stoelting, Melanie’s husband.

The arena on the grounds provides for family-oriented rodeo activities.

“We’ve had excellent attendance, with about 110 attending last week,” he says.