Local musicians to present gospel songs before pie, ice cream

A view of the first Cowboy Church at Cherry Grove United Methodist church more than 10 years ago. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
By : 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

It’s been quite a collection of people who have lent their voices, steel slide guitar, guitar, piano and harmonica to sharing gospel music throughout the past decade in the now-popular Cherry Grove United Methodist Church (CGUMC) Cowboy Church services.

Several of them, including Cindy Seabright, Leonard Leutink and Mary Schultz of Spring Valley, will appear at the Spring Valley Area Ministerial Association’s annual Ag Days free pie and ice cream social at the J.T. Snyder Pavilion in South Park on Sunday, Aug. 19.  The singing will start at 2 p.m., but there won’t be a full church service like what happens in Cherry Grove on Cowboy Church Sundays once a month. 

Besides the three from Spring Valley who have already committed to perform at Ag Days, the list of members over the years has also included Barb Mosher, Roger Svebakken, Arlen Sloan of Saratoga, Iowa, Jim Pries of Winona, Dale and Barb Schafer of Fountain, Steve Arnold and Walter Bradley of Lanesboro and Preston, Dianne Bicknese, Karla Hamersma, who plays her autoharp now and has got a variety of songs, Rich Jones of Lime Springs, who comes and helps out at other venues, John Kerr now of LeRoy, Gary Froiland and Richard Serfling, who plays his harmonica, listed Seabright.

“We usually have about 10 to 12 people singing, but not everybody can make it,” said Seabright.  “I usually send out an e-mail to the musicians who are regulars, so we may have more than just us, and we’ll be doing selections that we do in cowboy church.” 

Seabright took over coordination about five years ago when Mark Rader left Cherry Grove. The group celebrated its 10th anniversary last October.

“Everyone wants us to keep going, so I send out the e-mails to the people I have, and I make up the bulletin, and I ask them if they have any special songs they want to do as part of the service,” she said.  “The services are well-attended, considering the first one was questionable.  There are a lot of regulars, but we’ve been getting more people.  I think people like it because it’s not a regular church service – it’s mostly music.  We have done a whole service or a partial service – some where the minister does the sermon.  We’ve done quite a few services…we meet the first Sunday of every month at Cherry Grove, and we’ve got a schedule of mostly area churches that have asked us to come to sing there.”

Seabright enjoys that presenting Cowboy Church offers her an opportunity to share about the God she knows. 

“It’s just the music…gospel has such good messages.  Everybody likes it, and I like that it’s just one big family,” she said. “I think the big thing is the message through gospel music…people who attend don’t always go to regular church services.  It’s relaxing, a new way to spread God’s message to everyone in a different way.”