As part of a project for Dr. Paula Lupkin's Design of Suburbia course, I mapped, visited, and photographed cowboy churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth periphery. Cowboy churches are congregations which identify strongly with a particular historical regionalism ("Western Heritage" or "Texas Heritage"). Their doctrine and order of service generally derive from Southern Baptist and other mainline evangelical traditions, but they share an aesthetic heavily influenced by farming, ranching, and rodeo.
I mapped such churches using data from the American Fellowship of Cowboy Churches website (see Fig. 3). The churches falling within a fifty-mile buffer around the Dallas and Fort Worth metro divisions were triangulated, and these triangles were circumscribed. The smallest circles are included in the map of these churches below, indicating spatial clustering around the edges of the DFW metro areas.
Based on conversations with congregants and pastors and observation of buildings, arenas, grounds, and services, I believe these churches are sites of resistance to ongoing (sub)urbanization, moral spaces where cowboy tropes are mobilized to propagate values associated with rural productivism and set against a spreading, dominant (sub)urban culture. The siting, design, and material culture of cowboy churches, with rodeo arenas, metal art, pastoral iconography, and consciously rustic touches featuring prominently, represent gestures toward rural life and livelihoods, even as the spaces about these churches and their congregants' homes undergo rapid and intense development (see Fig. 2).