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Blazing a new trail

by Devin C. Manzullo-Thomas

Though modern forms of transportation have replaced the Chisholm Trail, a 19th-century cattle-herding route, its iconic status in cowboy mythology lives on in central Kansas. Pamphlets introducing the New Trail Fellowship BIC church plant in Abilene draw upon the Chisholm Trail’s legacy by announcing that “God’s Trail Begins Where Yours Ends.”

“I want to use language that the cowboy culture will understand,” explains Stan Norman, New Trail’s church planter and pastor.

At the church’s kick-off service in early September, Stan illustrated the meaning of Jesus’ interactions with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) for the 135 attendees by sharing about his struggle to break in a stubborn heifer. “I was trying to lead the heifer to water, to give her what she needed,” says Stan, relating the story. “Just like Jesus, who was trying to lead the Samaritan woman to living water.”

New Trail Fellowship, which has emerged out of a Bible study group, welcomes “country music lovers, cowboys, and country folk,” some of whom journey up to 50 miles to worship in the barn-turned-church.

“We’re getting back to the basics,” says Stan, who formerly served as the pastor of Abilene BIC. “Cowboy people want the basics.”

This article originally appeared in the winter 2007 issue of In Part magazine.

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