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Fresh Expressions Spotlight: Horse Show Church

Updated: Mar 27

Creating a new kind of church in the equine community of North Central Florida

Image of a group of children riding horses. They are wearing helmets. One child is riding a pony!

Over the last forty years, Sparr UMC has held a monthly horse show for its equine community. Many champion riders have begun their careers at Sparr UMC. However, in the last two years, the church has begun to change its focus from using the horse show income as a money generator for operational expenses to using the show as an opportunity to meet the community, build relationships, and develop a fresh expression of church.

Rev. Dr. Stacey Baldwin-Spence, wearing a stole, pets a horse while a little girl in horse riding gear watches. This might be a part of a blessing of the animals service.

One of the changes we have made is the way we charge for food and drinks. We now have a donation only for food and drinks. This means that if you do not have money, you can still eat!

Our church members go into the field and meet the people. We pray for the guests who come to the church property. We put people before money, and we love their animals in the same way. We have created a show fund, which can be used to help those who need it within the horse show family.

During the show season, we have a blessing of the animals, an Easter egg hunt, a Halloween costume contest, and a food drive for Thanks-Giving. All these changes have created a space in which the Holy Spirit has been released to make all things new again.

We have a new and fresh Holy Spirit anointing which has created a new church community every second Saturday at Sparr UMC. Church members, who also show their horses, have begun holding parties and barbecues at their homes for their horse show church.

An image of a little boy emerging from a horse trough after being baptize. Pastor Spence and another community member are performing the baptism.

To be perfectly honest, we did not know we were creating a fresh expression of church. We just wanted to meet our community members who came on the church property on days other than Sunday. It was not until one of the horse show participants came to the pastor and told her, “This is my church.” She continued to say, “I cannot go to regular church, but when I come here on the second Saturday of the month, I am cared for and loved. I get to share in the mission of this church and if I need anything, I know someone here will help.”

Then, a young man who participates in the show and sits in the announcer booth with the pastor, asked her to baptize him, saying this was his church. With all these incredible experiences, we now call our horse show: Horse Show Church.

As the church sits back and looks at the work of God in this new movement, we realize we just needed to change our focus and meet the Holy Spirit where it is already working. This fresh expression has changed the landscape of the established church. It has lifted its spirit and made it feel relevant again. Now, the body of Christ at Sparr UMC is seeking its next adventure with God. One of the last things to share is this: When our focus changed from money to people, the Kingdom of God began to reveal itself. Life was renewed, and we have no need to focus on paying the bills—God has taken care of that.


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