Visible from the Eight Mile Store, a slab has been poured on Highway 36 to house the Conway Cowboy Church. The congregation plans to be meeting in it by late fall.
Shane Dickson and his wife, Susan, donated the land. It is part of a 20-mile tract they purchased across from the Eight Mile Store, which they also own. When completed, the church will hold about 500 people and the building will be debt-free, Shane Dickson said.
The service is non-denominational and the church is independent. Dickson refers to himself as "the leader" rather than the pastor. The church, he said, is more laid back than some mainstream churches, and the majority of the congregation opts for casual dress rather than a suit and tie. Dickson wears jeans and a hat.
"It’s truly a Heinz 57 church," Dickson said. "We welcome everyone."
The church agenda is "loving God and loving people," Dickson said. No offering plates are passed. However, there is a bucket or two if anyone wants to donate.
The congregation is currently meeting at the vacated feed store across the highway from the new location. On most any given Sunday morning, the church is at capacity with about 200. Most Sundays, Dickson said, the congregation spills outside onto the porch. Dickson said when he was asked to lead the group in 2010, he hadn’t spoken in public in 20 years. He was a little unsure of his abilities to lead, but he wasn’t unsure of his faith and his desire to share it.
In fact, he had every intention to go into ministry when he graduated from Vilonia High School in 1989. He attended Bible College and served as a youth minister. He married and bought the Fish House restaurant and sold it in 1998. He now owns CCS trucking company as well as the Eight Mile Store.
"I loved serving God," he said. "I never dreamed I would go into business. God has blessed me with both of them."
Prior to meeting in the feed store, the church met at a couple of different venues including the Lewis Livestock Auction House before it sold and in an arena at Backacher’s Ranch.