Cowboy Church Service, held on Sunday, July 3, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Ponoka Stampede Main Grandstand, will feature Thunder Hill with special guest Pastor Bryn Thiessen.
Thunder Hill is a newly-formed band based out of Central Alberta. Genres include classic country, classic rock, blues and gospel. The members all come from diverse musical backgrounds with many years of experience between them.
The band is fronted by Murray Larsen who plays guitar and harmonica. He is an award-winning songwriter and has performed with several bands such as Jordan Echoes, In Transit and Flyer over three-plus decades.
Ron Rust holds down the bass line and has played with Country Gold, Gospel 792 and Slough Water Symphony. Ron’s daughter Emma-Lee Rust joins in occasionally to help out with lead vocals and acoustic guitar.
Drummer Brad Raugust keeps the beat true and strong as well as adding vocals to the mix. Previous bands he’s played in include: Silent Cry, Stryder and Vox.
Ken Bentson cranks out the licks on his electric guitar to shape the tunes around the stories told in the lyrics. He has performed with Michael Cearns Group, Blue Streak, Rev K and the Freedom Eagles and Goin’ South.
Nick Blackwood is the band’s fair-weather musician as he spends his winters in California but when the warm weather hits Canada you’ll find him adding his talent to the sound. He is an accomplished guitar player, singer and songwriter as well. Past bands include; Dayspring Sunshine Band, Faith Road and Shepherd.
Kegan Patrick occasionally takes on the roll of drummer. His talent and enthusiasm is a great asset.
Thunder Hill can perform at a wide array of venues including special events, clubs, restaurants, family reunions, churches and more. They love to play cover tunes, originals and even a few parodies and comedy tunes. Whether it’s a tug at your heart ballad or a catchy comedic ditty they can bring a smile to your face or a tear to your eye.
Bryn Thiessen is a rancher, poet, humorist, philosopher, cowboy and preacher at Cowboy Trail Church in Cochrane. Him and his wife have three children and own the 2,500 acre Helmer Creek Ranch near Sundre where they raise horses, cattle and border collies.
The Cowboy Trail Church emerged out of the joint efforts of American Mike McGough and Bryn Thiessen. McGough was a professor at the nearby Canadian Baptist Seminary and after he became aware of the cowboy culture in the area, he began getting to know the ranchers in the area. He noticed there was no outreach ministry to farmers and ranchers. In December, 2004, Thiessen, McGough and a few other met and then launched The Cowboy Trail Church in February, 2005.
Thiessen has preached many a time at the Ponoka Stampede. He weaves his distinct cowboy poetry into his sermons. He says his job is to present the gospel in a palatable form. For that reason he keeps his preaching simple. As he states it, “Mine’s non-negotiable. Tell the truth, serve some good coffee, offer opportunities for fellowship. It’s simple. There’s no need to water down the gospel.”
The Ponoka Stampede’s Cowboy Church is sponsored by Alberta Country Gospel Oprys.
Free will offerings will be accepted.