Chris Clarke

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William Christopher "Chris" Clarke

(Missionary to equestrian
events in Kentucky)

Chris Clarke of KY.jpg

Born December 6, 1957
Salem, Livingston County,
Occupation Christian missionary
Spouse Sheila Ann McDowell Clarke (married 1977)

Robert I. Clarke
Elizabeth Clarke
Laura Clarke (last names of daughters not available)
John Weldon and Marca Lee Boswell Clarke
Nortonville, Hopkins County,
Alma mater:
Campbellsville University
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville)

Religion Southern Baptist

William Christopher Clarke, known as Chris Clarke (born December 6, 1957), is a non-traditional Southern Baptist minister and missionary in his native Kentucky, who carries the gospel message to people at equestrian events, including horse shows, horse auctions, rodeos, and cowboy churches.


Born in Salem in Livingston County in western Kentucky, Clarke is the second of two children of John Weldon Clarke (1921-2015) and the former Marca Lee Boswell (1928-2001), who are interred at Salem Cemetery.[1] At a young age, he became interested in singing and playing guitar. He did his undergraduate work at then Campbellsville College in Campbellsville in Taylor County in central Kentucky. He subsequently attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, from which he graduated in 1988.[2]

In 1977, Clarke married the former Sheila Ann McDowell,[3] and they have three children: Robert I. Clarke, Elizabeth Clarke, and Laura (last name missing).


During the 1980s, Clarke used his singing and guitar practice in his music and youth ministry at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in rural Taylor County, while he was a student at Campbellsville College and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Following his seminary graduation in 1988, Clarke accepted a call to serve as music and youth minister at First Baptist Church in Earlington in Hopkins County, Kentucky, a position which he retained until 1999. He was then music and youth minister at Marion Baptist Church from 1999 to 2003 in Marion in Crittenden County, Kentucky.[4]

The Clarkes' interest in horses grew when their youngest child Laura began riding horses and competing in youth events of the American Quarter Horse Association. Clarke realized there was a lack of ministries in the equestrian community, and noted that horse enthusiasts were often absent from church on Sundays because of competing weekend events. In October 2003, Clarke believes that God was calling him and his family to take his ministry to the equestrian community. Since January 2004, Clarke has been taking his cowboy church to horse enthusiasts on the road. He is classified as a missionary through the Southern Baptist Mission Service Corps. In 2009, he organized worship services at nearly thirty equine events in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Illinois, and Missouri. He also spoke at more than forty churches. Clarke said that horse show managers have never discouraged his ministry. Clarke and his wife minister together: they sing, preach, give testimony and devotionals and distribute New Testaments, gospel tracts, and bottled water with scripture verses attached. In the fall of 2010, they ministered at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky.[2]

Clarke named his ministry "Happy Trails Ministry," which he established in 2004 in Burna in Livingston County in western Kentucky. He adopted the name from the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Rogers song, "Happy Trails." During the week, he operates a riding stable with his sister, Lori Clarke.[2]

In 2010, as the Happy Trails Ministry horse show calendar slowed, Clarke joined Clay Campbell, the owner of the Kentucky Opry, a country music theatre in Draffenville in Marshall County, to establish the Kentucky Lake Cowboy Church. The facility on Kentucky Lake is patterned after similar theaters in Branson, Missouri. The church draws people from the larger city of Paducah in McCracken County. Clarke said, "We are doing things the cowboy way here and expecting God to do great things at Kentucky Lake Cowboy Church.[5]

Services are held each Sunday morning at the Kentucky Opry Theatre on Highway 641in Draffenville. The country/bluegrass/gospel praise band begins at 10:30 a.m. with some exciting worship music, followed by Clarke who brings a Bible-based message packed with illustrations straight from the horse barn. The motto of the Kentucky Lake Cowboy Church is "Connecting people with Jesus... the Cowboy Way."[6]

Clarke is the narrator of the 2013 documentary film, 365 Days: A Year in Happy Valley,.[7]


  1. Marca Lee Boswell Clarke (1928-2001) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed September 23, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Danna Prather, "Happy Trails Pardner: Kentuckian hands reins to Christ, now shares gospel on horseback," The Western Recorder, April 27, 2010; no longer on-line.
  3. Sheila Clarke. Retrieved on September 23, 2021.
  4. History. Marion Baptist Church website. Retrieved on September 23, 2021.
  5. Misti Drew, "The Kentucky Opry Introduces Kentucky Lake Cowboy Church," Marshall County Daily, June 18, 2010; no longer on-line.
  6. Kentucky Lake Cowboy Church. Retrieved on September 23, 2021.
  7. William Christopher Clarke - IMDb, accessed September 23, 2021.