Houston’s Houses of Worship

The Way of Devotion

A pocket of southwest Houston illuminates a diverse city of faith.

By Katharine Shilcutt March 1, 2016 Published in the March 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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The 72-foot-tall statue of Quan Am towers over the Vietnamese Buddhist Center.

Image: Scott Dalton

Eldridge Drive and Synott Road both begin near the Energy Corridor as separate roads with similar qualities. The two run parallel to each other starting at Westheimer Road, their rough asphalt heading southward through thickets of churches large and small, billboards boasting that Jesus Is the Answer, and coming-soon signs for something called The Shiloh Mega-Parish. Eventually, where Houston meets Sugar Land, the roads merge into one. It’s somewhere around this spot that—assuming it has one—our city’s soul just might reside.

Here, in the patchwork quilt of southwest Houston, where Afghan bakeries and Salvadoran pupuserías abut Caribbean markets and African grocery stores promising live goats, lies a joyfully jumbled collection of houses of worship that adeptly demonstrates Houston as a city of faith.

It’s here that our citizens pack into the great stone edifice of St. Basil the Great Greek Orthodox, and file into the clean-lined mid-century chapel at the First Taiwanese Lutheran Church. They dance at the wildly colorful Houston Durgabari Society, the only temple in North America devoted to the worship of Hindu goddess Durga, and they kneel in the pews at the stoic St. Justin Martyr Catholic Community, whose nearby Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza Park affords a surprisingly scenic, pastoral setting despite its location directly next to Westpark Tollway.

Explore this corner of the city, and you’ll soon discover the serene gardens and imposing statuary at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center, the intricate ivory façade of the Sri Ashtalakshmi Temple, and the flapping orange flags that ring the dome of the strikingly modern, monochromatic Chinmaya Prabha Mission.

Keep driving, and you’ll see the faithful ducking into small storefront churches like Cao Dai Third Amnesty of God and giant auditoriums like the Church Without Walls (which does possess actual physical walls). And if you’re lucky, you’ll witness a quinceañera court descending upon St. Kevork Armenian Apostolic Church, which rents out its great brick hall for weddings and 15th-birthday celebrations on the weekends. There is no sight, we’d argue, more Houston than that.

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