Why: Houston’s most famous pastor, Joel Osteen preaches his feel-good brand of Christianity at this, the city’s largest megachurch, housed in a former basketball arena that seats 16,800 faithful fans (with an additional 7 million viewers across 100 countries tuning in to the televised service each week). You’ll be hard-pressed to believe it all started with a sermon by Osteen’s father, John, in a suburban feed store in 1959.
When: The two big Sunday services take place at 8:30 and 11 a.m.
Where: 3700 Southwest Fwy., lakewoodchurch.com
Live Oak Friends Meeting
Why: This congregation of Friends (better known as Quakers) commissioned a stunning meetinghouse by artist James Turrell, resulting in a “skyspace” that provides a light-filled room and keyhole view of the ever-shifting sky above.
When: Meetings are held at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. on Sundays.
Where: 1318 W. 26th St., friendshouston.org
Mariachi Mass at St. Joseph-St. Stephen Catholic Church
Why: After absorbing another, smaller historic congregation, St. Stephen, the 112-year-old St. Joseph has continued its own, decades-long tradition of mariachi mass. Guitars and accordions echo merrily under the sky-blue ceilings of the Sixth Ward cathedral every Sunday afternoon, the direct result of the Vatican’s 1963 reforms to Roman Catholic liturgy, which for the first time allowed the use of local music in services.
When: The mariachis play at the 12:30 p.m. mass on Sundays
Where: 1505 Kane St., stjoseph6thward.org
Magnolia Cowboy Church
Why: Cowboy churches are a relatively new phenomenon, with Texas at the center of the Southern Baptist–sparked movement that shuns fancy traditions like shiny collection plates (tithes are collected, appropriately enough, in a boot). Here, you can tie up your horse, hear the Gospel in a dirt-floored arena, and even get baptized in a Texas-sized galvanized metal tub.
When: Sunday services take place at 9 and 10:30 a.m.
Where: 23247 Glenmont Estates, Magnolia, magnoliacowboychurch.org
Royalwood Pentecostal Church
Why: Jeanna Macey, events coordinator for the 63-year-old church and wife of pastor Ronald Macey, led its choir to first place at the national How Sweet the Sound singing competition in 2010; the group’s powerful voices have been wowing Houstonians ever since.
When: Prayers begin at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays, with worship service following at 10 (new service times are scheduled to begin on March 27).
Where: 7803 Uvalde Rd., royalwood.cc