It is difficult to know just how many followers of each religion
there are in Austin. There is no census of religion, and many
Austinites have spiritual beliefs that are impossible to categorize into a specific religion. Austin’s competitive economy has
attracted a large, diverse, multicultural, and — overall — young
in Austin a complexity and diversity uncommon to many other
cities. A religiously diverse city, Austin is home to worshippers of
Christ, Buddhism, Paganism, Judaism, Islam, and many others.
Overall, Austin’s laidback and eclectic culture spills into religion
as much as it does any other element of Austin life, though the
oldest traditions have not disappeared.
AUSTIN’S HISTORICAL HOUSES OF WORSHIP
As one can imagine, early Austin pioneers and settlers practiced either Catholicism or Christianity. Not surprisingly, then,
Austin’s oldest church building is St. David’s Episcopal Church,
and today is located on 8th St.
near San Jacinto Blvd. in Downtown Austin. The church was built
in 1853 and housed two merged
congregations, The Christ Church
Austin congregation (which began
meeting in 1847) and the Church
of the Epiphany (founded in
disagreements about the Civil War,
leaving one parish without a rector
and the other without a church. The
church got its modern name of St.
David’s when the building inspired a
second unification of the parishes in
welcomes newcomers with a welcome dinner and introductory
classes on the Christian Faith and Episcopal Church.
Around the time St. David’s was getting started, a catholic
Austin, and remains one of Austin’s oldest churches. Today, St.
based confession. The church also offers wedding and pre-mar-riage counseling services, confirmation, and instruction in Latin.
Not long after worshipers of Christ put down roots in Austin,
EXPLORING A MODERN FAITH
followers of Judaism began to openly worship. The oldest and
largest Jewish congregation in Austin is Congregation Beth
Israel. Early congregation members met in 1876, using the
mayor’s office as a makeshift synagogue, and were not able to
synagogue is now located in Rosedale and offers Friday night and
Saturday morning services, youth and adult learning services,
and community service groups.
Today, the landscape of Austin is still made up of traditional
religious buildings, but also includes many inter-congregational
groups not attached to any one house of worship, as well as
resources, which encourage worshipers to ask questions about
themselves and their faith. One of these resources is exploregod.
com. The site encourages anyone to ask hard-hitting questions
about the Christian faith, and answers them in artistic videos
featuring “a bunch of really smart people to help us put together
some legit answers.” Explore God is a campaign made up of
over 300 Austin churches, designed
to increase spiritual awareness and
prompt curiosity and non-threat-ening discussion of the Christian
faith. It is the largest, most unified
effort in history to raise spiritual
awareness in Greater Austin.
Taking Catholic worship in a
modern direction, is Our Lady’s
Maronite Church. While the
church is celebrating 30 years in
the Austin community, the parish is
as diverse as Austin is. Our Lady’s
Father Don Sawyer says “[Our
Christians looking for a worship experience as unique as Austin,
will find the Evangelist Vox Veniae is an excellent choice. Vox
Veniae started out as a church for Chinese-Americans in 2006 but
quickly became multiracial. The church meets in what used to be
an after-hours B.Y.O.B. club, and is also used as a yoga studio,
art gallery, and Wifi-equipped work space. Services are lead by
Rev. Gideon Tsang, a Toronto native with tattoos, who preaches
from a stool instead of a pulpit. Non-traditional services, which
Austin’s laidback and
eclectic culture spills into
religion as much as it
does any other element
of Austin life, though the
oldest traditions have not