Meyerland Hipster Church Courts Impossible Demographic

Photo by Susan Du
Kathy McDougall, Angie Boudreaux, Jenni Fairbanks, Earl Fairbanks and Jackie Brown gather for a fellowship dinner at the Fairbankses' house.

Angie Boudreaux grew up in her grandmother's conservative Southern Baptist church an odd child who loved going every week just to hear the preacher preach. Eventually, she became a Sunday school teacher and made her living helping young girls read the Bible.

It would have been a straightforward story, except a super-awkward thing happened to Boudreaux at the end of high school. After much internal wrangling over whether hanging out with lesbians all the time was just something that jock girls did, Boudreaux had to admit she had fallen in love with her best friend, another woman.

She cried, she prayed and others prayed with her, but she stayed gay. Some years later, when church leadership found out, they told her she couldn't be trusted with teaching children.

Jackie Brown is not gay. But after college, when she tried to reconnect with Christianity, a church leader called her an adulteress for living with her then-boyfriend (now husband). It didn't help that she was then barred from singing in the church choir because she also sang at a bar on weeknights.

"The church didn't pay me," Brown said. "The bar did."

The Rev. Jenni Fairbanks was quick to interject that her church hired Brown precisely because of her professional experience. "She logged her hours," Fairbanks said with a shrug.

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Church Beats Out Strip Club in Real Estate Grab

That's how the song goes, right?

Sunday morning, Ecclesia Church pastor Chris Seay announced to his congregation that the staff had successfully wrested a warehouse out of the hands of strippers for the future location of its church services.

Rapidly expanding Ecclesia had already moved once from Montrose to the First Ward in search of more space to accommodate its growing flock. Then, it set eyes on The Meridian night club in EaDo when it first went on the market in 2009. The stars didn't align at the time, but recently when the 50,000 square feet property at 1503 Chartres St. became available again, Ecclesia pounced and signed a contract to purchase the place.

The also-ran in that transaction: Treasures strip club, according to real estate blog Swamplot.

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Equal Rights Law Bound for Trial After Pointless Hearing

Photo by Susan Du
Anti-HERO lawyer Andy Taylor called Friday's hearing a great success. Nothing changes in Houston.

Legal jargon, heated accusations and random baseball metaphors aside, Friday's Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) hearing accomplished nothing. The law is suspended until its supporters and opponents duke it out at trial, set for January 2015.

HERO is Mayor Annise Parker's anti-discrimination law that gives legal protection to citizens who are maltreated because of their age, religion, race, gender and sexual orientation. Private businesses and government are subject to comply, but religious institutions are exempt.

Nevertheless, representatives of the religious right have banded together in an effort to repeal HERO ever since it became law in late May. Anti-HERO activists circulated a petition to put the ordinance on the November ballot for a referendum vote and gathered more than 50,000 signatures - well more than the 17,269 required for the measure. After review, the city found that only 15,249 were valid, trashing the petition.

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New Montrose Church Juggles God, Gays, Stylish Glasses

Categories: Religion

Photo by Susan Du
Pastor Marshall Dallas of Sojourn aims to expand religious influence in Montrose despite the neighborhood's clear political leaning.

Marshall Dallas is not exactly selling monotheism to the Romans, but that doesn't mean church planting in Montrose has been smooth sailing.

Leading the flock at Sojourn on any given Sunday, the tatted pastor sports thick-rimmed vintage glasses and a plaid button-up rolled up at the elbows, his dark beard trimmed slightly shorter than Biblical proportions. Yet despite Sojourn's outwardly hipster makeup, Dallas isn't rocking the theological boat just because he rocks an Astros snapback. The church views homosexuality as a sin, currently has no gay members, and would ultimately excommunicate members who fail to renounce their homosexuality.

Locals question whether a Montrose church plant could ever succeed as a neighborhood fixture if it fails to accept a key demographic.

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What A Muslim Looks Like

Categories: Religion

Photo by Maha Ahmed
Several years ago, my mom told me about an incident in which one of my cousins and his friends were told, or more fittingly "yelled at," to "go back to their damn country." They were playing basketball in a local, empty outdoor court, when some white people drove by and started slinging slurs at them. Punches were thrown. Someone got hurt.

When she told me, I remember wondering to myself whether this was only a petty classroom feud that had seeped out of school walls and into the neighborhood, whether it was an isolated incident.

My cousin and his friends weren't even old enough to drive at the time, but they did look like the post-9/11, media-curated image of terrorists I'd grown up seeing all around me --their skin was brown, and one of them wore a turban. They looked like me.

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Why I Liked Being Jewish at an All-Boys Catholic School

Categories: Religion, Whatever

Photo courtesy of Aaron Reiss

The locker my freshman year at St. Thomas High School was on the second floor of the main building, 50 feet from a chapel where Mass was celebrated before every school day. The walls along the hallways were filled, floor-to-ceiling, with lockers. Freshmen got the lower ones. I had to get on my knees to get my books out of my creaky, cream-gray locker.

Next to me was a kid named Jack Reidy. He was one of those guys who went through puberty in sixth grade and dominated the middle school athletics scene.

Everyday, I'd squat down to access my locker and have to shift my weight as Jack's huge ass blocked part of my locker. I didn't say anything about it to him for the first couple months of school because he was massive, and if sitcoms were anything like real high school, he would have kicked my ass.

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Houston Mosque Will Ball Hard for Palestine

Photo provided by Amir Hossain
Hossain translates his 16 year passion for basketball into humanitarian aid

In case you didn't know, Houston is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the country and the city is home to a network of mosques and religious centers run by the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.

Houstonian Amir Hossain is part of this American-Muslim community. He wants to use his love for basketball to build unity and support a cause that helps people in the Middle East.

During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Hossain is kicking off a charity basketball tournament called Hoop4Palestine. "Basketball teaches Islam in its own creative way by promoting companionship," Hossain said. "[It allows] kids to learn how to work together in a peaceful manner to achieve something."

Muslims around the city are currently participating in the holy month of Ramadan, fasting from sunrise to sundown every day until the end of July.

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Mayor Annise Parker Looks Forward to Tossing Out Anti-HERO Petition

Photo by Susan Du
Mayor Annise Parker greets fellow HERO supporters at City Hall on Thursday before her address responding to a petition submitted for repeal of the anti-discrimination law.

Mayor Annise Parker's seen some shit, least of which are sloppy petitions.

Opponents of Houston's newly passed anti-discrimination law submitted a petition to repeal it in the 11th hour today, boasting 50,000 signatures for a measure that only required about 17,000. The mayor responded in an announcement at City Hall that she's looking forward to throwing out a high number of them in the counting process.

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Now What Happens to All Those Anti-HERO Shirts?

Photo by Aaron Reiss

They said no. They screamed it.

Protesters yelled in front of city hall Wednesday, in opposition of legislation for a Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

"We say no," the protesters repeated.

A few women, serving as reverb, chanted "God says no."

ERO adorned their chests, thick red slashes cutting through acronym. The shirts sold for $5.

The cheap price wasn't enough to attract much of a market. Though most of the anti-HERO protesters wore the t-shirts - the number of people was closer to 50 than to 100 - there were three boxes filled with shirts.

And soon, the shirts would be of no use. City Council passed the HERO with a 11-6 vote.

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Hucksters and Texas Tent Revival Politics

Photo by J E Theriot
No keeping religious talk out of Texas politics.
Religious liberty is at the very heart of what it means to be an American, yet Texas conservatives and our state's activist pastors have conveniently forgotten that.

Lately, it feels as if Texas is waging some sort of religious war on a number of different fronts.

Throughout history, politicians have embedded a few religious references in their speeches, but nothing close to what we're seeing lately. Beginning in earnest with Ronald Reagan's nomination in 1980 and continued by Bill Clinton, "Religispeak" has evolved into a must-have tool for every conservative's campaign rhetoric and policy effort.

In the same way that sex sells in the media, politicians discovered that religion does also.

It was last fall when Tom Delay's conviction was overturned and an article in the Dallas Morning News quoted him as saying God is calling him to lead a constitutional revival. He referred to his legal battle and sentencing as his "time in the wilderness."

And then...he remarked how glad he would be to get his concealed carry license back.

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