Houses of Worship

Tour curated by: Baylor University Institute for Oral History & The Texas Collection

The term ‘Bible-Belt’ is sometimes used to describe the religious landscape of Central Texas. However, to characterize Waco as a community full of carbon-copy churches is to do a disservice to the heterogeneous character of the houses of worship present in the city. While Waco’s spiritual past is largely Judeo-Christian, remarkable variation exists within the two faith traditions. For more than one hundred years, multiple Protestant denominations have coexisted with Catholic congregations and synagogues within the city. Racially diverse and comprised of prominent and lay citizens alike, these bodies of faith offer their respective congregants worship experiences unique to their needs. What unites them is their long-term investment in the development of the greater community of Waco.

This tour introduces some of Waco’s landmark religious institutions and invites you to explore the role public faith has played in the history of Waco.

Locations for Tour

First United Methodist Church marks its founding year as 1850, when the Rev. Joseph Perkins Sneed, a circuit-riding Methodist minister, preached to the inhabitants of Waco Village at the foot of Jackson Street on the banks of the Brazos River. Legend…

The founding of St. Francis on the Brazos in 1924 marked the return of Franciscan missionaries to central Texas after a century’s absence. At the invitation of Rev. C.E. Byrne, the bishop of Galveston, Spanish Franciscan missionaries settled in…

Organized in 1866, New Hope Baptist Church is one of the oldest African American churches in Waco. Noted throughout its history for its excellent church music programs, New Hope is still a vibrant center of worship for Waco’s black community. The…

Temple Rodef Sholom has the distinction of being McLennan County’s oldest and largest Jewish congregation.  Jewish permanent settlers made Waco their home in the mid-nineteenth century. For many years no organized congregation existed; however,…

On May 31, 1851, four charter members established the First Baptist Church of Waco. These members reached out to prominent missionary and Texan Rev. Noah T. Byers, offering him a salary of seventy-five dollars per year to pastor the church. The…

For over one hundred years, St. Paul’s has continued to meet the needs of congregants and community members alike from its location at the corner of North Fifth Street and Columbus Avenue. On January 9, 1868, Bishop Alexander Gregg appointed Rev.…

First Presbyterian Church of Waco is one of McLennan County’s oldest Protestant congregations, formed several years before Waco’s incorporation as a city. On April 20, 1855, a group of Presbyterians in Waco Village petitioned the Central Texas…

As one of the first churches built west of Eighth Street, Austin Avenue United Methodist Church has been a center of spiritual growth and community outreach for over one hundred years.  Having decided that the congregation at Waco’s Fifth Street…

Although born of humble beginnings, Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church has been lifting Wacoans up in worship for over a century. The church now known as Greater Ebenezer Baptist began as Oak Street Baptist Church in East Waco in 1915, when Rev. J. S.…