An Antiochian Orthodox Church, St. George Orthodox Church in Houston, Texas, was founded in 1928 by a small group of Middle Eastern immigrants living in the city. They were part of the larger group of Middle Eastern immigrants—primarily Christian—that began arriving in Texas after 1880.
The original group did not have an official building, so the Ladies Altar Society generated the funds to purchase one by cooking and selling Middle Eastern and Asian foods. Eight years later, the Orthodox congregation purchased a former Methodist church building at 1703 Chestnut Street, on the corner of Chestnut and Harrington streets in the Near Northside of Houston. The new church was dedicated on May 3, 1936.
The community grew quickly and underwent an expansion program and ultimately purchased property in September 1954 for their current location at 5311 Mercer Street at Bissonnet Street in the West University area. As the congregation continued to grow and more immigrants came to Houston, St. George Orthodox started mission churches in the outer areas of Houston in order to meet the needs of the city’s burgeoning Orthodox population. The first, St. Anthony the Great Orthodox Christian Church, was established in 1982 in Spring, Texas. St. Joseph Orthodox Church, in West Houston on Hammerly Boulevard, followed in 1993. A third church, Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste Orthodox, was established on Eldridge Road in Sugar Land, Texas, in 2001.
The congregation was—and remains today—open to all those who practice Orthodox Christianity, including Greeks, Sudanese, Ethiopians, Russians, Bosnians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Serbians, and others. A large group of refugees from the then-Jordanian city of Ramallah joined the congregation following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. In the mid-1980s the congregation was 70 percent Arab-American.
Except for a candlelight vigil held in 1982 during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, St. George is apolitical in its activities and stays focused on humanitarian causes. The church established the Houston Mediterranean Festival in 1982. Historically, it has provided support services to Middle Eastern refugees, has offered Saturday Arab language classes, and served as home to a Ramallah club. Original founders of St. George Orthodox include Jalal Antone, founder of Antone’s Import Company and the famous Antone’s Po’Boy sandwich.