While the doors at many houses of worship are closed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, there are still ways to access spirituality online. Houston is home to a number of locally made podcasts, dedicated to exploring faith. These digital audio files can be downloaded and listened to whenever and wherever is convenient.
Interfaith Podcast Project
If Houston could tell its story, it would include a tale of diverse religions thriving in one city. That’s a challenge “Interfaith Podcast Project” accepted — exploring different faith traditions in a way that makes them come alive for listeners.
“We hope that these personal and thoughtful dialogues will introduce and familiarize listeners with the basics of religion, but do so in a way that makes each faith come to life, go beyond definitions and concepts and show that faiths don’t exist in a vacuum,” said the Rev. Greg Han, director of interfaith relations at Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston.
He serves as the host of the show. Each episode features an in-depth conversation with a member of one of Houston’s faith communities.
“The idea of creating online, remotely accessible material has been on my mind,” he said. “I still value face-to-face teaching, but it’s just harder to get people together. I needed to create an opportunity for people to access this information on their own time.”
Each podcast includes a one-page study guide, complete with the vocabulary mentioned and questions raised during the episode.
To tune in, visit imgh.org/podcast. The podcast is also available on iTunes by searching for the Interfaith Podcast Project.
Ferrill Gibbs recently launched his podcast “Faith Based,” which features interviews with local religious leaders. His goal is to see where denominations overlap, as well as to explore differences that might not be reconcilable.
A singer and musician, Gibbs previously hosted a podcast about the music scene in his native Alabama. After moving to Texas, he decided to dive into more spiritual subjects.
“I think people are looking for meaning right now,” Gibbs said. “Everyone is home and can’t go to church. I want to provide them with something meaningful to listen to.”
Gibbs said his podcast is akin to Sunday school — but available any day of the week.
“You’re showing people what’s in a preacher’s heart,” Gibbs said. “These preachers are people, too. And every preacher in Houston has a compelling story.”
Episodes can be found on faithpod.org.
Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe Podcasts
Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe hosts six podcasts — “This Jewish Life,” “Torah 101,” “The Jewish History Podcast,” the “Parsha Podcast,” “Eternal Ethics” and the “Mitzvah Podcast.”
“I was into podcasting before it was cool,” the rabbi said with a laugh.
He moved to Houston in 2012 and became director of outreach for TORCH, an organization for Jewish education and community outreach. The post required teaching about the Torah and Judaism in general. He thought, why not create a podcast on the subject and open it up to a wider audience?
Wolbe started with a Jewish history podcast. “Maybe my parents will listen in,” he mused. “It actually got pretty popular. No one was doing it, and it was a subject I knew a lot about.”
Then he started “This Jewish Life,” a podcast about Jewish philosophy that was named in an homage to the popular “This American Life.”
“That took off like crazy,” Wolbe said.
Since then, he has added podcasts to the list, and each has become popular on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or whichever app audience members prefer.
Wolbe said podcasts give him another way to reach and inspire individuals. “My passion is teaching,” he said. “I don’t want to limit that to my ZIP code. I also want to make it as convenient as possible. I’m able to reach a bigger audience, and it doesn’t cost me anything to turn on a microphone.”
Find Wolbe’s podcasts at rabbiwolbe.com.
“Maybe God” host Eric Huffman serves as pastor at The Story Houston, a United Methodist Church. Huffman describes himself as a skeptic at heart — and confesses that there was a time when he turned away from religion all together. That’s why at The Story, he moves away from the tenets of religion that cause guilt and shame and instead focuses on the story of Jesus.
Huffman said he created the “Maybe God” podcast in 2018 “to speak to people who have been burned by Christians and religion in the past, people who consider themselves too intellectual to believe in Jesus, people who are under the impression that doubts and questions have no place in Christian circles.”
The podcast now has listeners in more than 40 countries, and episodes focus on doubt, sexuality, near-death experiences and shame.
Heart to Heart with Rabbi David Lyon
At 6:45 a.m. every Sunday, Rabbi David Lyon shares his perspective on topical subjects from Jewish — and a general — point of view. When not on the air, he serves as senior rabbi at Meyerland’s Congregation Beth Israel. He’s also the author of “God of Me: Imagining God Throughout Your Lifetime.” He explains that experiences of God are personal, shaped by religious text such as the Torah and teachings of leaders including the rabbis of antiquity.
Lyon said that the podcast serves as a message of hope and healing. “Nothing political, just personal, mindful and soulful,” he said. “I’m reaching people with messages that reflect age-old wisdom, guidance, support and hope.”
Find the podcast on iHeartRadio or Apple Podcasts. The show also airs live at 6:45 a.m. Sundays on the radio at Sunny 99.1 (KODA-FM), or visit sunny99.com and search under blogs/podcasts.
Bayou City Messages
Bayou City Fellowship has church campuses in Cypress, Tomball and Spring Branch. Everyone can listen to the Sunday sermon, featuring senior pastor Curtis Jones, on its podcast published weekly on iTunes.
“We are a church that is radically focused on Jesus, and the sermons you find will have that same focus,” spokesman Josh Wilson said.
He explained that especially during calls for social distancing, the podcast has an important place. “We are taught to love God and love people,” he said. “At this time, part of loving our neighbor is distancing ourselves and putting the health of the most vulnerable before our own comforts. The call to gather and live in community has not changed, so our solution is to gather digitally for the time being.”
Go to bayoucityfellowship.com or use the Apple Podcast app.
The church Ecclesia Houston offers weekly podcasts — and even has a special edition for the coronavirus pandemic, “Quarantine Made Sacred.”
“COVID-19 is presenting us all with challenges and obstacles we could never have imagined,” host and teaching pastor Sean Palmer said. “We are now forced into new realities — relational, financial, emotional and spiritual. This podcast exists to help people live more holistically and mindfully in the midst of this difficulty.”
This podcast series was made to help manage social distancing with grace, hope, love and connectedness. “We are created for community,” Palmer said. “The challenge in this time is staying connected to what gives us life — God, our community of faith, our friends, and our meaning and purpose.”
To listen, visit ecclesiahouston.org/liturgy, iTunes or other podcast Apps.
Jewish Latin Princess
“Jewish Latin Princess” — hosted by international speaker and bilingual blogger Yael Trusch — aims to provide Jewish women with honest, approachable, relatable, practical experiences.
Trusch became obsessed with Judaism while in college, which led her to adopt an increasingly observant lifestyle. Now, as a wife and mother, she is dedicated to building a Jewish home.
“Through the interviews on this show, women can gain tremendous insights about a most enriching way of life that is Judaism,” Trusch said. “Women can learn practical and profound lessons from other exceptional Jewish women’s journeys, experiences, work and challenges.”
“Jewish Latin Princess” is on iTunes and android podcast players, as well as on jewishlatinprincess.com.
Ammar al-Shukry, imam of River Oaks Islamic Center, is also an instructor at the AlMaghrib Institute, which provides Islamic learning experiences. The institute launched a recent series called “All Clear” to discuss issues raised during the coronavirus outbreak. “From birth to death, everything is being challenged right now,” al-Shukry said. “This is something that is meant to bring you clarity.”
The series includes interviews, presentations and panel discussions. “We decided to offer two sessions per day because of people’s need for connection right now,” al-Shukry said. “It’s very important that we’re present, as people have all of these questions, all of this anxiety and even fear.”
The series is free and available on Facebook Live at facebook.com/almaghribworld.