February 3, 2021. Before we moved to Touristburbia, my husband and I made week-long trips to Walt Disney World at least once a year. We would joke that Disney was almost a religion. There were shrines and temples at every park:
Holidays and festivals were celebrated.
There were choirs!
Fantasmic!, the nighttime show at Disney Studios, showed the forces of good, led by Mickey Mouse, battle and defeat the forces of evil, represented by a host of Disney villains.
The same good versus evil theme was reflected in the nightly fireworks show over Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.
And in Epcot, the long-running nightly show Illuminations showed the promise of a world united in peace.
Is Disney a religion? The question could be a tongue in cheek debate. But many of us affiliate with more standardly recognized religions or thought groups. One thing I didn’t consider when deciding to move close to Disney, in Touristburbia, was the challenge of finding a faith community nearby that would match my beliefs and spiritual practices.
When you live close to a town, churches and houses of worship seem to be on every corner. For example, I was raised in the United Methodist Church. In my hometown of Macon, GA, there was a Methodist Church less than a block from my house, and several others less than 10 miles away. When I lived in Birmingham, AL, there were several Methodist Churches less than 10 miles away. When you move to the suburbs, the religions and denominations that have houses of worship nearby are less diverse. A suburb for tourists compounds the problem.
Most tourists don’t attend worship services while they are on vacation. In Touristburbia, which is full of residences and vacation homes but doesn’t center around a town, there are fewer options for worship nearby. Most choices are in nearby towns like Kissimmee, Clermont and Windermere. Each of these requires a drive of 30 minutes to an hour each way. For those who like to worship on a regular basis, these commute times could be an issue.
Celebration, which is the closest thing to a “town” in Touristburbia, has a few worship options. Even a trip to Celebration can take up to 20 minutes each way. Unlike residential areas of southern cities, there is not “a church on every corner.”
Below are distances from my neighborhoods to places of worship for as many religions, denominations, and spiritual groups I could think of, assisted by a Google search of worship communities. The distances are by road distance calculated by Google maps.
Bear in mind that with the traffic in this area, you can count on taking at least two minutes for each mile you drive, even on weekends. Weekdays there is work and school traffic. On weekends there is tourist traffic to the theme parks.
Distance to houses of worship, from my neighborhood
Protestant and/or Evangelical Christian
Anglican/Episcopal: St. Nicholas Anglican Church in Kissimmee is 6 miles away. St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kissimmee is 14 miles away.
Baptist: Oak Hill Baptist Church is between Championsgate and Reunion on Osceola Polk Road, 3 miles away. Also nearby are Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Loughman (3 miles), Four Corners Baptist Church in Davenport (10 miles), Faith International Baptist Church in Maingate Lakeside Resort near Disney (7 miles), Lighthouse Baptist Church in Intercession City (8 miles) and others.
Lutheran: There are two Lutheran churches in Kissimmee. Trinity Lutheran is 12 miles away. Peace Lutheran is 11 miles away
Reformed/Calvanism. The closest churches are in Orlando, about 30 miles away.
Presbyterian: Community Presbyterian Church in Celebration is 10 miles away.
Methodist: Community of Faith United Methodist Church in Davenport (Highway 27 north of I-4) is 10 miles away.
Seventh Day Adventist: Celebration Seventh Day Adventist Church is 7 miles away.
Restoration/Church of Christ: Maingate-Concord Street Church of Christ is 7 miles away in the Maingate Kissimmee Hotel.
Quaker/Friends – The closest meeting places are in Orlando, about 30 miles away
Unity: The closest is Christ Church Unity (CCU) Orlando, about 30 miles away
Pentacostal: There are several nearby. The closest is Grace Apostolic Church of Jesus in Kissimmee (8 miles)
Nondenominational: A Google search found a large number of nondenominational Christian churches in or near the “Touristburbia” area. If you are not set on a particular denomination, you have many choices nearby.
AME: St. James AME Zion church in Kissimmee is 11 miles away. Bethel AME Church in Kissimmee is 13 miles away.
New Apostolic: The closest is in Orlando, about 30 miles away.
Messianic Judaism: I could not find any in Central Florida. There is one in Gainesville. If I’m wrong, please leave a comment on this post!
Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (Mormon): The Davenport LDS Church is 7 miles away. The Kissimmee LDS Church is 13 miles away. The Windermere LDS Church is 18 miles away.
Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Celebration is 9 miles away.
St. Faustina Catholic Church in Clermont is 14 miles away.
Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Kissimmee is 12 miles away.
Orthodox: closest synagogues are in Orlando, about 30 miles away
Conservative: closest synagogues are in Orlando, about 30 miles away
Reform: Congregation Shalom Aleichem in Kissimmee is 12 miles away.
Jaffaria Islamic Center in Kissimmee is 11 miles away.
Islamic Center of Osceola Masjid Taqua is 15 miles away
There is a Kingdom Hall in the heart of Touristburbia, on Sullivan Road just off Osceola Polk Line Road. Others are in nearby towns.
Wat Florida Dhammaram in Kissimmee is 12 miles away.
Hindu Center in Kissimmee is 15 miles away.
Maa Durga Sri Sai Baba Temple in west Orange County is 15 miles away.
Govind Sukh Savar in Clermont is 18 miles away.
Gurdwara Nanksar Florida in Kissimmee is 13 miles away.
St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Winter Haven is 30 miles away.
St. Sophia Russian Orthodox Church in Kissimmee is 12 miles away.
St. John the Merciful Orthodox Mission in Kissimmee is 16 miles away.
The closest congregation is in Orlando, about 30 miles away.
There isn’t much information online about pagan meetings, possibly because for many, the pagan life is mostly individual. The Unitarian Universalist Church in Orlando does host some pagan group activites, though.
Many pagans find their connection to spirituality through nature. Nature is everywhere in Central Florida and Touristburbia if you know where to look.
You can even find nature in Walt Disney World!