Houston megachurch holds healing and thanksgiving service (2024)

HOUSTON (AP) — Celebrity pastor Joel Osteen's Houston megachurch held a special service Sunday dedicated to healing and thanksgiving, a week aftera woman opened firein one of its hallways before being gunned down by security officers.

What You Need To Know

  • In a video message posted Wednesday on social media, Osteen said the special 11 a.m. CST service on Sunday was being held to celebrate a “time of healing and restoration”

  • The shooting should not prevent people from gathering together, Osteen said

  • Lakewood Church, run bycelebrity pastor Joel Osteen, has not had services since the Feb. 11 shooting that sent worshippers scrambling for safety

  • Questions about the shooting remain unanswered, including Moreno’s motive and details about how she obtained the AR-style rifle she used

Osteen's Lakewood Churchhas not had services since the Feb. 11 shooting that sent worshippers scrambling for safety. On Sunday, Osteen, his wife Victoria Osteen and members of the church staff who lead Lakewood’s Spanish ministry, sat in chairs on the stage, and spoke about the shooting, how it has impacted Lakewood’s community and how the church was moving forward.

Osteen told parishioners it has been a difficult time with “a lot of trauma,” but he thanked parishioners for coming out. Following musical performances, Osteen thanked those in attendance.

“You just got to know Lakewood is strong and it keeps getting stronger,” Osteen said. “Fear is not going to win. Faith is going to win. We are going to move forward."

Church leaders also thanked the security staff and others who responded during the shooting and protected parishioners. Attendees gave officers a standing ovation.

“What today is about is reclaiming what is ours, reclaiming the space that God has provided for all of us” Victoria Osteen said.

As Osteen and others spoke, people in the audience could be heard saying, “Amen” and “Thank you God.”

Officers from various law enforcement agencies, including Houston Police, walked the hallways during and between Sunday services.

Church spokesman Don Iloff said 40 to 50 uniformed and plainclothes officers typically work every church service. He said he did not immediately know if that number was higher on Sunday.

Police say Genesse Moreno, 36, entered the church between Sunday services with her 7-year-old son and began firing. Moreno did not reach the main sanctuary and was killed after exchanging gunfire with two off-duty officers. Two people were wounded in the shooting, including Moreno’s son, who was shot in the head and remained hospitalized.

Osteen, who wiped away tears as he spoke, said he was praying for the boy.

Moreno “came to do a lot of harm but by the grace of God we are all here,” Osteen said. “Lord, I know she was troubled in her mind.”

Jocelyn Edwards, 39, who attended one of the two Sunday morning services, said she felt it was important to show her support and stand with church members who were at Lakewood during the shooting.

“Despite this event happening, we are going to continue to come and serve the Lord. This is not the end. We are not broken. We are going to move forward,” said Edwards, who has attended Lakewood since 2015.

Questions about the shooting remain unanswered, including Moreno’s motive and details about how she obtained the AR-style rifle she used.

Moreno’s former mother-in-law, Walli Carranza,told The Associated Pressthat Moreno had long struggled with mental illness and that she believed systemic failures andlax gun laws, ultimately led to the shooting.

Carranza also said she tried to alert authorities and others about Moreno’s mental health struggles, and that in 2020 and 2021, her attorney sent emails to Lakewood Church asking for assistance with Moreno’s struggles.

Church officials had not found records of the emails but they were still looking, said spokesman Don Iloff. Records show Moreno “sporadically” attended services at Lakewood for a couple of years, but there were no records of her being at the church after 2022, Iloff said last week.

Police have not said what prompted Moreno's actions.

Texaslacksa so-called“red flag” law, which generally allows law enforcement or family members to ask a judge to order the seizure or surrender of guns from someone who is deemed dangerous, often because of mental health concerns or threats of violence.

Osteen, 60, preaches to about 45,000 people a week at the church located in a former basketball arena and he is known to millions more through his televised sermons. Lakewood is the third-largest megachurch in the U.S., according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

Houston megachurch holds healing and thanksgiving service (2024)


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