HOUSTON (AP) — One of the nation’s largest Christian megachurches resumed in-person services on Sunday in Texas after months of holding only online services due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lakewood Church in Houston opened at 25% capacity under new city guidelines. People had to sign up online to attend services at the non-denominational megachurch run by Joel Osteen.
A recording on Lakewood’s Facebook page of Sunday’s services showed people complying with requirements that the wear face masks and sit spaced apart inside the church’s cavernous arena, the former Compaq Center, which was once the home of the Houston Rockets.
Under the city guidelines, about 4,000 people were allowed during each service Sunday. The arena usually holds up to 16,000.
Lakewood officials said they had prepared the building with additional cleaning, sanitizing and equipment upgrades, including improvements to the air purification system.
Osteen told those in attendance that he had missed seeing them in person.
“So awesome to have you back. We’ve missed you guys. We love you. It’s not the same without you here,” Osteen said.
Lakewood Church, where more than 43,000 people attend services each week, has become one of the largest churches in the U.S.
Osteen’s weekly television program is viewed by more than 13 million households in the U.S. and millions others in more than 100 nations around the world.