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(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
USA News

'Our God is still on the throne': Lakewood church service returns after fatal shooting

by Lydia Davies

Lakewood Church, led by Pastor Joel Osteen, held a special healing and thanksgiving service a week after a woman opened fire in one of its hallways before being gunned down by security officers.

Osteen's Lakewood mega church has not had services since the shooting on February 11 that sent worshippers scrambling for safety.

On Sunday, Osteen, his wife Victoria, 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.

"It has been a difficult time with a lot of trauma," said Osteen, acknowledging the challenges faced by the community.

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

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

During the service, church leaders expressed gratitude to the security staff and others who responded during the shooting and protected parishioners. Houston Mayor John Whitmire and Police Chief Troy Finner were invited to the stage, where they were thanked for their assistance after the tragedy. Attendees gave officers and security staff a standing ovation.

"After the tragedy of last week, (God) had a purpose in bringing us together to show how united our city is," remarked Whitmire during an emotional speech.

Victoria Osteen emphasised the significance of reclaiming the space provided by God, stating, "What today is about is reclaiming what is ours, reclaiming the space that God has provided for all of us."

Officers from various law enforcement agencies, including Houston Police, were present in the hallways during and between services on Sunday.

The shooting incident involved Genesse Moreno, 36, who entered the church with her 7 year old son and began firing an AR-style rifle. Moreno was killed after exchanging gunfire with two off-duty officers. Two people were wounded in the shooting, including Moreno’s son, who remains hospitalised.

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, a long-time member of Lakewood Church, emphasised, "This is not the end. We are not broken. We are going to move forward."

Another congregation member exclaimed, "We come every Sunday, and the enemy is not going to stop us."

Investigations into Moreno's motive are ongoing, with authorities leaning towards mental illness as a factor. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg described Moreno as potentially mentally ill, highlighting systemic failures and lax gun laws.

As Lakewood Church navigates the aftermath of the shooting, the community remains resilient, supported by faith and unity.

Osteen, known for his televised sermons reaching millions, continues to lead his congregation.

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