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As the nation continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, celebrity megachurch pastor Joel Osteen has announced plans to host a virtual, star-studded Easter Sunday service featuring performances by Tyler Perry, Kanye West and Mariah Carey.
Osteen told TMZ he got the idea for the service, in part, after Carey contacted him about honoring first responders. West, who has worked with Osteen in the past as part of the rapper’s ”Sunday Service,” and Perry were eager to be included.
“I had known Mariah from years past and … they actually contacted us because she wanted to show some support and honor to the first responders,” Osteen told TMZ in a video interview aired Wednesday morning. “She wanted to share a song and put some video footage of the first responders, just to do her part to bring hope and uplift the nation.”
Osteen's Lakewood Church, based in Houston, Texas, can hold up to roughly 17,000 people, but went virtual in March amid health concerns due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Despite the change in how services and church-led programs are attended, the megachurch is operating nearly business-as-usual.
Mariah Carey, left; Joel Osteen, center; Kanye West, right (Associated Press)
As for West, the father of four and husband to Kim Kardashian has not shared much of his plan with Osteen, he said, but the pastor insisted, whatever the performance may be, will adhere to social distancing rules.
“Kanye’s one of a kind,” Osteen said. “He just talked about wanting to partner with us on Easter and to, again, to bring hope and inspiration to people, especially when people are down and afraid, so I think this is a good time to lift people up.”
Osteen said he approached Perry, whom he called “generous with his time and his finances,” and added that although some church leaders have been adamant about continuing services on-location, he has no qualms about his decision to take Lakewood Church virtual.
“I’m probably more, a little more old school – it’s not a lack of faith that we’re not having service, it’s a respect to mankind,” he said. “I know for us it wasn’t right to bring thousands of people here.”