On Saturday, September 23, I was invited to tag long with a Rice University architecture studio taught by Mary Ellen Carroll and Charles Renfro to take a behind-the-scenes tour of Houston's Lakewood Church. After I came to, I accepted the invitation.
Lakewood is the largest mega-church in the U.S. with seating for 16,000. It's housed in the former Compaq Center where the Houston Rockets used to play basketball. Pastor Joel Osteen is the impresario behind Lakewood's success. Osteen insists on high production values, designer lighting and rigorous attention to detail while editing the program for television. We were told on the tour that Lakewood's lighting was intended to mimic Hollywood award shows and cost $1.5 million.
For some crazy reason they offered to let us watch the 7pm service from the catwalk. It was like a Janet Jackson concert meets a Tony Robbins self help seminar, with Barbie and Ken as your hosts. There were fake waterfalls, piped in fog, and it smelled really good for a place full of people. It didn't feel the least bit like my childhood experiences of church at Our Holy Redeemer, but rather like life inside a Christian Biosphere 2.
Pictured is Joel Osteen's wife Victoria, who my husband says looks like a Playboy model.