Houston church to hold service despite recommendations to stay at home

A non-denominational bible church in north Houston is planning to hold a Sunday service this weekend despite COVID-19.

“I’m announcing that we’re holding services in this building on Sunday,” said Glorious Way Pastor John Greiner. “This Sunday. Palm Sunday.”

In an online sermon Wednesday, Glorious Way Pastor John Greiner announced his church’s plan for the weekend.

“Legally or illegally, we’re going to have church,” said Greiner. “There’s no compelling reason for them to take our rights."

Harris County is currently under a “Stay Home, Work Safe” order through April 30 as a result of COVID-19. According to the order, only businesses considered “essential” may operate until April 30. 

Essential businesses listed on the order include supermarkets, health care facilities, transportation departments, pharmacies, and certain retail stores. Places of worship are not listed as essential.

“You can go to a liquor store,” said Greiner. “You can go to the sports and outdoors store. You can go to the Mattress Mack store, but the church is not essential. That’s what I object to.”

We interviewed Glorious Way Associate Pastor James Buntrock about the issue. Glorious Way is one of a handful of churches in the area taking legal action against the order made by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

“Our belief is based on God’s word,” said Buntrock. “He calls us essential. He has required us to do what we’re doing.”

According to Buntrock, he’s not worried about getting sick from COVID-19. Buntrock tells us the service will continue Sunday with the necessary safety and health measures in place.

“We do care about people,” said Buntrock. “We’re following the protocols making sure people are distancing apart and sanitizing their hands.”

MORE: Stimulus registration site helps get checks to Americans who don't file taxes

Friday night, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo made a change to the order, adding, “if religious services cannot be conducted from home or through remote services, then religious services may be conducted in churches…” following CDC guidelines. 

Buntrock believes the amendments made to the “Stay Home, Work Safe” order remain too restrictive against churches.

“I didn’t have elected officials tell me how to do church,” said Greiner in the online sermon. “I don’t do church in parking lots.”

So far more than 2,000 people in the greater Houston area have tested positive for COVID-19, including over 30 deaths.

“A lot more people die every day from all kinds of things,” said Greiner. “Car wrecks, gunshot wounds. You name it. It’s not a reason to shut the church down.”

Glorious Way will have one service Sunday for Palm Sunday starting at 10 a.m. The church will also be streaming online for those uncomfortable, or with underlying health conditions, unable to attend in person.

The maximum penalty for not following the “Stay Home, Work Safe” order is 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.