The small Texas church where 26 people lost their lives to a vicious attack by a deranged gunman during Sunday church services on November 5 is set to be demolished.
Until that time, members of the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs have made other arrangements for the building, as well as alternate Sunday church services for their members.
According to the church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, it would simply be too painful to continue holding services at First Baptist Church after everything that has transpired. Pomeroy, who lost his 14-year old daughter in the tragedy, discussed the fate of the church with Southern Baptist Convention leaders who visited the community for support, and described the building as “too stark of a reminder” of the massacre.
While there is still some controversy about whether the church should be demolished, it is to be noted that other buildings that were sites of mass shootings have been removed and replaced by new buildings. Among those are Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT and an Amish schoolhouse near Lancaster, PA, which were both torn down after the horrible tragedies that occurred there. New schools were built in the communities to replace them due to the horrific events. This is what the town of Sutherland Springs, TX hopes to do with their church building.
The Church’s New Plans
Until church leaders have a plan in place and a firm date for demolition, other uses have been made for the church. Hundreds of people visited the small town of Sutherland Springs on November 12, to attend the first Sunday worship service since the tragedy just a week earlier.
A somber and emotional sermon was held outside under a large white event tent. Congregants as well as the general public came to pay their respects to the church, the families, and community. A heart wrenching memorial tribute was set up inside the church, which included the removal of the pews and carpet and the repair of the broken ceiling tiles, windows, and bullet holes. In addition, the floor, walls, and pulpit were painted white. The building was empty except for the church’s 26 white chairs – one for each victim – adorned with a single red rose and their name painted in gold.
Pastor Pomeroy preached a message reflecting his personal heartache for the loss of his daughter and church members, who were friends. He also sent a message to the community in which he lives, that when they are bound together by their faith, they can move past the evil that was prevalent the previous week at their church.
“Rather than choose darkness as that young man did that day, we choose life,” Pomeroy said at the sermon. “I know everyone who gave their life that day. Some of whom were my best friends and my daughter…I guarantee they are dancing with Jesus today.”
The current memorial will be in place to honor the victims until the building is set to be demolished, and the plans to build a new church are made. Pastor Pomeroy has indicated that he would like to see a memorial garden built on the site to honor the victims once the church is removed.
Until the members have a new church to worship in, they will explore their options for ways to continue their Sunday gatherings. Next Sunday’s church service is expected take place in a makeshift structure on the grounds of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, and everyone is welcome to attend.
At a recent memorial service for the victims attend by Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Vice President Mike Pence, the VP told the crowd that this was the worst mass shooting at a church in American history. The Texas Department of Public Safety released an official list of the victims which includes 17 females and eight males between the ages of 1 and 77. Sadly, several of the shooting victims are still hospitalized today.
~ 1776 Christian