First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs will build a new sanctuary and community center. The announcement Tuesday by church officials comes nearly five months after a gunman killed over two dozen people during a Sunday church service in November. The new buildings are expected to be completed by next spring.
On Sunday, Nov. 5, just over 40 people entered First Baptist Church to attend their usual Sunday service. But midway through, a gunman opened fire, killing 26 and injuring 20 others.
Since then, the sanctuary of the church has served as a memorial, with chairs bearing the names of men, women, and children who died.
On Tuesday night in San Antonio, the church’s pastor Frank Pomeroy announced the church would be given new life.
“We are in the midst of a celebration — this is the week that is leading up to Easter, and what better way to celebrate resurrection of the Lord than the resurrection of a new church being presented,” he said.
The renderings he unveiled show a sanctuary with two towers and an adjacent education center — about 14,000 square feet.
In between the two buildings, a memorial prayer garden is planned.
Church officials also plan to hang paintings of all 26 victims of the shooting.
This is phase one of the nearly two acre property. Pomeroy says the new building will be a beacon for a community that’s still healing.
“This building is going to represent not what the world talks about — the hate and the ugliness — but what Paul taught, and he said love never fails,” he said.
The project is expected to cost about $3 million, and will be funded through donations.
The North American Mission Board, a division of the Southern Baptist Association, is overseeing the project and will provide any remaining funds if donations fall short.
“We are grateful to play a small part in the healing journey for our brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “Southern Baptists were devastated by what took place. We immediately knew that, as their Southern Baptist family, we wanted to lock arms with them, doing whatever we could to help restore hope.”
Development and construction is being managed by Myrick Gurosky and Associates.
A bell that hung inside the original church will be in one of the new bell towers. Sherry Pomeroy, the pastor's wife, said children loved ringing the bell at the beginning of the church service.
“After Sunday school they would run out and catch the pastor. ‘Pastor. Can I ring the bell? Can I ring the bell?’ And they would race to see who could ring the bell first,” she said. “And a lot of those children are not with us anymore. One of them, Annabelle, just loved to ring the bell, and that was her favorite thing to do on Sunday mornings.”
Annabelle, the Pomeroy’s 14-year old daughter, died in the shooting.
It’s unclear what will happen to the current memorial sanctuary.
Groundbreaking for the new sanctuary is set for May 5, exactly six months after the shooting.
Donations for First Baptist Church’s new sanctuary and community center are being accepted at the Restore Sutherland Springs website.