Sutherland Springs Church Reopens As a Memorial

Bryan Michalek | November 13, 2017

Sutherland Springs First Baptist reopened for its first Sunday service after the church shooting as a memorial to the victims of the massacre. 

Only a week ago was Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church the setting for one of the most brutal mass shootings in American history, when gunman David Patrick Kelley shot and killed 26 people gathered for worship.

Inside the memorial, 26 empty chairs lined the empty structure, each holding a single rose and the name of a victim. One of the chairs had the name "Baby Holcombe" to represent the unborn child of Crystal Holcombe, who was eight months pregnant when she was shot and killed. 

On the public address system, the memorial had a recording that played, "For everyone who believes in him shall have eternal life" on a loop, according to USA Today

Also inside was a wooden cross and a verse of scripture from Psalm 100, reading:

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For Yahweh is good, and His love is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations."

The many destructive reminders of the church, like bullet holes and blotches of blood, had been removed.

Several local residents, as well as members of nearby communities, came to pay their respects to the deceased and the families they left behind.

"In most situations like this, the building would be closed off for months, but America was attacked, and we want America to grieve with us because they've expressed so much love for us," the church's associate pastor, Mark Collins, said.

"We don't want to appear defeated. We're back in business and it's God's business," he added. 

Last week, a spokesman for the church claimed that First Baptist's Pastor Frank Pomeroy had planned to demolish the building, but according to NBC News the memorial will remain open 12 hours a day, five days a week for the time being.

As the congregation figures out what will happen to the chapel down the road, the Southern Baptist Convention said that it would cover the cost for all of the victim's funerals. 

The future is uncertain for First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, but one thing is for sure, this is a situation in which all American's can find solidarity as we mourn the loss of so many innocent lives. 

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