First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs to Be Torn Down, Rebuilt After Mass Shooting Tragedy

A law enforcement official leaves the First Baptist Church Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man opened fire inside the church in the small South Texas community on Sunday, killing more than two dozen and injuring others. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
A law enforcement official leaves the First Baptist Church Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man opened fire inside the church in the small South Texas community on Sunday, killing more than two dozen and injuring others. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The funerals were yet to be held.

The eulogies were yet to be given.

The bodies were yet to be buried.

But one thing was already clear in this tiny Texas town of 600 a couple days after one of the worst mass shootings at an American church: First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs will be razed.

The site where 25 people were shot dead by a lone gunman who sprayed the small sanctuary with hundreds of bullets will give way to a newly constructed church, a denominational official said.

In what is becoming a grim American ritual, mass shooting sites from Sandy Hook to Columbine have been demolished and then rebuilt. But some churches that experienced horrific killings have sought to reclaim existing sacred spaces.

That’s not the case with First Baptist. Frank Page, president and CEO of the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Steve Gaines, the SBC’s president, confirmed the decision to demolish the church after meeting in Sutherland Springs on Tuesday (Nov. 7) with Frank Pomeroy, its grieving pastor.

“They did say, ‘We can’t go back in there,’” said Page, referring to Pomeroy’s remaining church members. “It’s going to be a reminder of the horrific violence against innocent people.”

Pomeroy and his wife, Sherri, were not at the church on Sunday when 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire. But their 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, whom the couple adopted at age 2, was killed.

Page said an anonymous donor agreed to fund the construction of a new church. The convention’s North American Mission Board has offered to pay for all of the funerals even though Texas’ Crime Victims’ Compensation program would have done so.

“We’re going to take care of our own people,” Page said.

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SOURCE: Yonat Shimron and Kimberly Winston 
Religion News Service