Nearly five months after the Sunday morning 26 worshippers died and another 20 were injured in a mass shooting, First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, unveiled drawings of new worship center paid for with donations guaranteed by the Southern Baptist Convention North American Mission Board.
Pastor Frank Pomeroy, whose 14-year-old daughter was among the slain, said it is fitting that the March 27 announcement fell during the week leading up to Easter.
“What better way to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord than the resurrection of a new church being presented?” the pastor said in a press conference webcast live by KSAT Channel 12 in San Antonio, Texas
The North American Mission Board is backing the project, valued at $3 million, as a way to support the congregation affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
“Southern Baptists were devastated by what took place and we immediately knew that, as their Southern Baptist family, we wanted to lock arms with them, doing whatever we could to help restore hope,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said in a news release. “We know a lot of people want to help, and fortunately, our experience in facilitating and mobilizing partners, volunteers, donations and prayer support in times of crisis has prepared us well to lead in a time such as this.”
The North American Mission Board will accept donations for the project through a website launched March 27, Restore Sutherland Springs. If donations do not cover all of the construction expenses, NAMB, which coordinates national disaster relief responses on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention, will cover any outstanding costs.
Scott Gurosky, president of Myrick Gurosky and Associates, the company leading the rebuild, said he expects other contractors to volunteer materials and services. “The goal is to get the cost to zero,” he said.
Pomeroy, who was out of town the fateful Sunday of Nov. 5, 2017, said the new facility “will be a beacon on a hill to Wilson County.”
“I believe that God is going to use the blood of those 26 martyrs, and those survivors, to bring forth revival to the land,” he said. “If you read your Bible, you will see any time the church was persecuted, then God backed that up with a magnification or a multiplication of his church, of his people, because God is not going to let that go forth unnoticed. I believe that’s what’s coming forth here.”
Groundbreaking for a 250-seat worship center, educational building and memorial to the shooting victims is scheduled May 5, with an estimated completion in the spring of 2019. While the church planned to close the old building, Pomeroy said, visitors from all over the country continue to stop by and describe how moved they are by connections with a structure reminiscent of the one in which they were baptized or raised.
Pomeroy said the old building church will remain a part of the church’s master site plan for the foreseeable future.
The new sanctuary is considerably larger than the one it replaces, but Pomeroy said since the tragedy the congregation has more than doubled in size.
“This building is going to represent something that we don’t see very often in the world today — especially that we don’t see after the mass shootings that are becoming so prevalent in the world today,” he said. “This building is going to represent not what the world talks about — the hate and the ugliness — but what Paul taught. He said love never fails.”