Sutherland Springs church opens new sanctuary after 2017 shooting


A new sanctuary in Sutherland Springs, Texas, opened nearly two years after a gunman opened fire inside of a church and killed 26 people.

A bell restored from the now-shuttered sanctuary rang for the first time at the new First Baptist Church on Sunday, KXAN reported.

“Every Sunday morning the kids would run to me … to see who could get me first … who could ring the bell to let Sunday school know that it’s time for church to start,” Pastor Frank Pomeroy told the outlet. “Many of the children that ring that bell are no longer with us.”

Pomeroy’s 14-year-old daughter Annabelle was among the victims, the outlet reported.{mosads}

“Our shooter had the propensity to seek out children. And for that reason, that bell means more now to me than it did even previous,” the pastor continued.

The project was funded by the North American Mission Board on behalf of Southern Baptists, according to KSAT News. Sixty companies donated services or materials.

The new church is roughly three times larger than the previous one and includes a memorial room for the victims.

The new facility also includes a sophisticated security system, equipped with surveillance cameras both inside and outside the facility.

The church also has a safety response team going through extensive training, Pomeroy said.

“We don’t want to look like a fortress, but we also wanted to make sure that everybody could feel safe on the inside,” he told KSAT news.

The church that was the site of the massacre is still standing. Pomeroy said the entire congregation will decide together what happens to the property.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) attended he dedication ceremony at the new worship center, saying in a statement that it marks a “new era of healing” for the congregation and town.

“I have no doubt that God will continue to work through this community to write the next chapter for the remarkable and faithful people of Sutherland Springs. That is why we do not gather in grief, but instead we gather in hope, and we join together to celebrate the new beginning of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs,” Abbott wrote.

The unveiling of the new church came one day before the Texas House on Monday gave preliminary approval for a bill that would allow licensed handgun owners to carry weapons inside places of worship.

The legislation would roll back current Texas law that states handguns are not allowed in “churches, synagogues, or other places of worship,” The Texas Tribune reported.

The Sutherland Springs shooter, who should not have been allowed to buy a gun because of previous assault convictions, ultimately died from injuries that included a self-inflicted head wound.

Stephen Willeford, a former National Rifle Association instructor who lived near the church, exchanged gunfire with a shooter during the shooting in November 2017. Willeford then teamed up with another man to chase the gunman by car and call 911 to provide his location.

Tags First Baptist Church Greg Abbott sutherland springs sutherland springs shooting Texas

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video