By Mike Ebert
SAN ANTONIO — First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs, the Southern Baptist congregation whose members were targeted by a gunman last November in what became one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, will begin construction of a new worship center and education building beginning in May.
Plans were announced today, March 27, by Frank Pomeroy, the church’s pastor. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) will accept donations for the project. If donations do not cover all of the construction expenses, NAMB will cover any outstanding costs.
“Our primary goal is to lift up Jesus in our community,” Pomeroy said. “Sutherland Springs has a certain distinction because of the enormity of the tragedy that took place at our church, but every community is touched by tragedy. Every family and every person has hurts and sorrows. We want to be a lighthouse. The light of the Gospel shines hope, even in the deepest darkness.”
Pomeroy said the new facilities will put the church in an even better position to serve others.
“We are grateful for the outpouring of prayers, for the love that we have felt,” Pomeroy said. “So many have done so much for us, and it has been a huge blessing. The purpose of these new buildings will be to serve God and serve others. That is why we exist.”
NAMB president Kevin Ezell raised the issue of a new building with Pomeroy in a conversation near the end of 2017. NAMB asked Myrick Gurosky and Associates (MG&A) in Birmingham, AL to lead in the development, design, and construction of the buildings. MG&A has worked closely with Pomeroy and leaders of the church in developing designs. MG&A specializes in the management of design and construction and has worked on hundreds of church projects across the US.
“We are grateful to play a small part in the healing journey for our brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs,” 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. 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.”
Groups, organizations, and individuals wanting to donate to the project can visit NAMB.net and click “Give.” The link will take them to a special area for giving to the Sutherland Springs building effort. Donations of services and materials can be given through the web site restoresutherlandsprings.com.
“We have a lot of experience working with churches,” said MG&A’s president Scott Gurosky, “but this situation is unique. Already my team and I have been deeply moved by the faith, courage, and perseverance that pastor Frank and his congregation have shown. We are excited to give them this opportunity to move forward in faith toward a new beginning.”
The planned worship center features an exterior of stone and glass. Two towers on the corners of the building will emanate glowing light. Inside, the worship center will feature seating for 250 people. A memorial to the 26 people who lost their lives in the attack will be located in space between the worship center and the education facility.
The education building is designed to host classrooms for attendees age infant through adult. Outside, a lighted, paved parking lot will also be included.
MG&A and their consultants have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in development and design work. Gurosky said cost of the two buildings will be approximately $3 million, but they anticipate that donations of materials and services will significantly reduce the final total.
“We have already been approached by several companies that want to help the people of this church and town,” Gurosky said. “We want to give as many people as possible that opportunity, and it’s our goal to find partners to help us complete the planned facilities so that actual cost of the work is minimal.”
Construction on the property is being split into two phases. Phase 1 will include a worship center and education building. Funding for this phase is backed by NAMB with construction expected to begin in early May and a completion date anticipated for early 2019. Phase 2 of the project include a multi-purpose community and activity center and will be funded from other sources.
Mike Ebert serves as director of public relations for the North American Mission Board.