By Brandon Elrod
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (BP) — First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, took another step forward with the opening of its new church building on May 19. It’s another example of how Southern Baptists continue to rally around the church, which lost 26 lives in a mass shooting Nov. 5, 2017.
At Sunday’s building dedication service, pastor Frank Pomeroy referred to multiple ways his people have seen God reveal Himself, despite the agony and heartache.
“Though there was tragedy, God brings roses out of the ashes,” said Pomeroy, whose 14-year-old daughter Annabelle was among those killed and 20 others injured. “He brings glory through those who are called according to His purpose even when we don’t understand everything that is happening.”
The new facility was the culmination of Southern Baptist prayer, giving efforts, and partnerships. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) funded construction of the building, which houses a new worship center, education space, a kitchen, and fellowship hall, with gifts made through the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program and through donations.
The church requested that the new building’s design embodies their Gospel witness:
— Stone walls and two towers symbolize the church’s strength and resolve.
— One of the towers emanates light that can be seen from miles around and represents the church’s commitment to shine the light of the Gospel to its neighbors.
— A simple memorial to victims pays tribute to those who died.
— The building’s cornerstone states what has been the congregation’s theme since the attack: “Evil did not win.”
Pomeroy noted, “We are remembering those who have paid a price for this incredible facility, for the platform that we have, for the very fact that we are able to continue to share the Gospel.”
J.D. Greear, Southern Baptist Convention president, addressed attendees and shared how the hope of the Gospel carries Christians through the most difficult of circumstances.
“What makes the Christian message distinctive is not that it keeps us from tragedy, but what it does for us in the midst of tragedy,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, area. “God can use the worst that His enemy has and turn it for good.”
One of the ways that happened for the Sutherland Springs church, Greear noted, came through the outpouring of love from fellow believers.
“When the worst evil and the worst darkness intruded on this small congregation,” Greear said, “I am glad but not surprised to say that the best of who Southern Baptists are stepped forward to help.”
NAMB worked closely with Myrick, Gurosky, and Associates (MG&A), a design and construction company based out of Birmingham, Alabama, that has built hundreds of churches across the United States. MG&A recruited dozens of companies who donated $1.5 million worth of material and services to the project.
“NAMB’s instructions were simple,” said Scott Gurosky, president of MG&A. “Kevin Ezell [NAMB’s president] told us, ‘Get them what they need.'”” Ezell also attended Sunday’s service.
During the dedication ceremony, the church remembered the lives lost as Mark Collins, previously on staff at FBC Sutherland Springs and now pastor of First Baptist Church, Yorktown, Texas, read the names of those who were killed. The church bell, relocated to the new building from the original sanctuary, rang each time Collins spoke a name.
Sherri Pomeroy, Frank’s wife, then shared the story of Karla Holcombe who died along with seven other members of her family, including an unborn child. The church did not own the property where the new building rests prior to the tragedy, but Holcombe often walked around and prayed over the empty lot in faith that the church would one day own the land.
“This land was given to First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs without a penny of the budget … being spent,” Sherri said to applause. “[Karla’s faith] is the kind of faith that this church was built upon.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott noted during the dedication ceremony, “As people drive through Sutherland Springs in the future, people will know this is a place where goodness triumphed over evil.”
United States Senator Ted Cruz of Texas shared remarks through a prerecorded video. U.S. Senator John Cornyn, also of Texas, attended and delivered an address during the ceremony that underscored how the church’s testimony had encouraged many around the globe.
“The darkness this congregation witnessed was unfathomable,” Cornyn said. “You came face to face with inexplicable, senseless evil … but through your grief, you never let darkness win. On your walk through the land of shadows, you never lost your faith in the Lord.”
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.