SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – One week after the worst mass shooting in Texas history, the congregation that was attacked gathered Sunday to say love will win. The church also opened up to the public for the first time since the shooting happened.
First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas held its morning service on Sunday at a baseball field where a record crowd was in attendance.
The church building where the shooting happened is also now open to the public.
During Sunday morning’s church service, Pastor Tom Pomeroy said he wants everyone to see what happened in the building and to never forget the lives that were lost, including his 14-year-old daughter.
“I want the world to know that that building will be open so that everybody who walks in there will know that the people who died there lived for the Lord and Savior and would want them to live for the same as well,” said Pomeroy.
The bullet holes in the walls show the horror of what happened at First Baptist Church a week ago.
The building will become a memorial to the 26 people who died, including 14-year-old Annabelle Pomeroy.
Associate Pastor Mark Collins wants to also make sure the site of the deadly shooting won’t be forgotten.
“A lot of times, a situation like this… you go under a black tarp and you never see the building again. And we wanted to prayerfully decide to memorialize those that we lost,” said Collins.
“God spared us that we didn’t come that day,” said church member Joann Higdon.
Higdon missed church last week. She made it Sunday’s service.
The service was held in a tent on a baseball field to accommodate a crowd of close to 400.
People from other churches joined First Baptist as well as complete strangers who drove in from San Antonio.
“I just felt pulled to be here. I don’t know anybody here. But I think any of us who have lost somebody tragically just feels it a little stronger in their heart,” said Linda Kristensen of San Antonio.
In an uplifting sermon, Pastor Pomeroy told the crowd to choose light, not darkness and that love always wins. He spoke about the 26 members of their church family who were lost. He cried as he said he was thankful they were in Heaven, dancing with Jesus.
“I know every single name. I know everyone who gave their life that day. Some of which were my best friends. My daughter… and I guarantee you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, they are dancing with Jesus today, and they would tell you to keep on fighting,” said Pomeroy.
“No matter what happens, we have hope, and the hope is in Jesus Christ. And that can’t be taken from us no matter what happens,” said resident Holly Noris.
As their yearly tradition at First Baptist Church, they will host Thanksgiving. Even though the funerals for the fallen are going on, Pastor Pomeroy said they are thankful and will open their Thanksgiving celebration to all.