SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A South Texas church began a new chapter of worship on Sunday as it unveiled a new sanctuary a year and half after a gunman opened fire and killed more than two dozen congregants in the deadliest mass shooting in state history.
Worshippers, elected leaders and relatives of those killed or injured at the First Baptist Church in the tiny town of Sutherland Springs gathered at the sanctuary for a dedication Sunday.
Gov. Greg Abbott also delivered an address at the ceremony.
“The opening of this new worship center ushers in a new era of healing for this congregation and for the entire town of Sutherland Springs,” Abbott said. “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
The new worship center and memorial room honoring the victims was made possible through millions of dollars of donations from around the world. The facility features enhanced security elements, along with a church bell tower and an additional prayer space.
Rod Green, the grounds steward, said the facility now has security cameras and a “response team” made up of designated worshippers.
“I mean it’s a big beautiful building, it’s a new house of worship for God and there’s been a hell of a price paid, 26 deaths for it,” Green said.
A gunman shot and killed 25 people at the church on Nov. 5, 2017 . Authorities put the official death toll at 26 because one of the victims was pregnant.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)