SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas – The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs will reopen its sanctuary as a memorial on Sunday, one week after a gunman killed 25 people and an unborn child.
In a Saturday news release, the Texas church invited the public and the media to the memorial to honor the dead, saying it had “undertaken several projects to help the healing process for the families and the community,” one of which included restoring the church’s sanctuary.
“Through generous volunteer efforts and offers from several individuals with varying fields of expertise,” the statement read, “the scene of this unspeakable event has been transformed into a beautiful memorial that celebrates and pays tribute to the lives that were lost.”
The sanctuary will open to the public at 5 p.m., the statement said, and will be open Monday through Friday. It’s unclear whether the church plans for the memorial to be a permanent installment.
It was previously announced that the church would hold its first Sunday service since the shooting this weekend, at a community center next door. First Baptist’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, is expected to speak.
Pomeroy — whose 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was killed in last Sunday’s attack — has previously said he wants the church to be torn down and possibly have a memorial erected in its place.
“This was just the pastor discussing what the thinks (the) best case scenario would be,” Roger Oldham, spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, told CNN earlier this week. “But the church has to make the decision together to tear down the church.”
Following previous mass shootings, those tasked with addressing the future of the site have responded in a variety of ways.
In Newtown, Connecticut, Sandy Hook Elementary School was torn down and replaced by a new school after 20 children and six staff members were killed there in December 2012.
The Pulse nightclub in Orlando was to be torn down following the June 2016 shooting that claimed 49 lives, but the owner has since decided it will be turned into a memorial.
And in Charleston, North Carolina, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church reopened just days after nine parishioners were killed in a racially motivated attack.