The pastor of the small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 people were murdered and dozens of others were wounded Sunday, wants the sanctuary torn down. But one anonymous donor is offering a different option.
Pastor Frank Pomeroy, who lost his 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, in the shooting, believes tearing the building down and replacing it with a prayer garden is “the best way forward,” Southern Baptist Convention spokesman Roger Oldham told USA Today.
And Frank Page, president and CEO of the SBC’s executive committee, alongside SBC President Steve Gaines, both of whom met with Pomeroy this week, confirmed to the Religion News Service that the sanctuary will be demolished.
“They did say, ‘We can’t go back in there,’” Page said, referring to the congregants of First Baptist Church. “It’s going to be a reminder of the horrific violence against innocent people.”
Sheriff Joe Tackitt Jr. of Wilson County described the sanctuary as a gruesome scene, saying there is “blood everywhere” inside the building.
“You wouldn’t think they’d want to relive that,” Sutherland Springs resident Andy Wyatt, who has built many vacation Bible school sets for the church, told RNS. “They deserve something bigger and better. You want to start fresh, anew.”
And that’s exactly what one anonymous donor is suggesting, Page said. He or she is offering to pay for a brand-new sanctuary for the 100-member congregation because, as Oldham told the Associated Press, the current, bullet-riddled building is “too stark of a reminder” of the horrific attack that took place during Sunday’s worship service.
Additionally, the SBC’s North American Mission Board has offered to pay for all the funeral expenses, even though the Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation program would have footed the bill.
It is a measure of devotion born of incalculable tragedy that Southern Baptist tithes and offerings are paying for the funerals of those murdered in #SutherlandSprings. We grieve as one (Romans 12:15).
— Andrew T. Walker (@andrewtwalk) November 8, 2017
“We’re going to take care of our own people,” Page said.