SAN ANTONIO (BP)—First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, the congregation whose members were targeted by a gunman in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, will begin construction of a new worship center and education building in May.
Pastor Frank Pomeroy announced plans for building March 27. The Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board will accept donations for the project. If donations do not cover all of the construction expenses, NAMB will cover any remaining costs.
‘We want to be a lighthouse’
“Our primary goal is to lift up Jesus in our community,” Pomeroy said. “Sutherland Springs has a certain distinction because of the enormity of the tragedy that took place at our church, but every community is touched by tragedy. Every family and every person has hurts and sorrows. We want to be a lighthouse. The light of the gospel shines hope, even in the deepest darkness.”
The new facilities will put the church in an even better position to serve others, Pomeroy said.
“We are grateful for the outpouring of prayers, for the love that we have felt,” he said. “So many have done so much for us, and it has been a huge blessing. The purpose of these new buildings will be to serve God and serve others. That is why we exist.”
NAMB President Kevin Ezell raised the issue of a new building with Pomeroy in a conversation near the end of 2017. NAMB officials asked Myrick Gurosky and Associates in Birmingham, Ala., to lead in the development, design and construction of the buildings. The firm has worked closely with Pomeroy and leaders of the church in developing designs.
‘A small part in the healing journey’
“We are grateful to play a small part in the healing journey for our brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs,” Ezell said. “Southern Baptists were devastated by what took place last November.
“We immediately knew that, as their Southern Baptist family, we wanted to lock arms with them, doing whatever we could to help restore hope. We know a lot of people want to help, and fortunately our experience in facilitating and mobilizing partners, volunteers, donations and prayer support in times of crisis has prepared us well to lead in a time such as this.”
The planned worship center features an exterior of stone and glass. Two towers on the corners of the building will emanate glowing light. Inside, the worship center will provide seating for 250 people. A memorial to the 26 people who lost their lives in the attack will be located in space between the worship center and the education facility.
The education building is designed to host classrooms for infant through adults. Outside, a lighted, paved parking lot also will be included.
Two-phase construction planned
MG&A and their consultants have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in development and design work. Gurosky said cost of the two buildings will be approximately $3 million, but they anticipate that donations of materials and services will significantly reduce the final total.
“We have already been approached by several companies that want to help the people of this church and town,” Gurosky said. “We want to give as many people as possible that opportunity, and it’s our goal to find partners to help us complete the planned facilities so that actual cost of the work is minimal.”
Construction on the property is being split into two phases. Phase 1 will include a worship center and education building. Funding for this phase is backed by NAMB with construction expected to begin in early May and a completion date anticipated for early 2019. Plans for Phase 2 of the project include a multi-purpose community and activity center and will be funded from other sources.