New sanctuary marks fresh start for Texas church where over two dozen people were killed

The mass shooting at Sutherland Springs in 2017 was the worst in Texas' history

Sutherland Springs began a new chapter on Sunday when it dedicated a brand new sanctuary a year and a half after a horrific mass shooting left over two dozen congregants dead.

The dedication service at the south Texas church was joined by Republican Governor Greg Abbott and relatives of those killed when a gunman opened fire at the First Baptist Church in November 2017.

The 26 people killed in what was the worst mass shooting in state history. The victims included Annabelle Pomeroy, the 14-year-old adopted daughter of the church's pastor, Frank Pomeroy.

During Sunday's dedication service, the names of the victims were read out loud as the church bell rang in their honour. 

Mr Pomeroy told those gathered at the service that it was a time to celebrate God's glory while also remembering "those who have paid a price for this incredible facility". 

Some of those gathered for the dedication of the new sanctuary wore special shirts emblazoned with the words "#evildidnotwin". 

Mr Abbott told worshippers that the church was a symbol of good's victory over evil.

"This is a tangible sign as people drive through Sutherland Springs in the future they will know that this is a place where goodness triumphed over evil," he said. 

In addition to a new church bell tower and prayer space, the church now has enhanced security elements, including a "safety response team" formed of trained volunteers, the Associated Press reports. 

"We don't want to look like a fortress, but also wanted to make sure that everybody could feel safe on the inside," Pomeroy said.

Places of worship have been the victim of a series of deadly attacks around the world.  Last month, one person was killed in a shooting at a synagogue in California, just six months after a gunman killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh - the deadliest attack on a synagogue in US history.  In March, 51 people were killed in mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand.