The Texas church where 26 people were gunned down during a service of worship last November is to be rebuilt starting in May.
First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs was targeted by Devin Kelley on November 5. He killed 25 members of the congregation including a pregnant woman whose unborn child also died.
One family, the Holcombes, lost eight members, while the Ward family lost two daughters and a mother. The youngest victim was 18 months old. Twenty more people were wounded and the atrocity is one of the worst mass killings in the US in modern times.
Now plans for the rebuilt church have been unveiled by its pastor Frank Pomeroy, whose daughter also died. The project is being supported by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, which will meet any shortfall in the estimated $3 million rebuilding costs.
Launching the scheme yesterday, Pomeroy said: 'Our primary goal is to lift up Jesus in our community. 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.'
He said the church was grateful for the 'outpouring of prayers, for the love that we have felt'.
Attendance has more than doubled and baptisms have 'increased exponentially' since the shooting, he said, adding: 'God is going to use the blood of those 26 martyrs and those survivors to bring forth revival into the land.'
The planned worship centre features an exterior of stone and glass. Two towers on the corners of the building will emanate glowing light. Inside, the worship center will feature 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 centre and the education facility.
The church has already received many offers of help. An architectural firm, Myrick Gurosky and Associates (MG&A), has designed the building and together with its consultants has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in development and design work.
Groups, organizations and individuals wanting to donate to the project can visit NAMB.net and click 'Give'. The link will take them to a special area for giving to the Sutherland Springs building effort. Donations of services and materials can be made here.