Members of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas held their first Sunday service following last Sunday’s mass shooting there.
In an emotional sermon, Pastor Frank Pomeroy spoke of the 26 killed on Nov. 5., including his 14-year-old daughter, invoking a sense of both personal and communal loss.
“I know everyone who gave their life that day. Some of whom where my best friends and my daughter. I guarantee they are dancing with Jesus today,” said Pomeroy, according to the Associated Press.
Pomeroy also reflected on the gunman, Devin Patrick Kelly, who died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.
“Rather than choose darkness as that young man did that day, we choose life,” Pomeroy said.
The service was attended by hundreds, both the Associated Press and San Antonio Express-News report. Accommodations had been made for some 500 attendees, but the AP adds, dozens more seats had to be added and the flaps of a tent were opened to allow even more people to view the service.
The San Antonio Express-News paints the following scene:
“Prior to the service, people from other churches stopped to drop off prayer cloths and tiny wooden crosses and mental health organizations brought therapy dogs to the service.
“The prayer sealed in plastic bag went straight to the heart of this day’s service, which comes a week after the shooting left 26 worshippers dead and another 20 wounded.
” ‘Father God, we pray for the families that are grieving the loss of someone they love,’ it begins. ‘Lord, heal the hurting. Be with those that are alone after losing their loved ones. Give them the strength to go on. Be with the children that lost a parent, heal their broken lives and hearts. Provide love and nurture through others. Be with the parent that has lost a child. Heal the broken, heal the hurting. Touch them with your healing hand today. May the Holy Spirit speak peace to their hearts. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray amen.’
“Pastor Frank Pomeroy slowly worked his way toward the stage, tears streaming from one eye as friends and members of his church greeted him.”
The AP notes the service was moved to a ballpark after initially being planned for a community center. A day before the service, First Baptist Church announced it would open the church itself as a memorial to the victims of the attack.