by Sarah Kelley ’18
This past Sunday, the surviving members of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs held their first service since the shooting that took the lives of 26 of their fellow worshippers just over a week ago.
While organizers had initially scheduled the memorial service to be held inside a nearby community center, it was soon moved to a local baseball park as hundreds of people planned to attend.
The number of churchgoers soon exceeded the entire population of this small Texas community, as people from all over the state and the country came to mourn and find hope in their faith.
This service and its large attendance, just a week after the unspeakable violence and tragedy that struck the town of Sutherland Springs, are a true testament of the power of faith and hope over hatred and violence, even during the toughest of times for a community.
Under a white tent, mourners filled countless rows of folding chairs, with the first three designated for members of the First Baptist Church and their loved ones.
As church pastor and father of 14-year-old victim Annabelle, Frank Pomeroy led members through an emotional service and brought a positive message to everyone in mourning. “I say we choose light, not the darkness that the gunman did,” said an emotional Pomeroy.
After the service, Senator John Cornyn, described the impact of the service to reporters, explaining, “It is truly remarkable…What I said when I spoke is that most of this defies our power of comprehension, but not Pastor Pomeroy…He realized that there is a higher power that is in charge. I saw him standing there in front of the church comforting others, and he lost his 14-year-old daughter…A testament to their faith and compassion for others during this very difficult time.”
Pastor Pomeroy and the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs truly embody the love and light needed to overcome the loss and suffering from this tragedy and countless others, with continuous episodes of gun violence spreading throughout our country.
While survivors of the shooting and their families could have taken their time to grieve on their own, they did not. They chose to come together as a community and as a group of active and faithful worshippers to mourn, to comfort, to remember the lives lost, and to begin healing together.
Beyond coming together in public, volunteers, church members, and organizers worked tirelessly to transform the church into a moving memorial to commemorate the lives lost during the violence.
Painting everything within the church room white from ceiling to floor, the light and brightness of the memorial is a poignant symbol of the light and hope of the congregation moving forward.
With 26 chairs placed in the church, each holding the name of each victim accompanied by a red rose, there is no doubt that the lives of those lost will continue to live on in the memories of the church members, the community, and the nation.
As Pastor Pomeroy described, all the efforts taken to create the memorial are a reminder to everyone “that love never fails.”
While this message has been spread before, it should deeply resonate with everyone in the nation at this time in history.
With so much violence, hatred, and division overwhelmingly prevalent in our country and around the world, we cannot forget the power of love and hope to preserve our nation and to keep us moving forward.