The congregation of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs held a service on Sunday, one week after a gunman opened fire in the church, killing 25 people and an unborn child in the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history.
Sunday’s service was held just a few blocks away from the church beneath a white tent on a baseball field, closely guarded by Texas Department of Public Safety agents, sheriff’s deputies and emergency management officers.
Attendees filled about 500 seats in the makeshift sanctuary, which held a small podium for Sunday’s speakers and a wooden cross enveloped white lights. The remaining guests stood in the back.
Pastors and churches from around the area organized the service, and First Baptist Church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy — whose 14-year-old daughter was killed in the shooting — was expected to speak. Texas Sen. John Cornyn was also slated to make remarks.
People from around the state and distant corners of the country traveled to show their support for the small Texas community, home to about 600 residents. One man drove from Dallas, while another couple told CNN they drove from North Carolina.
The church’s services were typically attended by no more than several dozen people, who gathered within the church’s white walls, singing hymns led by a small worship band.
On Saturday, the church announced the sanctuary would be open to the public on Sunday evening, having been “transformed into a beautiful memorial that celebrates and pays tribute to the lives that were lost.”
It’s unclear whether the memorial will be a permanent installment or a temporary tribute to the victims. Pomeroy previously said he wanted the church to be torn down and a memorial erected in its place.