Church may be top­pled and be­come a me­mo­rial

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Matt Pearce matt.pearce@la­

The pas­tor of the Texas church where a gun­man car­ried out a mas­sacre has dis­cussed knock­ing down the build­ing and re­plac­ing it with a me­mo­rial, a spokesman for the na­tional South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion said Thurs­day.

The First Bap­tist Church of Suther­land Springs, Texas, about 35 miles south­east of San An­to­nio, has re­mained closed since gun­man Devin Kel­ley at­tacked the con­gre­ga­tion dur­ing wor­ship ser­vices Sun­day morn­ing. With a death toll of 26, it was the dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in the mod­ern his­tory of Texas.

Pas­tor Frank Pomeroy — whose 14-year-old daugh­ter, Annabelle, was among the dead — told South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion lead­ers this week that it would be “per­haps best for the church” to tear down the build­ing, said Roger Old­ham, a spokesman for the South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion.

Pomeroy also sug­gested an idea to “turn that lit­tle small site there on the prop­erty into a me­mo­rial gar­den, and con­struct an­other wor­ship cen­ter” else­where on the prop­erty, though ul­ti­mately the de­ci­sion would be up to the con­gre­ga­tion, Old­ham said.

“The church is the peo­ple; it’s not the build­ing,” Old­ham said. “The church is still in ex­is­tence, and the peo­ple of the church are con­sid­er­ing where to wor­ship on Sun­day.”

Be­fore the shoot­ing, the church had about 85 to 100 mem­bers who at­tended ser­vices or Sun­day Bi­ble school, Old­ham said. In ad­di­tion to the deaths , 20 peo­ple were wounded. Many of the vic­tims were chil­dren.

Pomeroy and his wife were out of town dur­ing the at­tack.

On Wed­nes­day, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence vis­ited Texas to con­sole vic­tims of the shoot­ing and their fam­i­lies, and he praised their faith. “This evil must come to an end in this land,” Pence said of the shoot­ing, adding, “Faith is stronger than evil.”

It’s com­mon for the sites of mass shoot­ings to be de­mol­ished or con­verted into memo­ri­als.

Of­fi­cials have an­nounced that the Man­dalay Bay Re­sort and Casino ho­tel room used dur­ing the Oct. 1 mas­sacre of 58 peo­ple in Las Ve­gas will never see an­other guest.

The Pulse night­club in Or­lando, Fla., where 49 peo­ple were killed on June 12, 2016, was closed, and the owner an­nounced plans to open a club in an­other lo­ca­tion and con­vert the site into a mu­seum.

Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School in New­town, Conn., where 26 stu­dents and adults were killed in 2012, was de­mol­ished and re­placed with a new build­ing.

The Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church in Charleston, S.C., re­opened for Sun­day ser­vices just days af­ter a gun­man killed nine parish­ioners dur­ing a Wed­nes­day Bi­ble study ses­sion in 2015.

Nick Wag­ner Austin Amer­i­can-States­man

THE FATE of the First Bap­tist Church of Suther­land Springs, Texas, the site of a mass shoot­ing Sun­day, will be de­cided by the con­gre­ga­tion, an of­fi­cial said.

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