Pas­tor: Texas church that was at­tacked will be de­mol­ished

The Standard Journal - - NATIONAL - By Paul J. We­ber and Emily Sch­mall As­so­ci­ated Press Re­li­gion Writer Rachel Zoll in New York con­trib­uted to this re­port.

SUTHER­LAND SPRINGS, Texas — The Texas church where more than two dozen peo­ple were killed by a gun­man dur­ing Sun­day ser­vices will be de­mol­ished, the pas­tor said.

Pas­tor Frank Pomeroy told lead­ers of the South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion ear­lier this week that it would be too painful to con­tinue us­ing First Bap­tist Church as a place of wor­ship.

A na­tional South­ern Bap­tist spokesman said Pomeroy dis­cussed the plan with the de­nom­i­na­tion’s top ex­ec­u­tives, who trav­eled to the ru­ral com­mu­nity in a show of sup­port.

The spokesman, Sing Old­ham, said the pas­tor de­scribed the build­ing as “too stark of a re­minder” of the mas­sacre. Pomeroy ex­pressed hope he could turn the site into a memo­rial for the dead and put up a new build­ing on prop­erty the church owns.

Other sites of mass shoot­ings also have been torn down, in­clud­ing Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary in New­town, Con­necti­cut, where a gun­man killed 20 chil­dren and six adults in De­cem­ber 2012. A new school was built else­where.

A one- r oom Amish school­house near Lan­caster, Penn­syl­va­nia, was torn down in 2006, 10 days af­ter a gun­man took chil­dren hostage and shot and killed five girls ages 6 to 13.

The pre­vi­ous site of the school is now a pas­ture. A nearly iden­ti­cal school­house with a se­cu­rity fence was erected nearby and named New Hope School. On Wed­nes­day, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence joined Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott at a memo­rial ser­vice for the vic­tims of the gun­man.

Pence told the crowd that the at­tack was the worst mass shoot­ing at a church in Amer­i­can his­tory and called the gun­man “de­ranged.”

“What­ever an­i­mated the evil that de­scended on that small church, if the at­tacker’s de­sire was to si­lence their tes­ti­mony of faith, they failed,” the vice pres­i­dent added.

The gov­er­nor said Tex­ans come to­gether at times of cri­sis and tragedy. “It’s what we do,” Ab­bott said. Peo­ple in the crowd re­sponded “amen.”

He also pro­claimed Sun­day, Nov. 12 a statewide day of prayer.

Pence also vis­ited with wounded con­gre­gants at a San An­to­nio hos­pi­tal and met with fam­i­lies of the dead in Floresvill­e, not far from Suther­land Springs. He went from ta­ble to ta­ble at a high school li­brary, at­tempt- ing to con­sole dev­as­tated fam­ily mem­bers.

“The whole coun­try is pray­ing over you,” he told one man who lost his sis­ter-in-law.

He stopped to talk with John Hol­combe, whose fam­ily was dec­i­mated by the shoot­ing. Hol­combe, who suf­fered shrap­nel wounds, lost his wife, Crys­tal, who was preg­nant with t heir f i rst child. Also killed were three of her chil­dren, his par­ents, a brother and a tod­dler niece.

Pence hugged 7- yearold Eve­lyn Hol­combe, who sur­vived by run­ning out of the church.

Ear­lier Wed­nes­day, Pence said Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had or­dered fed­eral agen­cies to pro­vide ex­ten­sive help to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­clud­ing 100 on-site FBI agents.

Also Wed­nes­day, the Texas De­part­ment of Pub­lic Safety re­leased an of­fi­cial list of those killed in the ram­page. The eight male vic­tims and 17 fe­male vic­tims ranged in age from 1 to 77.

Eight of the fa­tal­i­ties were chil­dren or teenagers. The old­est of them was 16.

Au­thor­i­ties said the 26 dead also in­cluded Crys­tal Hol­combe’s un­born baby. All the vic­tims died at the scene, ex­cept for one child who died at a hos­pi­tal. Eleven peo­ple re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized with wounds they suf­fered in the at­tack.

Eric Gay / AP

Mourn­ers visit a makeshift memo­rial for the vic­tims of the shoot­ing at Suther­land Springs Bap­tist Church in Suther­land Springs, Texas. A man opened fire in­side the church in the small South Texas com­mu­nity a week ago, killing more than two dozen.

Eric Gay / AP

Fam­ily and friends at­tend a grave­side ser­vice for Richard and Therese Ro­driguez at the Suther­land Springs Ceme­tery in Suther­land Springs, Texas. The Ro­driguez cou­ple was killed when a man opened fire in­side the Suther­land Springs First Bap­tist Church.

Eric Gay / AP

Miguel Zamora stands a cross for the vic­tims of the Suther­land Springs First Bap­tist Church shoot­ing at a makeshift memo­rial in Suther­land Springs, Texas. A man opened fire in­side the church in the small South Texas com­mu­nity on Sun­day, killing more...

Eric Gay / AP

Flags fly at half-staff as law en­force­ment of­fi­cials con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate the scene of a shoot­ing at the First Bap­tist Church of Suther­land Springs in Suther­land Springs, Texas.

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