A church is a holy sanctuary, a place of healing and redemption. When a gunman entered a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas this past November, the sanctuary veil of safety was torn.
First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs came under fire on Nov. 5 when a gunman entered the sanctuary and began firing, killing 26 attendees and injuring others. This devastating massacre made national news and brought up many conversations about the increase in violent crimes specifically in the Christian church.
According to Pacific Standard, “There were more shootings in Christian churches between 2006 and 2016—147 of them—than in the 25 years prior.” Though the numbers for 2016 to 2018 have not been announced yet, it is now common knowledge that the shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs is the largest church shooting in recorded history. The impact of such devastation effects the spiritual and emotional states of the members of afflicted churches.
Pastor of First Baptist, Frank Pomeroy, and a committee gathered to decide the fate of the gruesome scene. The group decided to demolish the church. Steven Sewell, a Christian grief counselor who often works with churches experiencing trauma, spoke into why the committee decided to take drastic measures.
According to Religion News Service, Sewell said, “Sometimes what happens in churches (that experience trauma) is they stay in the same place physically and spiritually when really it is impossible. No one wants to be known as ‘that church’ where ‘that bad thing’ happened. So, their rebuilding is what I like to call hidden greatness. That even in the midst of all of this tragedy, there is a hidden miracle that will come out.”
“I feel like in a serious and devastating situation such as this, the best way to get past the anger and bitterness towards the man responsible, is to live a life full of joy and happiness and not allow the pain to define your life or your responses to situations,” Carissa Wierman, graduate of John Brown University and church worker said. “That’s not to say you can never forget something like this, or that it won’t be painful, and that’s not to say that you can’t let this affect you, but it is to hope that it can bring the community together in a way that can strengthen them and help them grow more spiritually.”
The church had planned to create something in memory of those who died that day, but nothing has been built yet. First Baptist is currently in the process of re-building the church, in a different location, to create a holy sanctuary once again.
“There are trials and suffering, but Christ has overcome the world. That’s just a reminder that there is healing in this and there is redemption,” Wierman said.