SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas - Hundreds of people attended Sunday service at the First Baptist Church - one week after the Sutherland Springs community was forever changed by a tragedy that claimed the lives of 26 members of the church.
A church that had a few dozen members a week ago hosted worshipers from across the country in a tent donated by a San Antonio business.
No photography is allowed in or around the service. It is a packed house with so many emotions. Tears. Hugging. A sense of togetherness for a community going through a true tragedy. — Max Massey (@MaxMasseyTV) November 12, 2017
Approximately 200 chairs were set up for church goers, but volunteers quickly found themselves adding more chairs for the large crowd.
Pastor Frank Pomeroy began the service thanking god for the strength and power the community has exhibited in light of the tragedy.
“We have the freedom to choose, and rather than choose darkness like the young man did that day we choose the light,” Pomeroy said.
Pomeroy, who lost his daughter in the attack, said the shooting shouldn't deter the congregation from worshiping and that thee congregation should "not allow the lives that were lost or the families hurt lie in vain.”
“We can’t let that act be an excuse to miss church," Pomeroy said. "We can’t let that act be an excuse for us to act heinous.”
Pomeroy, joined by Senator John Cornyn, delivered an emotional message of resilience on Sunday that brought many of those in attendance to tears.
“I want to assure you that across this great nation people are praying for you and doing what they can to hold you up," Cornyn said. "God bless you all and the community of Sutherland Springs."
After the sermon, Pomeroy was met with a standing ovation.
Meredith Cooper brought her daughters to Sutherland Springs Sunday morning. She said organizers did a good job of honoring those who were killed.
"I️ know they will carry through and they will triumph over this," Cooper said. "You feel it. There isn't anger. There isn't hate. It's all hope for a better tomorrow for all of them and everyone here.
The Sutherland Springs community of about 600 people has received support and company from hundreds of foreigners who traveled to be with the community in their time of mourning.
The First Baptist Church itself will be put to other use.
On Saturday, church officials announced it would be turned into a memorial that will open to the public at 5 p.m. on Sunday and maintain hours during the week.
A cross lit in lights is center stage. Members of First Baptist Church of #SutherlandSprings have reserved seating. Comfort dogs welcome people walking into the service. — Max Massey (@MaxMasseyTV) November 12, 2017
Up until the creation of the memorial, people have been paying tribute to those who lost their lives along a road near the church. The road is adorned with crosses, balloons and flowers, commemorating those who were killed.
Now there will be an indoor memorial where people can reflect on the 26 people who lost their lives.
KSAT 12's Max Massey is in Sutherland Springs and attended the church service.
Copyright 2017 by KSAT - All rights reserved.