Sutherland Springs sanctuary where 26 people were killed will be opened to public as memorial

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist

The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs will open its doors to the public on Sunday, one week after a gunman opened fire in the sanctuary and claimed the lives of 26 members of its congregation.

On Saturday, leaders of the church invited members of the public to visit a memorial created in the sanctuary. The public is invited to tour the sanctuary at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

“This is our church, but it is not just us that are suffering,” FBCSS associate pastor Mark Collins said. “This tragedy has rocked our nation, and has had an impact on all Americans and our country as a whole. It is our hope that this will be healing for everyone.”

Church leaders said volunteer efforts from community members of varying fields of expertise allowed them to transform the site of the deadly shooting into "a beautiful memorial that celebrates and pays tribute to the lives that were lost."

After Sunday, the memorial will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

First Baptist's pastor, Frank Pomeroy previously said he wanted the church to be demolished, but Southern Baptist Convention spokesperson Roger Oldham told CNN that's a church decision.

"This was just the pastor discussing what the thinks (the) best case scenario would be," Oldham told CNN earlier this week. "But the church has to make the decision together to tear down the church."

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