US & World

A week after the mass shooting, Texas church reopens as a memorial

A Teddy bear and a photograph lay at the foot of a cross honoring 16-year-old Haley Krueger at a memorial to honor the 26 people killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
A Teddy bear and a photograph lay at the foot of a cross honoring 16-year-old Haley Krueger at a memorial to honor the 26 people killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs will reopen to the public as a memorial on Sunday, it announced on its website, one week after a mass shooting in the church rattled the small Texas town.

In the past few days, residents have been working as volunteers to restore the church, where a gunman opened fire on a congregation, killing more than two dozen people and wounding 20 others.

Lilly Navejan is comforted after breaking down while visiting a memorial to honor the 26 people killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Navejan lost her brother, Ricardo Rodriguez, and his wife, Therese, in the mass shooting.
Lilly Navejan is comforted after breaking down while visiting a memorial to honor the 26 people killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Navejan lost her brother, Ricardo Rodriguez, and his wife, Therese, in the mass shooting.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

"This is our church, but it is not just us that are suffering," Mark Collins, the church's associate pastor, says in the news release. "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."

Workers patch bullet holes and paint the exterior of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Thursday after a gunman opened fire on Nov. 5, 2017, killing 26 people and wounding 20 others.
Workers patch bullet holes and paint the exterior of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Thursday after a gunman opened fire on Nov. 5, 2017, killing 26 people and wounding 20 others.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Previously, the church's pastor Frank Pomeroy, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Annabelle in the shooting, suggested tearing down the church to create a prayer garden, as NPR's Scott Neuman reported: The blood-stained and bullet-riddled building is "too stark of a reminder" of Sunday's tragedy, he told The Wall Street Journal.

"There's too many that do not want to go back in there," Pomeroy told The Wall Street Journal.

"'The pastor expressed his desire that perhaps the best way forward is to have the church demolished and replaced with a prayer garden,' convention spokesman Roger "Sing" Oldham, was quoted by USA Today as saying.

"He added that parishioners haven't 'had a chance to fully deal with the grief and then come together to make a decision.' "

Now, that decision has been made.

Joyce Mires leaves flowers at a memorial where 26 crosses were placed to honor the 26 people killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Joyce Mires leaves flowers at a memorial where 26 crosses were placed to honor the 26 people killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

"Through generous volunteer efforts and offers from several individuals with varying fields of expertise, the scene of this unspeakable event has been transformed into a beautiful memorial that celebrates and pays tribute to the lives that were lost," the news release reads.

Shaelyn Gisler, 4, leaves flowers at a memorial where 26 crosses were placed to honor the 26 people killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Shaelyn Gisler, 4, leaves flowers at a memorial where 26 crosses were placed to honor the 26 people killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

The church will open its doors to the public and, separately, the media on Sunday. Thereon, the public can visit the memorial on weekdays, though it's unclear whether the memorial will be a permanent installment.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.