One week after a gunman killed 25 members of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in Texas, Pastor Frank Pomeroy, who lost his daughter in the massacre, delivered a sermon in which he reminded his congregation that their slain brothers and sisters are “dancing with Jesus today.”
“Victory has a price,” Pomeroy told about 500 attendees gathered in a tent on a baseball field blocks away from the church. “You cannot be victorious in battle without being wounded in battle.”
Pastor Pomeroy, who has pastored the church for 15 years, was out of town when he got the news his 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was among those killed.
“I know everyone who lost their life that day, some of which were my best friends, and my daughter,” Pomeroy said, his voice breaking with emotion. “And I guarantee without any shadow of a doubt they are dancing with Jesus today. God gets the glory.”
“We have the power to choose, and, rather than choose darkness, like that young man did that day, I say we choose life,” he continued.
In what is being recognized in the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history, 26-year-old Devin Kelley entered the church last week and opened fire on Pomeroy’s parishioners, leaving 25 dead and 20 injured, including children.
According to CNN, 25 red roses on 25 white chairs were placed on white chairs at the service, representing each of the victims who lost their lives. A single pink rose was placed on a chair in honor of the unborn child.
“I want everyone that walks in there to know that the people who died lived for their Lord and savior, and would want them to live as well,” Pomeroy said.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn also attended the service and later compared Pomeroy to a shepherd leading his flock through these dark times in the midst of his own tragic loss.
“It’s clear they’re people of deep faith,” Cornyn said following the service. “And that’s what sustains them and gives them hope, even during dark times like this.”
“I saw him standing there at the front of the church, comforting others,” Cornyn said. “It’s remarkable, but it’s a testament to their faith and their compassion for others during this very difficult time.”
Pomeroy has previously said he wants the church to be torn down and possibly have a memorial erected in its place. However, at the end of the service, former associate pastor Mark Collins announced that next Sunday’s church service will return to the sanctuary where last week’s attack was carried out, and Sunday school classes will resume.
One day after learning of his daughter’s death, Pomeroy spoke publicly and urged his congregation to lean on their faith amidst the devastation.
“I would submit this to everyone – my families here and you guys there – whatever life brings to you, lean on the Lord rather than your own understanding,” Pomeroy, who pastored the church for 15 years, said. “I don’t understand, but I know my God does.”
Sherri Pomeroy said: “We lost more than Belle yesterday – and one thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded yesterday by her church family that she loved fiercely and vice versa.”
“Our church was not comprised of members or parishioners, we were a very close family,” she added. “We ate together, we laughed together, we cried together and we worshiped together. Now, most of our church family is gone – our building is probably beyond repair, and the few of us that are left behind lost tragically yesterday.”