Eighteen months have passed since a gunman entered First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs and took 26 lives.

In honor and remembrance of those who perished in the Texas church, First Baptist just opened a new building, and the congregation hopes it will serve as a reminder of the lives lost that day.

“Hope is what sustains us and brings us through,” Pastor Frank Pomeroy told The Daily Signal last week in a phone interview, having preached from his new pulpit three times.

A man identified as Devin Kelley entered First Baptist during the Sunday morning service on Nov. 5, 2017, and methodically sprayed bullets into the congregation before driving away and ultimately taking his own life.

Pomeroy, who usually would have been preaching, was out of town that day — taking a gun safety class. He received the news of the shooting, and of his own 14-year-old daughter’s death, over the phone.

Fast forward to Sunday, May 19, about 18 months later, when Pomeroy spoke for the first time from the pulpit of his church’s new building in the town about 35 miles southeast of San Antonio.

The North American Mission Board, the domestic missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, paid for and constructed the church building about 50 yards away from the old one. The original building stands only as a memorial, and is not used for services.

In the weeks directly following the shooting, Pomeroy told The Daily Signal, “I was still kind of in a haze and a fog.”

His focus was on caring for his wife Sherri, their surviving five children, ages 21 to 31, and his congregation of about 200.

“I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember talking with the North American Mission Board,” Pomeroy, 52, said in the May 28 interview. “They came to us and said, ‘We want to build you a church.’”

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