NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (KXAN) — The Sutherland Springs community will be recovering from Sunday’s shooting for months to come. The small church lost more than half of their congregation in just one day.
Although a very different tragedy, the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels — less than an hour away — suffered their own significant loss earlier this year. Thirteen members of that congregation were killed in a church bus crash after police say a man crossed the center line and hit the bus head-on.
“You cannot prepare for a moment like that,” said First Baptist Church of New Braunfels Pastor Brad McLean.
McLean was in the middle of his sermon Sunday morning preaching to a congregation focused on their own healing when a gunman opened fire two counties away inside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.
“The community is going to see the scars of this event for years to come. Every time they drive by the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church that’s going to be recalled to their mind,” said McLean. “The nature of the event is what is going to be the most difficult for them to move past. The horror of it — the reality that it was a shooting.”
As the number of victims became known, Pastor McLean was drawn back to March 29 when he lost more than a dozen members of his congregation. “I pray for Pastor Frank Pomeroy in a way that’s very familiar,” he said.
McLean knows the community is preparing 26 funerals in the span of a few days, a difficult task for even large churches.
“We have to realize that every family is an individual family and that every family deserves individual care,” said McLean. “Speaking with one of the pastors there who is in the area and helping arrange all of those things, that is their heart, that is their desire, and that is their commitment. Knowing that every family there is suffering loss and that every family needs to be cared for.”
It’s care McLean says can’t stop once the funeral is over. For First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, when they went through their own tragedy it was the continued support for weeks and months that let them recover.
“It’s always the ‘how are you,’ the ‘we’re praying for you’… you know ‘if you need me, we’re here,’” said McLean.
Leaning on their neighbors and faith is what McLean says will bring the most comfort. “There’s still a lot for them to deal with but I know that the lord can help that community heal,” he said. “Even in the most difficult moments of our life, we do not abandon the faith, we do not walk away from the hope of Jesus.”