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Sutherland Springs Church Opens as Memorial to Victims

(Credit: Associated Press)

A line of about 85 people snaked from the entrance of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs and curved around the block as the house of worship opened its doors to the public at 5 p.m. for the first time since a deadly shooting last Sunday.

Associate Pastor Mark Collins says people traveled from as far away as the East Coast to pray at the site of the shooting. He says that while they will be allowed inside the church to take part in the memorial, it was set up with members in mind.

Collins says constructing the memorial wasn't an easy decision because some members have said they never wanted to again step foot in the place where they lost so many friends or family members. But, he says, other members and family of those who were killed needed to see the church.

He says the memorial was a way to honor the victims without focusing on the shooting.

He says the church has reached out to the family of shooter Devin Kelley, and that church members are praying for Kelley's family.

The congregation will hold services on the grounds of the church next week. Collins says those services likely will take place in a makeshift structure.

He says church members will have to decide whether to demolish the church, but plans are also being discussed to build a new structure nearby.

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