How a synagogue helped re-open a flooded Dallas church

With straw brooms and willpower, the pastor and a few congregants of First Fellowship Baptist Church in southern Dallas had to push out two inches of water taking over their place of worship.

By STACY FERNANDEZ/THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
July 31, 2018 12:06
2 minute read.
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With straw brooms and willpower, the pastor and a few congregants of First Fellowship Baptist Church in southern Dallas had to push out two inches of water taking over their place of worship.

A busted pipe had filled multiple rooms in the church, which doubles as a community center. The water had soaked the carpet and seeped into the two layers of tile that hid underneath. The pews, made of particle-board, were doused and destroyed.

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Pastor George Gregory and volunteers have worked for months to get their church back into shape. But now Gregory won't be left a shepherd with nowhere to seat his flock.

He found out about a month ago that Temple Shalom in North Dallas was giving away its original pews. And the temple’s leaders were happy to help.

Rodney Schlosser, president of Temple Shalom, said the donation was “our opportunity to pay it forward by being hospitable to other religious institutions.”

The temple was able to spare its pews because it’s buying new ones after receiving a $200,000 donation from Raelaine and Paul Radnitz, longtime congregants of the temple.

Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom said the giveaway is a symbol of the shared responsibility to bring people together under God’s presence no matter the religion. Gregory agreed, saying people of different faiths helping each other is “very biblical.”

In total, Gregory’s church received about 110 pews and theater-style chairs. The rest of Temple Shalom’s pews were donated to Greater Memorial Missionary Baptist Church, which is expanding.

“Both cases had a real and immediate need for seating,” Schlosser said.

And they're not just hand-me-downs. Despite the wear and tear after 45 years at the temple, the deep red upholstery of the pews looks almost new.


Gregory and volunteers began to install the pews this month. The new seating will be a big help, but they’ve still got a long way to go.

For the past six months, Gregory has been hosting services in the community center, where congregants sit in metal folding chairs when they're not on their feet.

He said he had hoped to be out of the room and back into the church sanctuary earlier, but insurance didn’t pay enough for workers and furnishings. It’s hot, even when empty. And the overhead fan, a floor fan and an air conditioning still don’t provide enough relief when the congregation is moving around, dancing and praying.

Gregory has had started cutting down service times so people don’t have to be in the uncomfortable conditions for too long.

He wants to have a full reopening by the end of August — "with the grace of God," he said — but needs to first collect more donations to replace flooring and furniture. Gregory’s daughter Assata Thomas said the pastor has done much of the work himself. She said her father puts in about 60 hours a week fixing up his church of 21 years.

Thomas has seen Gregory stay at the church until 10 p.m. On a few occasions, she has received a phone call from her mom at 2 or 3 a.m. about Gregory staying late at the church.

Gregory disputes that he’s working that hard, but he sees an end in sight now that his congregants have places to sit.

©2018 the Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas)
Visit the  Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas) at www.dallasnews.com
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