Occasionally a heartwarming story will pop up in the news about a house of worship being damaged some way or another and their neighbors who support their rebuilding efforts. Recall the story from March 2017 where Jewish community members donated to the post-arson rebuilding fund of a Florida mosque, for example. As it so happens, July 2018 was a month of particular togetherness where communities nationwide quietly worked together to support churches in disrepair.
Months ago in southern Dallas, Texas, a pipe in the First Fellowship Baptist Church burst and flooded much of the worship area. Carpets were ruined, floors warped, walls stained. Perhaps saddest of all, the church’s pews were destroyed. For reference, church pews come in various materials and styles, from cushioned fabrics to simple wood. First Fellowship’s benches were unfortunately made of particle board which was easily destroyed by the water.
It’s fair to say that money was already a bit tight for First Fellowship, as is the case for many American churches today. Church staff are so busy simply keeping up with their congregation that there’s often limited time for upkeep. The water damage here could have been preventable with an inspection, as about 93% of all water damage is, but what small church has the time and funds for inspections? Dedicated First Fellowship Pastor George Gregory was already personally putting in around 60 hours a week in repairs, his daughter estimated. Six months later, restoration was slow going. With the help of the North Dallas Temple Shalom synagogue, a newly beautified First Fellowship may be just around the corner.
Temple Shalom recently received a large donation from a couple of long-time congregants, so they were already planning on buying new pews for their worship space and donating their original pews. When Rabbi Andrew Paley and Temple Shalom president Rodney Schlosser heard about the fundraising efforts of First Fellowship, they realized the perfect new home for their original pews would be with the church. Both men agreed that different faiths of God supporting one another is “very biblical” and part of their responsibility as leaders.
Over in Ashton, Idaho, the United Methodist Community Church has been in desperate need of a new roof. Issues with the roof leaking were noticed by a church chairwoman Sandi Bowersox last fall — and it did not hold up well over the heavy winter that followed. Roofs as a general rule of thumb should undergo inspections at least twice a year, but as stated above, local churches often don’t have the kind of time and money to invest into something like a roof inspection. Luckily, the chairwoman who noticed the issue jumped into action to propose a solution through fundraising.
The surprising co-organizers of this fundraiser? Zion Lutheran Church, Ashton Christian Fellowship Church, and all of the LDS wards in the Ashton area. Each sect is covering a portion of food, drink, or entertainment, and advertising the large “Raise the Roof” fundraiser to their own congregations. Bowersox pointed out the community value of the Methodist Church, which hosts non-denominational groups such as an afterschool program and 4-H events. “It’s a community building to use, you don’t have to be a member of the church to use that,” she says, a sentiment echoed by the support of all area denominations.
With church attendance down in America overall, it’s heartening for many religious leaders to see communities rallying around churches in need as gathering places and valued neighbors.