In the sanctuary of North Dallas’s Temple Shalom, temporary chairs stand in the footprint left behind by pews decades old.
“We were very fortunate. We had a very generous donor come forward and make an offer for new seating,” said Rabbi Andrew Paley.
The gift of around $200,000 came from their own members to replace both pews and theater style seating. But instead of trashing the old, the congregation turned to the community to look for those in need. After all, Rabbi Paley believes sanctuary seating is more than just furniture.
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“Setting up chairs is making space for people to pray and that is the primary responsibility that we have as religious leaders,” said Paley.
Across town to the south, his congregation found a church body looking for that space.
First Fellowship Community Baptist has been working to rebuild since several rooms of their building flooded in January when a frozen pipe burst, leaving their sanctuary standing in two feet of water.
Pastor George Gregory says recovery has been slow. The money received from insurance didn’t cover the repairs, and he along with his congregation have shouldered a lot of the work. They've relied on donations to recreate their place of worship.
“It has been quite an experience to renovate this place and to see people lend a hand," said Gregory.
In the sanctuary, replacing seating was the biggest financial burden. But thanks to a gift from both Temple Shalom and a church out of Houston, it no longer is.
“This whole interfaith, this helping across racial lines, across faith traditions, it’s far more moving to me,” said Gregory.
And just like that, congregations from two different parts of town and two different faiths are forever intertwined.
“I believe because they have sat in these seats from the temple that they will have a better life and a better experience from that point on," said Gregory.
Temple Shalom's donation also benefited Greater Memorial Missionary Baptist Church, which needed more seats for an expanding congregation.
“Being able to do that and to have that opportunity to help other people in our community who need a space to pray and a place to feel that love and kindness and friendship, how could we not?” said Paley.