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Sanctuary 'Had To Be Completely Torn Down': North Dallas Church Still Recovering From 2019 Tornado

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - It has been nearly two years since an EF-3 tornado tore through North Dallas, but for a church that was badly damaged, the recover process is still ongoing.

Every day, all day, there are tangible reminders of October 20, 2019 at Northway Church.

"it really lifted the front part of the effacement of the sanctuary off," said Shea Sumlin, the lead pastor. "It compromised to such a degree that there was no recovery of it, no rebuilding of it. It had to be completely torn down."

And with it, Northway Church lost its central gathering space.

Northway Church
(credit: Northway Church)

Like so many other buildings damaged in the tornado, it would take more than a year for the sanctuary to be demolished due to insurance haggling.

The church decided to put the insurance money toward the renovation of their fellowship hall and children's building.

They will open next month - right around the second anniversary of the tornado.

In the meantime, they converted an old gym at the church into a temporary sanctuary.

"It's not much. It's just a black box. It looks like The Bomb Factory here," said Sumlin. "It looks like a club, but it is a space for us to gather, and we're grateful for it."

And they're weighing their options for the future: raise around $15 million to rebuild it or retrofit and upgrade the current one.

"If we don't decide to rebuild our worship center, we will need to think long-term about what to do with this space, because there's no foyer. There's really no restrooms. We're having to use outside restrooms right now," he said.

Sumlin admits the last two years have been difficult: first the tornado and then the pandemic on its heels. But he said they've also been a blessing.

"It's just been a lot of challenges, but we're thankful, because one thing we recognize is that a church is not a building. It's the people. And so whether we're in a nice worship center or a box, it really doesn't matter. The mission stays the same for us."

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