DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) â"Â It was an exhilarating Sunday service, one congregant recollected.Â Rev. Jerome McNeil, Senior Pastor of Christian Chapel CME Church, had the rhythm in his tone, and the spirit in his message, during a morning sermon.
âHe walked down the aisle, like he always doesâ, church member Cherry Bullard said.
But that walk would be the final steps of Rev. McNeilâs life.Â The veteran pastor collapsed and died in front of crowded sanctuary of churchgoers.
âIt hurts to even think about it, but heâs in a better placeâ, Bullard said from her church office desk on Tuesday.
McNeil, the leader of the church known as the Temple of Faith, was a 21-year pastor for the church. Christian Chapel has a 150 year history in Dallas, but the churchâs history is longer and richer.
Now surrounded by restaurants, apartments, townhomes and retail centers, the church was the centerpiece of an African American settlement known as White Rock Creek.Â The smaller Christian Chapel building still sits behind the much larger Temple of Faith, built under McNeilâs leadership.
âHe was just a great manâ, assistant pastor Linda Curry said.
Curry said McNeil never met a stranger, and was tied to the larger Dallas community well before his church calling.Â He was the first black administrator for a Dallas County agency, second in command for the Juvenile Department in 1981.
âWe are hurting, but we are a family,â Curry said of Sundayâs death.
McNeil will be buried on Saturday.Â His funeral will be held at Christian Chapel at 11 a.m.