OAKLAND, Calif. - For the first time since a destructive fire last Sunday, members of Oakland's oldest black church, First African Methodist Episcopal or FAME, met under one roof.
"We're not focused on the building," said FAME Pastor Rodney Smith. "As I stated before, the church is not in the building."
Smith reiterated that message all week long, though he himself couldn't help with the occasional emotional moment.
"The realization that our church's building gone up in flames, hit hard pulling up today."
Inside the location of their Sunday service, there are no crosses and no stained-glass windows. There are Jewish symbols and Hebrew writing on the walls.
"It doesn't feel different at all," said Melony Moore, a member of FAME for 34 years.
"We're all one. We all have to go to one place one day."
Earlier this week, Temple Beth Abraham Rabbi Mark Bloom offered his open space on Sundays to Smith, who called it a relief, after his building was destroyed in a 3-alarm fire.
"It was devastating," said Moore. "It felt like a death."
Support from all over, however, gave the congregation life.
"We've gotten calls as far as New York City, Washington D.C., St. Louis, Missouri, Oklahoma City, I mean the list goes on," said Smith. He led his sermon with a clear message.
"Sometimes things have to burn down to build something better up," he told people attending.
"To see him do what he's doing, helps the members of the church."
The Oakland Fire Department has still not announced the cause of the fire.
Smith says he has a good idea of how it started, but won't say more until an investigation is complete.