Then Mr. Stricklin dropped his own bombshell. On an October Sunday, heunexpectedly announced that he was quitting. At the end of the service, he marched down the aisle and out the front door. He got in his car and left, never to return.

Mr. Stricklin remembers that period with much pain.

"When I first walked into the church, of course I thought it was a greatopportunity," he said. "I guess conflict arose within the first few months. I felt the congregation was divided."

Some members, he said, wanted to reach the community and help the churchgrow; others wanted to remain small and insular. Because his gift was evangelism, his biggest clashes came with those who had a hard time with change.

When Mr. Stricklin left, the turmoil worsened. Now, there was no scapegoat -only one another to turn against.

"Clark may have been the catalyst, but the problem was lack of trust andpoor communication skills," Mrs. Hopkins said. "You didn't know what to say to anybody. I had family on both sides of the issue."

By April 1997, the music minister - bright, competent, dedicated andwell-loved - offered to act as interim pastor. But the fight wasso entrenched that when members voted, they split down the middle, 33-33.

"The turmoil developed a life of its own," Mr. Hopkins said. At one meeting,he said, the treasurer rose to accuse members of not giving enough money to the church. "I told him to sit down and he told me to sit down," Mr. Hopkins said. They had to quickly adjourn.

Seven of the 11 deacons quit.

The Hopkinses considered leaving the church but stayed because theirgranddaughter, whom they are rearing, loved the day-carecenter.

Mrs. Walton considered quitting but didn't because she had spent her entireadult life there.

Then Mr. Dyer arrived last spring. As he walked them through the stepsofreconciliation, members began to see a new vision for their congregation.

He started slowly, preaching about peacemaking and reconciliation, teaching Sunday school classes on conflict, dealing with people's anger during counseling. He rebuilt relationships among members, who gradually grew to trust him.

He also helped them build a 50-foot time line of the church's history,stretching back to its start 36 years ago. They pasted the timeline along the main hallway, just inside the front door for all to see.Members brought in magazine clippings depicting world events that hadoccurred since the church was formed, including theVietnam War, Martin Luther King's funeral, the Challenger explosion andPrincess Diana's death. They added newspaper storiesabout the comings and goings of the church's pastors, of missionaries, of alive Nativity scene that North Euless had put on. Alsoincluded were photographs of the various pastors and members.

Mr. Dyer asked members for index cards recalling memories of the church'spast. He also wanted them to write the three mostimportant things they each needed to do to get the church back on track.

What emerged was the realization that the latest controversy at North Eulessrested on a foundation of shorter, less-intense conflictsfrom which the church had seemingly been able to rebound.

By late October, Mr. Dyer decided they were ready to spend time together ina retreat. "They were pretty nervous," he said. "Theywere afraid I'd put out all the gory details again."

During the three-day retreat, 54 adults came together. At the end of thegathering, Mr. Dyer stood before them to talk aboutapologies and forgiveness.

Suddenly, Don Hazard, a deacon who'd quit earlier in the year, rose andstarted talking. "I apologized to the entire congregation," he said.

He told them he had been too blunt and opinionated. That he'd said thingsthat hurt a lot of people.

Then he apologized to Mr. Hopkins, and the two embraced, crying. "At thatpoint, I don't really know what happened," Mr. Hazardsaid.

Soon, people were walking up to one another, weeping and hugging and saying"I'm sorry."

Mr. Dyer was dumbfounded. "I just sat down, and for the next two hours ithad a life of its own," he said. "That is God. ... Youdon't have those experiences without a moving of the Holy Spirit."

The next morning, he said, members came to Sunday services almost giddy withexcitement. Their happiness and sense of purposehaven't yet faded. But they also continue to hold one another accountable.

"I'd like to say we don't have any dissension right now, but that wouldprobably be a false statement," said Mr.

Hazard, who hasreturned to the deacons' board. "For the most part, though, everyone isready to move forward. I don't think it's all going to be a bedof roses, but I think you'll start to see positive activity coming from thatchurch."

These days, Mr. Stricklin, the former pastor, is starting a mission churchnear Cedar Hill and working with his brother at their carpet-cleaning business. He worries that the experience at North Euless will make it hard for him to find another church.

But recently, one of the deacons called.

The members of North Euless Baptist Church finally wanted to talk with theirformer pastor.

They got together this week.

And the members said, "We're sorry."