The Moorestown Sun
Published in

The Moorestown Sun

New church ‘rising’ out of the traditional mold

The Rising Community Fellowship and Outreach Center will open their doors to the Moorestown community on Sunday, Oct. 1.

Pastor Charles Simonka stands in front of The Rising Community Fellowship and Outreach Center on the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 21. The nondenominational church located on Marne Highway will officially open their doors to the Moorestown Community on Sunday, Oct 1 at 10:30 a.m.

Pastor Charles Simonka isn’t trying to follow the model of a traditional church. In fact, you won’t even find the word church in the name of the congregation that has recently taken up residence in Moorestown.

The Rising Community Fellowship and Outreach Center will officially open its doors on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 10:30 a.m. The non-denominational church located on Marne Highway is combining the Bible with live music, teaching and community outreach in what Simonka hopes is a more holistic approach to church.

“I wanted a church that was about people’s stories, people’s journey in life and how we could participate in that journey,” Simonka said.

The church was formerly located in Pennsauken under the name Christ Bible Church. Simonka joined as a part-time counselor in 2004 and became associate pastor in 2005. He said while the church was nondenominational, the way the church was governed and the belief system of the majority of the people felt more like a fundamentalist Baptist Church.

Simonka said when he became the church’s head pastor, he started gradually making changes in an effort to push the church in a new direction. He said he felt like the church had stagnated, and he wanted to bring in new energy.

For that reason, Simonka reached out to Pennsauken Township in an effort to see what work the church could do within the local community. He said his parishioners cleaned up local neighborhoods, held lunches for senior citizens to voice their concerns to the mayor and held a trunk-or-treat in the parking lot where more than 1,000 locals showed up to go from car-to-car and collect candy.

Frank Sinatra, director of public relations for Pennsauken Township, said during its time in Pennsauken, the church was very service-oriented.

“Whether it was providing free backpacks and school supplies for children, serving free lunches to seniors or participating in community cleanups, their faith community [was] a great neighbor to have,” Sinatra said.

In 2012, Simonka said he and his board wanted a new name to represent the new focus the church now had on community outreach and helping people find their destiny through other means than just traditional worship.

“We took the word Bible out of the church; it was just very traditional,” Simonka said. “We wanted a name that would represent just rising out of your pain, rising out of the feeling of being lost in life.”

An avid Bruce Springsteen fan, Simonka said he thinks Springsteen’s song “The Rising” may have subconsciously contributed to the new name.

With membership at the church on the decline and the overhead on the church becoming a greater financial burden, The Rising decided to put the church building up for sale in 2015. However, it wasn’t until 2017 that they received a serious offer.

New Beginnings Community Church in Moorestown offered a lease-to-purchase agreement with The Rising. The Rising ultimately switched buildings with the New Beginnings Church, taking over its lease in Moorestown and moving into its smaller building as New Beginnings leased its church in Pennsauken.

The Rising moved into Moorestown in early August and set to work updating the building. Simonka said the church has around 60 members who have been eager to help get the building in shape, with one member even building a soundboard for the church’s live shows.

Simonka said The Rising’s services are more about teaching and less about preaching. He said his sermons are more like dialogues than lectures, with members of the congregation free to jump in. He said the gospel singers behind him on stage will often spontaneously break out into song as well, and the church often features rock music during services.

The Rising’s goal is to deal with the whole person, Simonka said. While some churches place almost all their emphasis on congregants’ spiritual well-being, The Rising wants to deal with people’s minds, bodies and souls. For that reason, Simonka plans to bring in elements of therapy to teach people about their emotions, hold nutrition seminars, dance classes and continue community outreach in an effort to make church engaging and fun.

On Oct. 1, the church will hold its grand opening. Simonka said the event will feature music, and they’re hopeful residents from their new Moorestown home will join them. He said thus far, the community feels like a good fit for the new direction.

“We’re all starting to love the area; it’s just a different feel here,” Simonka said. “I think we’re going to become more generational, more diverse here. I think the culture will respond to the way we do church here.”

For more information on The Rising Community Fellowship and Outreach Center, visit http://www.therisingcommunity.org.

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