Church party fueled by free hot dogs and friendship was free

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BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Citadel of Hope Worship Center held a block party on Saturday, Aug. 25. The weather was fine, the hot dogs were free, a Bloomfield Fire Department engine showed up, and for passersby it was an opportunity to learn about the non-denominational church located in a small office building at 622 Ward St. The church is headed by a husband and wife team, the Revs. Michael Spivey and Chris Harris-Spivey. They spoke during the block party inside the church

According to the couple, their house of worship was established in Montclair 15 years ago in a room of an old, ambulance unit building. It had 25 congregates. When that number doubled, it relocated to a garage.

About eight years ago, because the congregation increased, the church moved again. This time it relocated to Passaic Park and a free-standing building on Main Avenue. Some congregates did not make the move, but membership increased to 125. The church was in an Hasidic neighborhood next to an Hispanic community.

“In Passaic, we gave away 50 to 60 Thanksgiving baskets donated by the congregation,” Harris-Spivey said. “We strongly believe in outreach. The church has to step up in these times.”

Another relocation was on the way. The building they occupied was put up for sale and the church wanted to buy it. According to the reverends, the bank considered the selling price inflated and would not lend the money. So two years ago they moved back to Essex County, to Bloomfield.
“You never outgrow your roots,” said Spivey, who graduated from Montclair High School in 1974.

Spivey, who was raised a Baptist while his wife was Pentecostal, said with a laugh that their church was “Bapticostal.”
“Unfortunately, a lot of churches can be judgemental,” he said. “Our doors are open to everyone. We’re small enough to reach out to everyone.”
Harris-Spivey said people feel the love of God when they come to the Citadel of Hope. But some, she related, have come for the music.
“One Sunday, I came in and there were two rows of Asian students from Bloomfield College,” she said. “Only one spoke English.”

The students had heard a concert at the college given by Zou Mouphet, the church keyboardist. For a number of weeks, they attended services to hear him play. Spring break came and they departed. Mouphet still plays at the church with drummer Aaron Harris and bassist Seth Nicholson.
“They play well together because they have a friendship,” Harris-Spivey said.

Spivey said they were tight.
Outreach is still an important part of the church. Spivey said a former Ramapo College football teammate of his owns a farm in Newtown, Pa. This is near Philadelphia. Nineteen congregates went to the farm a few weeks ago.

“They ended up feeding 85 at a shelter in Chester, a very depressed area outside Philadelphia,” he said.
The interview with the reverends is briefly interrupted by woman standing in the doorway. A church member with her answers questions and they depart.

“That’s how we grow,” Harris-Spivey said.
For August, the church has been hosting Friday night meals at Park United Methodist Church, on Broad Street. The meals have been part of the Bloomfield worshipping community for some time. The effort is done in conjunction with the Montclair Emergency Services for the Homeless.
Harris-Spivey said for the next five Friday nights, at 7 p.m., the church will be presenting “Girl Talk.” This is an opportunity for women to discuss their concerns.

“It’s proven to be uplifting and informative for the women in the community,” she said.
The church will also be awarding scholarships to two young women in college. One is attending Temple University and the other is at Rutgers University.

For more information about the Citadel of Hope Worship Center, call 862-276-6770. Services are Sunday at 10:30 a.m.