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Gloucester City Resident Pastor of Circle of Hope

Message of hope for old Pennsauken firehouse

by Jim Walsh |

Circle of Hope believes its needs will be met through the Marlton Pike station, said Nate Hulfish, the 32-year-old pastor of the local congregation.

"It's ready-made for us," he said, noting the six-bay station has a hall for church functions, as well as a kitchen, restrooms and ample parking.

At the same time, Hulfish will not be sliding down a pole to address church gatherings. "It's a one-story building, but I hear that joke a lot," he observed wryly.

Circle of Hope is not a typical church, said Hulfish, a former youth minister and mental health worker. "In the region, I think it's unique," the Gloucester City resident said.

For example, participants often meet in "cells," or groups of 10. "We talk about life and the needs of our community and how to meet those needs," said Hulfish, noting cells gather in informal settings like homes and coffeehouses.

The larger congregation comes together for "public meetings" on Sunday evenings.

And Hulfish balks at the word "members," saying that has "such an "insider' or "club' connotation." Instead, he says the South Jersey congregation, which began with fewer than 20 adults and a handful of children, now has about 100 "regular attenders."

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