SIERRA VISTA — It’s taken more than $50,000, 15 months and a lot of prayer, but on Thursday the leaders of the New Jerusalem Community Church will proudly open the doors of the their new Fellowship Center to the public.

The 4,500-square-foot facility really is meant for public use, regardless of religious affiliation or non-affiliation.

“One of things that we’re really looking forward to doing is reaching out to other 501c3s or other groups in the community that do not have a dedicated space,” Bishop Tommy Simpson said. “We want to be that type of service to the community.”

Tommy Simpson and his wife, Pastor Rae Simpson, both of whom lead the New Jerusalem Community Church, want the building to be a true community gathering place. There is a classroom for children, an office for studying, a conference and training room and a spacious, open and airy room they call a fellowship hall, meant for receptions and parties, and larger meetings.

There is also a nicely fitted — though not commercial — kitchen. The hall can accommodate at least 50 guests and can be rented. There are also more than 20 parking places and additional parking on the street. Right now, the hall is dressed up for Thursday’s ribbon cutting.

“As people walk through during the ribbon cutting, they can imagine themselves here,” Rae Simpson said. “As you can see, we have a lot of space between the tables.”

“Plus, we have canopies if people want to have an outdoor combination,” Tommy Simpson said. “People can flow outside as well.”

What really has them excited, however, is the reference library they stocked with their own books. Anything you might want to learn about the Christian life and walk or scripture can be found within these four walls. In the process of setting up this space they discovered that, oddly, most churches no longer have a library.

“We are probably the only church in the city of Sierra Vista that still has a dedicated library,” Tommy Simpson said.

“I don’t know if they were not being used or they just decided it wasn’t worth the effort, but this is one place where you can come and do research,” Rae Simpson said. “I hope that this is going to be a good place for people studying with Wayland (Baptist University), for the theology program or the ministerial program.”

They both agree that the building is nothing less than a gift from God, as the land and building were donated to the church where they pastor, though its condition could have been described as rough.

“It was very horrible on the inside,” Tommy Simpson said. “The previous roof that we had...some stuff had fallen on the roof and water came in through the skylights.”

“We had a lot of water damage,” Rae Simpson added. “We had a lot of mold, which was partially O.K. with us because we were knocking down a lot of the walls.”

“We didn’t intend to have this much damage inside...,” Tommy Simpson said.

“...but we’re still thankful for the blessing,” Rae Simpson added.

The land that the building sits on is spacious, though unfinished. Tommy Simpson said he hopes to begin landscaping next summer. He intends to construct a play area and a couple of gazebos for shade.

Although they want the fellowship center to be available to the community, Rae Simpson said it is very important they adhere to the principals of the Bible as they see them. For example, no alcohol or drugs on the premises.

“We don’t want to rule anybody out but at the same time (the fellowship center) is an extension of the church, so therefore we have to show that’s what we believe in,” Rae Simpson said.

The money for the remodel was already in the church coffers, but both Simpsons are clear that they do not take a salary from the church. They live on money they themselves have earned, either through the military or other employment.

“We, and I say we in the collective sense as in the New Jerusalem Community Church, we are here to simply do the work that God assigned us to do, and that is who we are going to continue to serve,” Tommy Simpson said. “There’s something that I think is very important and most people don’t know this about the two of us. We receive no salary from the ministry. We do this without payment and the reason we say this is because there’s nothing that God has asked us to do that you can pay us for. We do not do this for money or self gain. We do this selflessly, and we are going to continue to do this the way God has called us to do.”

The public is invited to the ribbon cutting, which will take place at 11 a.m. Thursday at the New Jerusalem Community Church Fellowship Center, 484 E. Wilcox, next door to the Community Garden.

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