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Church puts money where its mouth is

Some churches say members should give a tithe, or a 10th of their income to God's work. King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church has given the biblical injunction a slightly different twist.

At its 10 a.m. service today, the congregation will hand CASA a check for $20,500 - half the money the church recently raised.

Earlier this year, the church gave Hospice of the Florida Suncoast $10,900 - again, half the sum the congregation had raised.

The Rev. Lorraine Brock, director of worship and congregational life at the 312-member church, has an explanation for the generosity.

"The Bible, it says that people should tithe 10 percent of what their wealth is. This church feels so blessed by the community around us, we wanted to go even above and beyond what the Bible was telling us,'' she said.

"We're not a megachurch, but we just think that this whole idea of giving back to the community at large is where God is leading us.''

Linda Osmundson, CASA's executive director, was stunned by the donation.

"It's amazing,'' she said. "Usually, when a church raises money like that, we expect it to be a few thousand dollars at the most."

The church, 3150 Fifth Ave. N, decided in 2005 to give away half the money raised at its major fundraisers. Hospice and CASA were chosen as initial recipients because the nonprofis help a large number of people in the community, Brock said.

Money for hospice was raised at King of Peace's first Wine, Art and Heart gathering at the Dali Museum in February.

"We were so appreciative of the support for the hospice,'' said Betty Ann "B.A." Safley, director of philanthropy for hospice.

The church also plans another benefit in February to help reach its goal of donated $25,000 to hospice.

The donations will benefit hospice's new community service center at First Avenue S and 31st Street, Safley said.

Money for CASA - Community Action Stops Abuse, formerly the Center Against Spouse Abuse - was raised at the church's Night of the Black and White Auction in October.

The financial support is significant on several levels, Osmundson said. "We made domestic violence illegal, and now the work is to make it immoral. And that's where the churches have a very powerful role in this next stage of really preventing domestic violence,'' she said.

Brock, a former Franciscan nun and retired Pinellas County public school teacher who was ordained last year, said "there is no doubt'' that King of Peace could use the money it's giving away.

"Could we use $31,000 for expenses in our ministries? Absolutely. We're trusting that our part of it will sustain us. ... We feel that God will bless us for what we are doing and our ministry will continue,'' Brock said.

The congregation, a member of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, which formed in 1968 to minister primarily to gay men, lesbians, and bisexual and transgender people, has embraced the idea of a 50 percent "tithe,'' Brock said.

FAST FACTS

CASA

Provides refuge, crisis intervention and advocacy for up to 45 days. It serves 10,000 to 15,000 people a year. Call 895-4912 or visit www.casa-stpete.org.

Hospice of the Florida Suncoast

The organization serves more than 2,300 patients and their families every day in Pinellas County. Call 586-4432 or visit www.thehospice.org.

If you go

Wine, Art and Heart, Dali Museum, Feb. 3. For tickets, call King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church at 323-5857 or go to 3150 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg.

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