Peace Presbyterian gets grant for facility

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Peace Presbyterian Church members, who worship every Sunday morning at Manatee Community College in Corporate Park, may now be able to start planning for their own building.

Church officials recently were told they have been chosen to receive a $50,000 grant from Presbyterian Church USA.

Peace Presbyterian was selected as one of the 2009 Sam and Helen R. Walton Award winners because of its imaginative approach to new church ministry, Paul Seebeck, a spokesman for Presbyterian Church USA, said Tuesday.

In 1991, Sam and Helen Walton, founders of Wal-Mart, gave a $6 million gift to Presbyterian Church USA. Interest on the endowment funds the annual awards.

The grants are to be used for either assistance in site acquisition, capital improvement or space rental, Seebeck said.

“One of the things this church is doing is attracting people from a wide range of other faiths, as well as those who are unchurched,” Seebeck said. “These new members are drawn to Peace’s honesty about doubt and mistakes and its overall authenticity.”

The Rev. Elizabeth M. Deibert of Peace Presbyterian, who was in the mountains of North Carolina on a youth retreat Tuesday when reached by the Herald, said she was honored by the award.

“This gift will allow us to continue our mission,” Deibert said.

The church’s mission, Deibert said, is to reach out to the Lakewood Ranch community as well as those marginalized by society, a unique position.

Besides its 125 church members from Lakewood Ranch and surrounding communities, the church works with migrant families in Wimauma as part of Mission Beth-El and Family Promise, a group that supports homeless families in Manatee County.

“I think what makes us unique is that we are devoted to authenticity,” Deibert said. “By authenticity, we mean authentic relationships, not superficial relationships. We want to be part of the wonder and mess that is human life and that is why we are so committed to mission work in our community and outside of it.”

The church was founded in 2006, said Deibert, who indicated the church may rent space or consider building.

Peace was one of two grant-winners from Florida, the other being Iglesia Presbiteriana Monte Sinai in Apopka.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.