Cell phone use is definitely a no-no in places of worship, especially during a religious service.
Except this Sunday.
Clergy have been urged to offer a few words of support for Metropolitan Ministries at the end of their sermons, asking congregants to donate to the nonprofit's Thanksgiving food drive.
And with that message fresh in their minds, parishioners will be encouraged to pull out their cell phones and text a donation right from the pews.
The goal: 10,000 texts to purchase 10,000 turkeys in time for the holiday.
"We're hoping the faith community can lead the way with this effort," says Tim Marks, president of the nonprofit that serves homeless men, women and families.
Marks says the "Text to Answer a Prayer" campaign plays off all the passages in the Bible that relate to compassion and serving the poor. Study the centuries-old written text, and then respond to the spiritual message with a high-tech text.
One of the most prominent Scriptures is 1 John 3:17: "If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God's love be in that person?"
Metropolitan Ministries needs the help more than ever this year.
In 2010, the ministry and its community partners served about 24,000 people at Thanksgiving. Next week, that number is expected to increase by 13 percent.
"When I started here five years ago, we served 15,000," Marks says. "Back then, unemployment was 3 percent. Now we're seeing pockets of poverty growing outside our urban areas and into our outlying communities."
The profile of the needy is changing as well. Now people who used to donate to Metropolitan Ministries are seeking out its services, with hard times severely affecting a once financially stable middle class.
"We've got clients who have never been in this situation before. They've lost their jobs, and things start spiraling downhill," Marks says. "It's our mission to help turn that around for them."
To participate in the effort Sunday, just text 2-0-2-2-2, then type in the word "Metro" from any cell phone. The $10 donation will charged to the user's account.
"So many people want to be able to just make a simple donation," Marks says. "They don't want to get on a mailing list, they just want to give a gift they know will make a difference in someone's life. We're making it as easy as possible."
Go to www.metromin.org or call (813) 209-1200 to learn more about the texting campaign.