Kent first with ‘bank’ in a church

24 January 2014

PA

Behind the counter: the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott and the Revd Lesley Jones open the Murston Community Bank

Behind the counter: the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott and the Revd Lesley Jones open the Murston Community Bank

ONE church that has taken Archbishop Welby's credit-union plea to heart is All Saints', Murston, in Kent. The church opened a branch of the local credit union, Kent Savers, on Monday, and the Assistant Curate, the Revd Lesley Jones, said that the need for such a scheme in the parish was obvious.

"We are into the seventh year of the recession, and people say 'Nobody is listening and we are drowning in debt,'" she said. It has taken All Saints' less than four months to establish its credit union since agreeing the partnership with Kent Savers.

Mrs Jones said that hearing Archbishop Welby champion local finance initiatives six months ago had been encouraging. She said: "It was great to have the Archbishop speak out about payday lenders, having worked for many years with families who are facing issues of debt.

"People were saying: Why on earth is the Church doing this? Jesus did not shy away from the tough issues, he embraced them. He came to bring life in all its fullness, and, if you're in debt, that's not life to the full."

As well as being a place for parishioners to put their savings, the Murston Community Bank, as the scheme is known, will offer loans at reasonable rates. As with all credit unions, it is owned and run by its members as a not-for-profit enterprise.

Alongside financial services, Mrs Jones said that the credit union could become a hub for the church's outreach.

She said: "If people can't afford to heat their home each day, and want to come in for a few hours, or if they want a bit of company, they are welcome to come. We have got stacks of volunteers [to help]."

The next step for the church is to begin using the bank in maths lessons in the local primary school, with the eventual aim of establishing a branch of the credit union within the school.

The director of the diocese of Canterbury's communities and partnerships framework, Canon Caroline Pinchbeck, said: "We hope that Murston Community Bank will become a model to replicate."

 

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