Show me the money!

, , , ,

As the Government attempts to cap charges for pay day loans, credit unions are gaining strength as a viable way of helping people out of a debilitating cycle of debt. The Door looks at what is happening in this diocese to increase financial intelligence and help people out of poverty.  

Money matters at St Clement’s. 

Bishop John of Oxfordshire at the Oxford Credit Union

Although we all, whether we perceive ourselves as rich or poor or somewhere in between, have to deal with money on a day to day basis, it’s a topic rarely chosen for sermons. You may be surprised to know that whereas there are around 500 references in the Bible to prayer, wealth and possessions are mentioned around 2,300 times, including many times by Jesus. This would suggest that money has been an issue for those trying to follow God since long before the financial crisis began or even before the advent of credit cards. Maybe we should address it more frequently.

St Clement’s “money journey” began 21 years ago when “The Jubilee Fund” was set up; its purpose is to enable church members to help others in the congregation who are struggling financially – a small, but significant and very practical ministry.

Today, time and again, churches are encountering people in severe debt in their communities. Nationally, personal debt is recognised as a huge issue, a primary obstacle to lifting people, especially children, out of poverty and a primary cause of depression and marriage breakdown. On top of this, more and more unscrupulous agencies exist to profit from this situation, thus exacerbating the problem.

Seventeen years ago the charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) – www.capuk.org – was founded with a donation of £10 by someone who had been in debt and was led by God to do what he could to help others to become debt-free. Today CAP has 245 Debt Centres in the UK and runs CAP Money (www.capmoney.org) , a short budgeting course.

CAP has discovered that the way to be sure that clients are properly and lovingly cared for is to operate through local churches. Churches which do this work enter a partnership agreement with CAP and promise their support, both financial and through people resources, for their own local centre. This partnership arrangement provides a guarantee that the church can offer not only CAP’s debt counselling services but also local Christian support, care, and welcome to show people the love of Jesus.

Although we all, whether we perceive ourselves as rich or poor or somewhere in between, have to deal with money on a day to day basis, it’s a topic rarely chosen for sermons. You may be surprised to know that whereas there are around 500 references in the Bible to prayer, wealth and possessions are mentioned around 2,300 times, including many times by Jesus. This would suggest that money has been an issue for those trying to follow God since long before the financial crisis began or even before the advent of credit cards. Maybe we should address it more frequently.

St Clement’s “money journey” began 21 years ago when “The Jubilee Fund” was set up; its purpose is to enable church members to help others in the congregation who are struggling financially – a small, but significant and very practical ministry.
Today, time and again, churches are encountering people in severe debt in their communities. Nationally, personal debt is recognised as a huge issue, a primary obstacle to lifting people, especially children, out of poverty and a primary cause of depression and marriage breakdown. On top of this, more and more unscrupulous

agencies exist to profit from this situation, thus exacerbating the problem.
Seventeen years ago the charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) – www.capuk.org – was founded with a donation of £10 by someone who had been in debt and was led by God to do what he could to help others to become debt-free. Today CAP has 245 Debt Centres in the UK and runs CAP Money (www.capmoney.org) , a short budgeting course.

CAP has discovered that the way to be sure that clients are properly and lovingly cared for is to operate through local churches. Churches which do this work enter a partnership agreement with CAP and promise their support, both financial and through people resources, for their own local centre. This partnership arrangement provides a guarantee that the church can offer not only CAP’s debt counselling services but also local Christian support, care, and welcome to show people the love of Jesus. As a result, not only do around 20,000 people become debt free every year but also significant numbers come to faith.

Four years ago we began running CAP Money courses to enable anyone who wants to improve the way they manage their money to do so in three short sessions. The course uses discussion, DVD clips and some thought-provoking exercises to engage people with an approach that many find literally life changing because it gives delegates some simple tools to take charge of their own finances. And for those whose finances are already under control it is a good opportunity to review decisions and priorities, often freeing up previously “wasted” money for something more worthwhile.

St Clement’s is now keen to respond to the issue of those in debt, as well as helping to prevent people from becoming indebted. To this end we are partnering with other city churches with a passion for this work – Cornerstone, St Matthew’s, Emmanuel, Magdalen Road, St Ebbe’s – with the aim of opening an Oxford CAP Debt Centre in May. Our prayer is that through it some of Oxford’s most disadvantaged will have both access to help to become debt free and opportunity to become the people God intended them to be.

Jill Ewbank co-ordinates the St Clements CAP money course.

Why it Matters – in a nutshell

Debt has been highlighted as a social challenge in our society by the intervention of the Archbishop of Canterbury in support of credit unions and by the publication of current levels of debt, now estimated to be above £1.4 trillion, writes the Revd Canon Bruce Gillingham, Rector of St Clement’s, Oxford and Area Dean for Cowley.

There is a growing need: We know that more people are in serious debt as this recession continues. More people are using community emergency foodbanks. More people are behind in their rents. More people are worried by increased charges for energy supplies of electricity and gas.

There is a grave risk: As more people are reaching the limits of their available credit, so they are drawing down on precious savings, and these produce much reduced yield as interest rates are so low. But many people have no savings at all, and if they cannot find credit from banks or stores, they can only turn to payday lenders who can charge high rates of interest. This can lead to fear and anxiety, and in the worst cases, desperation and despair.

However, there is a great resource: Christians are called to make a difference in society, and following the teaching and example of Jesus, we can offer a helping hand to those in the poverty trap. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” This is not just history or theory. This can be made real today by Christian love in action.

Learning early in Earley

by Beth Rowland

THE Earley Charity is funding Community Savings and Loans, the Reading based credit union, to work with over 30 primary schools in their area – which covers Earley and some of Reading. Some of the schools are identified as requiring improvement under Ofsted judgments; they are also on the deprivation indices as areas of high need.

The project has been developed to address, with primary age children, the skills of financial awareness: how money, bank accounts, savings and borrowing work. The message will be strongly around the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. In the past we have tried to do this with secondary school pupils and have found that by teenage years poor habits have already been established. We hope that by getting information and habits established in primary pupils, wiser decisions in adult life will be made, avoiding the misery that debt can cause, knowing the difference between good and bad debts.

We will provide for each school – free of charge – lessons planned around financial awareness for pupils aged from 4 – 11 years. We will also provide assembly materials.

Each school has also been invited to set up a savings club. Children can experience the practical benefits of saving. The club will be operated on a day to day basis by pupils for pupils, assisted of course by adults. The practical use of spreadsheets and record cards expands on what they learn in the classroom.

The lesson plans, which have been paid for by the charity, will not be available to all schools. Schools outside the area of benefit can have a ‘Young Savers’ club – we have several that have been operating for some years in local primary schools.

£4,000 donation for Berkshire’s credit union. 

RICHARD Stainthorp, the chairman of our Board of Directors and I were invited to address the Deanery Synod together with Tom Sefton from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office, who had produced a report on the credit union movement. It was a delight to be able to show a small amount of what we do for people who are less able to manage finance.

We were also delighted to receive a gift of £4,000 from a Christian family who had been moved by a previous article in September edition of the Door. We need all the financial support we can get as we can no longer rely on grants from local authorities to keep us going because of the financial problems they are facing.

I have also met the Revd Mark Bennett, Team Rector from Thatcham and we are exploring what we can do together. I hope that we will see more of this working together.

Jesus said – “The poor will be with you always” – but we have not seen such poverty in the UK for many years. Yet we also see many people becoming very rich. Those of us who are better off can help credit unions in many ways. Contact us to discover how you can help.

And of course, Bishop Andrew has become a member.

Beth Rowland is the schools department officer and administration director for Community Savings and Loans.

Latest on the Buckinghamshire Credit Union

SINCE our last report both of Buckinghamshire’s credit unions have jointly secured £59,000 worth of funding. The South Buckinghamshire Community Bank, which operates across Wycombe, Chiltern and South Bucks and the Swan Credit Union, which operates across Milton Keynes. The grant has been made by the Buckinghamshire Community Foundation.

Chris Walkling, who leads on credit unions for Buckinghamshire County Council and is working on setting up a pay roll deduction scheme for council staff, is working with Alison Webster from the Oxford Diocese to help churches get involved.

“We are trying to help people to all be moving in the same direction. It’s about how we can work together to strengthen what the credit unions have to offer,” said Chris. “Both unions are using the money to strengthen themselves internally and to employ a credit union development worker who would be a pooled resource.”

Swan Credit Union – 03030 300147

swancreditunion.org.uk

South Buckinghamshire Credit Union – 020 8756 3866 Mformoneycreditunion.org

Book now for the Justice Forum: Debt on Our Doorstep

We are delighted to announce the third of our series of Justice Forums. This round table event entitled ‘Debt on our Doorstep?’ is a joint initiative of the Oxford Diocesan Board of Mission and the national campaigning body Church Action on Poverty. Through a range of national speakers and local projects the event will explore:

How can we tackle and prevent high cost and irresponsible lending?

What are Credit Unions and how can the churches support them?

How can we support those who are struggling with debt?

When? Tuesday 28th January 2014, 10am to 2pm

(doors open at 9.30am for welcome with tea and coffee, finishing with a free lunch at 1pm, with time for networking).

Where? St Clement’s Family Centre, Cross Street, Oxford OX4 1DA.

Who? Chaired by The Revd Canon Bruce Gillingham.

All welcome, but prior booking is necessary, and early booking is recommended as places are limited. Click here to book or call Helen Keely on 01865 208214.

Any queries contact Alison Webster on 01865 208213.

This is an older post. Please note that the information may not be accurate anymore.