Financial Justice: the greatest privilege of all
Over the last month Capital Mass launched Just Finance London via 3 events across the diocese. It was a joy to see churches from all corners of London gathering to hear more about supporting communities struggling with money debt and financial exclusion. Churches connected with each other, talked to our fabulous partner organisations and they came to hear three inspiring speakers.
The evening, as is becoming common at Capital Mass events, was filled with samosas and falafel, a few bottles of wine but more importantly was the energy and enthusiasm. From credit unions and debt advice charities. To help with funeral poverty, budgeting courses and small grants & loans there was a wonderful rich hub of knowledge and wisdom on tap. One of the most satisfying things for me was hearing the rising hubbub of chatter as the evening went on: the exchange of ideas, dreams and email addresses.
Relive the keynote inspiration
At the East London, event Dr. Helen Cameron placed an emphasis on the importance of justice alongside compassion. In West London, Bruce Connell spoke about how helping people out of debt is doing the work of God from and in Central London David Barclay explored on scripture and the rich theology of debt and salvation.
Some of the comments from the night
“I’ve learnt the scale of the poverty problem and some solutions”
“I’m getting rid of the idea that I can’t do anything to help: there are things I can do to make a difference”
“I’m leaving inspired, hopeful and encouraged”
“I’ll be more outward looking. Keen to pass my ideas with parish & deanery”
“I’ve realised that there is a whole network of organisations supporting churches & individuals to deal with debt and its associated anxieties”
After all that wonderful holy-hubbub
It’s all too easy when thinking about this area of money to say that; “we must set up a debt advice centre”_ or “we must link in with the local credit union” (two very valid, very vital responses might I add!)
Yet, as Bishop Pete who hosted 2 of our evenings reminded us that there is often a temptation to rush into “yet more activity”. There’s a temptation to go to an event like this and add it to the “list of things we really should be doing as a church” which can just become another layer of guilt. We can be too busy and take on too much and this risks us not doing anything well, or in the right spirit.
Just Finance is vital but, only worth doing if we first, in the words of MC Hammer-”Stop: collaborate and listen” (For all the 80s kids out there).
First we need to stop & listen to our communities. What are we seeing and hearing locally, particularly around the issues that our community face around money? Is it low wages, high living costs, over-indebtedness, not being able to access credit they can afford? Is it the stress and worry of carrying day to day the bills and debts?
Secondly- we need to listen to God and ask Him where we can collaborate with what he is already doing around debt and financial exclusion. Is this something that God is stirring in anyone particular to respond to? Is this the right time to be doing something around money issues and if so what?
It’s been wonderful journeying with churches on these two questions and seeing the creative joyful responses after the Just Finance events.
How churches have responded since
One church is now helping their congregation and community become more aware of funeral poverty- they hosted a workshop from Down to Earth a charity offering practical support for those on low incomes struggling with funeral costs.
Another church has decided to register as an Acts 435 church in order that they can post up requests for small amounts of money to help meet needs of those in great poverty.
Another told me they were encouraged to keep plugging away with their local partnership with promoting their local credit union. They felt re-energised that this was vital work, even if small.
So what about you?
If you attended one of the launches and want to let us know what difference it made please do let us know! Link
Heres an information page that can help you get involved. Link
One of the things for me that was striking across the events was just the scale of this issue of debt and money, and how many people are enslaved to worry about money across our amazing city. Over half a million of our fellow Londoners are classed as “over indebted”- that’s over 17%. Debt in London is worse than anywhere else and 1/3 of those in debt are also in rent arrears. Yes despite this, only 1 in 6 people struggling with money ask for help. So the need is great. Sometimes it feels overwhelming.
But if we trust God, listen to our communities and respond as we feel God leading, the church can offer hope life and future to many of those we meet burdened with unmanageable money problems and through that, we’ll receive more than we give.
In the words of David Barclay, who spoke at our central London launch event: “Don’t just do it because there is a need in your area, although there may well be. Don’t just do it because the bible says you should do it, although it does. Do it because you may well get the opportunity to see God at work. And that is the greatest privilege of all.”