Parishes partnering in financial inclusion
On Monday 5th March, parishes from around the Edmonton area gathered for an evening of challenge, inspiration, and falafel, at the Just Finance Edmonton Gathering, hosted by the Right Revd Rob Wickham, Bishop of Edmonton and the Capital Mass Team.
A host of speakers and amazing partner organisations were there to offer expertise, advice and explain what practical steps to get involved in this area of ministry. But what is “Just Finance” and why should the church be getting involved?
Well, as the keynote exhortation from Bishop Robert at the start of the evening explained- “Just Finance”- the work of ensuring that all in our society have enough to live on and are free from debt slavery- “it’s a gospel matter”.
“Great knowing what resources are out there. Not reinventing the wheel”
“I’m binning the notion that debt only affects the poor, or that there are no ways out”
“So many different ways to be involved - grateful for the variety of speakers and projects out there”
“Rejoicing in the work of the illegal money lending team and Anna!”
As Bishop Rob reminded us, the story of debt and credit, and issues about the use of money- are writ large across scripture- from debt slavery in Exodus right through to the pages of the New Testament and looking at how the early church worked out its witness by sharing its money.
But it can feel like a huge area to tackle. We all use money all the time- it is a central thread running through every area of our lives, from our income, where we receive money, to the demands are placed on that money, particularly in an expensive city like London, through to to how we may choose, or be pressured to use the rest of it. Money is also linked intrinsically to our relationships with others, with ourselves and to how society sees us. So where should we even start as a church to respond to the issues and problems money can cause people, and, for some the very real enslavement it brings? The answer on Monday evening was very encouraging and doable- start somewhere.
There are many fantastic simple ideas for churches of all sizes. As one attendee wrote “I loved the simplicity and do-ability of some of the models presented”. Ideas like a short film explaining Acts 435, explaining how churches can sign up to be advocates to access a simple crowdfunding giving platform to meet basic needs of local people, just like the early church in Acts chapter 4 v35. Or, hearing from the Anna of the Illegal Money Lending Team about how churches can be more aware of loan sharks in the area, and break down some myths surrounding them to their congregations (for example: did you know that you have not broken the law if you borrow from them? the one lending has, and can be prosecuted if caught).
Steve Bolton from charity Community Money Advice explained why as a Christian he was involved in this work, drawing on some powerful stories of those he has worked to get out of debt.
Another practical response was helping us all manage our money better, whether those struggling to manage or those who wish to manage better. Keith Berry from Together Canterbury, part of the Church Urban Fund shared his own personal story from a place of money struggle and how the church got alongside and helped with budgeting support and money management – and how we can build relationships to do the same.
We then heard about the issue of affordable credit - how do we ensure those who need to borrow can do so without being trapped in high-cost cycles of paying back? Julia Daniel [insert talk here] made an impassioned plea for churches to engage with credit unions and other organisations offering ethical alternatives to payday lenders and money shops.
Finally, Esther Elliott from the Children’s Society spoke about how as churches we can work for systemic change by seeking to campaign and raise awareness of issues facing our communities around money and financial exclusion.
So the question now is: what is God stirring in you and your church as you explore this area of ministry? Is your response to take this up in prayer?
Luke Bretherton: God and the Money Lenders.
further connections and opportunities
I look forward to journeying with you towards a more Financially Inclusive City
Alison Tsang, Just Finance London