Julia Webster recently started working for Together Liverpool as the Church Credit Champions Network (CCCN) coordinator for the Diocese of Liverpool. Here she describes her first month on the job - ‘chasing clergy’ for meetings, visiting established projects and the change she hopes to see:
I think that we are all aware, on a superficial level, that much ‘good work’ goes on in many churches across the country. But it is incredibly powerful to actually visit projects and speak with the many unsung heroes who truly put their faith into action on a daily basis. I have also found the willingness of others to share their experiences and to offer their help and commitment to the Church Credit Champions Network to be inspirational.
I began my work in the Diocese of Liverpool, as the new Church Credit Champions Network coordinator, by mapping out the various credit unions. There are 19 in all – some already have links with Church communities and it has been interesting to visit established projects to see what lessons could be learned from them.
It doesn’t say ‘chasing clergy’ in my job description, but I do find myself doing this for much of my time. I find that pinning down exactly who I need to speak to in a parish, in order to explain the project and get them involved, probably takes up a good third of my time. Having said that, I do find that once I speak with the right person - the parish invariably wants to be involved and things slot into place quite quickly from then on.
I have booked my first two Money Talks, visited several credit unions - from the very large ones with handsome High Street offices, to a tiny one that only opens for 2 hours a week in a community hall. All have been interested and want very much to be involved with CCCN.
I have heard some horror stories too, of loan sharks waiting outside food banks in order to prey on the most vulnerable in a time of crisis. Fortunately the police were involved and the loan shark disappeared, but it shows the terrific pressure that desperate people are subjected too and the terrible temptation they must face to take up the offer of ‘easy loans’.
I am passionate about the need to change the system, the need to educate in money management, the need to grow community finance initiatives, and to keep the local economy and the church at the heart of this change.
Since starting, my feet have literally not touched the ground. I had a wonderfully supportive induction at St James House in Liverpool, where I will be based, and then a second induction to the project with the London and Southwark teams who are based at the Centre for Theology and Community in the East End. John Davis, David Barclay, Andy Walton and Theo Shaw – thank you all for being so helpful and in particular thanks to Theo for taking me out to lunch even though she was dying from a cold!
So to summarise, six weeks into the job I absolutely love it! I am overwhelmed by how helpful everyone has been and feel confident in the knowledge that this is an extremely worthwhile process - it may take a while but change will come.