The Church Credit Champions Network has just passed the one year mark since its launch, making it a good time to assess the progress it has made so far in London and Merseyside. The Network was set up to capitalise on the energy created by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s initiative on responsible credit and savings, and particularly to help local churches and community finance providers to work more effectively together.
In terms of headline figures, the Network is well on track to meet its main targets after a year. Over 200 churches have been engaged, with 119 clergy and lay leaders trained as ‘Credit Champions’ and over 600 people joining their local credit union as a result of the Network’s activity. It’s likely that all of these numbers will continue to rise as the Network progresses, particularly in Merseyside where the local Co-ordinator has only been in place for a few months.
But behind the statistics are a variety of stories of local churches getting involved in tackling money and debt problems in their community in creative and effective ways. In Hackney, for example, 10 churches across different traditions ran a ‘Money Talk’ event for their members in 2014, opening up the conversation about financial issues in their neighbourhood and what they wanted to do about them. From these they identified the need to support the local credit union as an alternative to the payday lenders proliferating on the high street. To do this they decided to work together on a 500 for Hackney campaign to find 500 new members for London Community Credit Union. As a Launchpad for this initiative, in November 2014 the churches organized a mass sign-up with over 130 application forms collected. Representatives from the different churches walked together with the Chair of the Archbishop’s Task Group on Responsible Credit and Savings Sir Hector Sants and national and international journalists to the credit union branch to hand in their applications and celebrate their success. Since then, several churches have had their members trained in order to open their church buildings as ‘access points’ for the credit union in areas with no local branch presence.
Another highlight of the first year of the Network has been the actions of St Mary’s Church in Primrose Hill. St Mary’s started engaging with the Credit Champions Network in Autumn 2014. They ran the Seeing Change course in their mid-week Bible Study group, and then held a Money Talk during a Sunday Service. That discussion was so lively, and the congregation so enthusiastic, that over 40 people (approx. 1/3 of the congregation) stayed behind after the service to discuss what to do next. In the few months since they signed up over 50 of their members to the London Mutual Credit Union, attracting local news coverage in the process. They are now planning to undergo debt signposting training and to work with local schools on financial literacy.
So the Network has got off to a strong start, and we are looking forward to many more stories to come of churches transforming their communities on issues of money and debt. In the meantime, if you are outside of our pilot areas you could still run the Seeing Change course and a Money Talk in your Church or local community. See the resources section of this website for everything you need to get started.