Murston Community Bank and Hub First Anniversary

Murston Community Bank and Hub celebrated it's first anniversary in January 2015.

Since the launch of the credit union access point at All Saints Church, and the publicity that it has generated, the partner credit union, KentSavers, has opened 800 new accounts  - 300 in the area around Murston - and doubled their savings account balances from £500k to over £1 million.

Alongside the credit union access point the 'community bank' has become a hub for the local community with a cafe, local advice services and support.

Revd Lesley Jones, Assistant Curate and project co-ordinator said it was very important to celebrate what is happening in Murston: “In Murston we are saying enough is enough, and are working together to provide debt advice, practical support, and through the community bank and Kent Savers, access to lower-cost credit. We’re helping people to save and are even supporting our local Junior School students to gain money management skills.”

It has been a tremendous year for the church in the community as Priest in Charge Revd George Rogers commented: “What we have seen this past year has been life changing. We’ve invested in people, invested in our local community, and the dividends we are seeing are priceless. Yes people are saving, but they are also taking part in all other aspects of church life.”

 

Read on for the story of Murston Community Bank 

A recently retired couple with banking experience, a generous gift from a local builder and the prayers and determination of a small congregation have been the key ingredients in the launch of Murston Community Bank.

All Saints Church, Murston is a small congregation of around 30 people in an area where there are significant levels of need.  However the church has a committed core of willing and active volunteers who have, with support from the Diocese of Canterbury and the enthusiasm of Rev Lesley Jones, set up Murston Community Bank,  the first branch of Kent Savers credit union. Along with a community café and local information service this is open every morning Monday to Friday.

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Rev Jones, pictured with the Bishop of Dover, Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, says,

"We opened the bank as so many people told us that it was difficult to save, that times were tough and that more often than not they turned to payday lenders for short term loans at high interest rates."

Churchwardens, Christine and Phil Bromwich, brought their experience of working in banks to the initiative and were also able to help the credit union, Kent Savers, think about how to set up a ‘branch’ -  a new venture for the credit union as well as the church.

The vestry was identified as the perfect spot for the ‘branch’ but needed some work to make it fit for purpose.  Around this time a local builder  phoned Rev Lesley Jones to offer to do some work for the church to mark his family's links to the parish. He was soon put to work building a ‘counter’ for the bank and bookshelves for the café. Broadband installation means that they can access savers' credit union accounts in order to process withdrawals on the day, and offer free internet access to people coming in for a coffee in the café.

Since opening, the church has found that local people coming into the café and branch have many different needs, and through a partnership with over 20 different organisations from Citizens Advice to the local police, volunteers are able to signpost and make referrals to the most appropriate sources of help, whether that’s a new fridge, debt advice or a food parcel. Opening the building has also had an impact on the life of the church in a number of ways; there has been a dramatic  rise in the number of baptism inquiries, the opportunity for new contacts and a new sense of hope for the future.

The credit union have also benefited from the initiative.  In the 6 months since Murston Community Bank opened Kent Savers have seen their deposits double to £1m, largely due to publicity generated by the partnership with All Saints Church.

In October 2014, the church worked successfully with their local Junior School, developed from a longstanding positive relationship, helping them to open their own bank branch as well. Year 6 students run the bank, which is open two days a week. Each pupil in the school has an account and receives a specially designed Murston Community Bank pass book with their school logo on it. Financial education became an official part of the 2014/15 new maths and citizenship curriculum in Years 3 and 4. Mrs Patricia Hatt, the Headteacher of Murston Junior School has ensured that the bank will inspire the curriculum, as children across the school will learn about financial matters and the importance of good money management. Read more about schools banks »

The Bishop of Dover, pictured above, at the opening of the Junior School Bank and below, a video about the Community Bank made by assemblies.org.uk.

Churchwarden Phil Bromwich gives this advice to other churches thinking about working with a local credit union,

"Opening a credit union branch might not be right for every church, maybe you can just open an information point. Think about the needs in your parish and do something bold. Pray about it a lot but go for it."

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