Kent’s First Community Bank in a Church Opens in Sittingbourne

On Monday, Kent’s first community bank to be held in a church was officially opened by the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott, at All Saints Church, Murston in Sittingbourne. The Murston Community Bank is part of the local credit union Kent Savers, and will now open daily between 10am and 12noon, providing savings accounts and loans at reasonable rates. Over 60 people attended the opening and included members of the community, supporters and donors to the project, community bank volunteers, children from three local schools, the Mayor of Swale, Sue Gent and Labour councillor, Cllr Nick Williams.

The Bishop of Dover became the first member of Murston Community Bank after opening his account with a cheque for £1000; he received his passbook from Church Warden and community bank volunteer, Phil Bromwich. Claire, a mother of six and a member of the congregation was the next to join, and received her passbook from the Bishop.

As well as banking services, visitors to the church will also be able to enjoy refreshments in the cafe, free wifi, access to a Citizens’ Advice Bureau representative once a week, general banking and debt advice, and pastoral and spiritual support.

Volunteers from the church have received special training from Kent Savers to help run the community bank, and will assist customers to open accounts, withdraw small cash amounts using a passbook, and apply for loans. All banking business will take place within the vestry behind a moveable counter, which has been specially designed and donated by local building firm BW May and Son.

The initiative follows the launch of the Diocese of Canterbury’s partnership with Kent Savers last October; a move inspired by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call for the Church to be more proactive against debt and payday lenders.

Like all credit unions, Kent Savers is owned and controlled by its own members, and runs on a not-for-profit basis. With interest rates capped at 26.8% APR, they can be considered a safer and cheaper alternative to other money lending sources.

Commenting on the Diocese’s involvement in the project, the Bishop of Dover said:

“This is not a sticking plaster to paper over the cracks of peoples‘ indebtedness, but our long term intention to help and support people in the belief that, together, we can make a difference.

“I hope that through what has happened here in Murston, more people will say that debt is a scourge on our society which should not exist, and that wherever someone is in debt and isolated, as the Church of Jesus Christ, we will be there.”

Speaking about why Murston Church decided to set up the community bank, Assistant Curate Reverend Lesley Jones said: “People in the community have told me they are struggling with money, debt, isolation and that they need help.

“This is our response as a church, we want to help in practical ways where we can, and by opening Murston Community Bank as a local branch of Kent Savers we can do that.”

Reverend Canon Caroline Pinchbeck, Director of the Diocese of Canterbury’s Communities and Partnerships Framework, commented on how the whole community had been inspired to establish the community bank as quickly as possible:

“This community bank is evidence of the huge enthusiasm and need there is for this initiative within the community. It’s testament to the excellent partnerships which have been forged, and the generous amounts of good will which have enabled building work, printing and the provision of other resources to take place.

“As a Diocese, we hope that Murston Community Bank will become a model to replicate, and that it will resource other churches across the county.”

Chris Hunt, General Manager of Kent Savers, said: “We’re extremely excited about the opening of Murston Community Bank. It is a first for Kent Savers as until now we’ve not had an access point anywhere in the county where members can carry out business on their accounts with someone face-to-face. We’re therefore delighted that All Saints Church is providing this much needed and valuable service to the community.”

Further developments will see the community bank influencing the maths curriculum of Year 5 children at Murston Junior School from this Easter. It is planned that they will open and operate their own branch under the umbrella of Murston Community Bank this coming September.

Ends

Further information from: Jennifer Ross, Communities and Partnerships Framework, Diocese of Canterbury: 01227 459401 / jross@diocant.org

Notes for editors

Photos show:

–       The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott cuts the ribbon to open the Murston Community Bank assisted by pupils from Murston Junior School, Murston Infant School, and Bapchild and Tonge CE Primary School

–       Church Warden, Phil Bromwich gives the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott his passbook

–       Assistant Curate of All Saints in Murston, the Rev Lesley Jones and the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott, give a passbook to Claire, a member of the congregation and community bank volunteer.

Murston Community Bank has been established through the help and generosity of a number of people, organisations and businesses. These include:

–       Diocesan Communities and Partnerships Framework

–       Kent Savers

–       Swale Borough Council

–       Swale Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB)

–       B W May and Son

–       Bridges Community Bank

–       Kent Fire and Rescue Service

–       ICOM

–       Cllr Nick Williams

–       Amicus Horizon Housing

–       Willow Tree Project

–       Murston Junior School

–       Murston Infant School

–       The family and friends of the late Mr. Alan Hall

  • For more information about those involved, including case studies, please see the attached press pack.
  • Kent Savers Credit Union was set up in 2010 to provide affordable financial services to the people of Kent. To open an account individuals must live, work, volunteer, or go to school/university in Kent, Medway or Bexley. Individuals who work for or are tenants of the major housing associations in these areas can join from anywhere in the country. Organisations can qualify if they have a place of business in Kent, Medway or Bexley. For more information visit: http://www.kentsavers.co.uk/index.asp
  • The Diocese of Canterbury’s Communities and Partnerships Framework aims to empower parishes and deaneries to serve their communities by working in partnerships with others. The Framework has particular responsibility for rural and heritage issues, special interest groups, forging links with local authorities, other faith groups and with charities. For more information visit: https://www.canterburydiocese.org/candpframework
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