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Yesterday saw the opening of Kent's first community bank at the All Saints Church, Murston in Sittingbourne. The Murston Bank, is part of the local credit union Kent Savers, and will provide savings accounts, and loans at reasonable rates. On the day, the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott, will be the first to open an account, along with two mothers, Clare and Michelle, who are members of the congregation.
The community bank will open each weekday morning between 10am and 12noon. As well as banking services, visitors 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 firm BW May and Sons Builders.
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 run 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.
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.
“The people of Kent, Surrey and Sussex are better served from this moment forward than they have in the past.”
"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.
All Saints Church can be found on: Church Road, Murston, Kent, ME10 3RU or call 01795 484297. More local news at the Kent newsdesk.
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