Debt is a miserable burden carried by many people in our society. As well as affecting a person’s standard of living it can lead to mental health problems and strains relationships with family and friends.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a Bradford based Christian charity which does amazing work around the country in supporting people who are in debt. At their head-office they have a large team of trained workers who offer financial advice, negotiate with creditors and, if necessary, help people through bankruptcy procedures. As a result several thousand people are lifted out of debt every year.
CAP works by setting up Debt Centres in partnership with local churches. The church (or churches) employ or appoint a Centre Manager to lead the work in a certain area. This person is trained and works closely with clients who want to put together a plan to get out of debt.
In addition, church members are asked to volunteer as Befrienders. A Befriender will accompany the Centre Manager on a visit and seek to offer support and friendship to the client in their time of crisis. Befrienders will offer to pray with clients – though the offer doesn’t have to be accepted – and for some this can begin a meaningful relationship with the local church that, over time, leads them to faith in Christ. CAP is therefore one of the few Christian organisations that holds together in appropriate ways both service and evangelism.
Burnley has high levels of debt but is one of the few places in the country without a CAP Debt Centre. Led by the Bishop of Burnley a group of us has been working to start one in 2019. Padiham Parish has been asked to be the Lead Church in this project. Our PCC is fully behind this initiative and has agreed to offer supervision and office space at St Leonard’s for the Centre Manager.
We are now trying to find the funds for this project: we will need about £20,000 a year. A third of this money goes to help support the CAP team based in Bradford and two-thirds is for the pay and expenses of the local Centre Manager. Bishop Philip is seeking a substantial grant from Blackburn Diocese’s Vision Fund and we are in the process of approaching sympathetic local businesses to ask for their support. In addition, the local churches in Burnley Borough are going to be asked to respond. As part of St Leonard’s and St Margaret’s contribution our PCC has decided that this year’s Lent Appeal will go towards the work of CAP.
This is a wonderful initiative that will enable us to show Christian love to our community in a very practical way. At the same time, it will give opportunities to tell of God’s great love to us in Christ. Please pray that our hopes and plans will come to fruition.
Yours in Christ