Dr Selina Stone is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Theological Education at Durham University. Her research explores theologies of social justice, including socioeconomic inequity. As a Community Organiser with the Centre for Theology and Community, she organised a campaign to end payday lending, promote credit unions and elevate community voices. Here she tells us about her particular interest in a more just use of money:
I am very pleased to join the team of Patrons for the JustMoney Movement. In my life and work, it has become increasingly evident to me, that how we collectively use our money can have a huge impact on our future as a human family, and the earth. This is especially the case for those most vulnerable to the huge shifts taking place globally and in our local communities.
One of my first money memories involves my late mother. I was about 13 years old, and we were right in the middle of our summer holidays in Birmingham. As was the norm, my mom, who worked full-time at home, was tasked with occupying four children born within 7 years of each other. My dad worked full-time as a graphic designer and we lived on a well-considered budget. One day the doorbell rang, my mom went to open it, and I saw the lady from down our street, who then began to whisper. My mom soon came back inside and told me to go and find her purse, and when I returned she took some money from it, to give to this woman. She closed the door. I was bewildered. Just earlier this afternoon, she had said I had to wait to have ice cream as a treat later in the week, and now she was handing my treat money to a lady who she knew would not give it back.
I expressed the confusion to my mom, mainly through my sad expression, and she looked at me, and said if you have the money to help someone else, and they ask you, you should help, this is what God requires of us.
I am open with this story because what we think about money, I am convinced, is often learned in the early years of our lives. The theology I have developed about how I spend, save and invest my money is led, in part, by what I have seen exemplified in my family and wider community. This I think, can be true for many of us, at least to some extent. It is not always what is said or written, but what is felt and lived that shapes us. That is not to say that we cannot improve or do better, but it is important to notice what shapes our thoughts, feelings and habits with money.
My work relating to money was primarily through my first role as a community organiser with the Centre for Theology and Community in East London. I was responsible for organising local leaders in Brixton who were all concerned about the prevalence of payday lending in the area. I grew up in an area similar to Brixton, where betting shops and payday lenders alternated along the high street. They targeted those who were in need, knowing they would often be desperate enough to try anything for the chance of getting cash quickly. The campaign was successful because of the determination of leaders from across faith, ethnic and class groups, working together to tackle this form of legalised exploitation of those in poverty or on the brink. While we worked against these lenders, we ran a campaign to encourage the use of credit unions, so people could save, however little, and/or have access to loans with reasonable levels of interest.
It was in doing this work, that I realised that we all have a role to play when it comes to money. By building up local credit unions, cooperatives and community banks, we can use what we have in ethical ways to support others in the wider community. These institutions have community interests at the heart, rather than being driven by the interests of an elite group.
But it was hearing the story of the Pentecostal Credit Union, set up by the late Rev Carmel Jones, that solidified my understanding of why the issues of money and finance, are social justice issues. The PCU began in part, as a response to the discrimination being faced by Black people in the UK who were denied loans for homes and church buildings. By organising their money, Black communities were able to solve the challenges they faced in wider society and make a way, where there was no way. The story of the PCU continues to inspire me, that you do not need to be an economist or policymaker to make a positive impact. It is everyday people, like us, grandparents, aunties, cousins and friends, building financial power together, that can have a huge impact on the world and for those most in need.
I was thrilled to learn of the collaboration between the PCU and the JustMoney Movement and the ways in which the wider movement is seeking to learn from these sorts of examples so that we can build a more inclusive and just financial system for everyone. I am very happy to do my part, to encourage more people of faith to join this JustMoney Movement.