In this blog David Lawrence, a Philosophy, Politics and Economics student at Oxford University, describes his month-long Jellicoe internship spent with us. Having returned home to Winchester, he plans to spend more time in London.
The internships are paid at Living Wage and provide the opportunity for students to learn about community organising with one of our partner churches. This year we welcomed ten interns…
“The world is not like Winchester,” said a South London priest I met last week; “it is, in many ways, a much richer place.” There’s no doubting that a month in Brixton and Kennington has submerged me into church communities bursting with life, and opened my eyes to a world of diversity and culture which I never would have encountered in Winchester or Oxford.
For my placement I was supporting the ‘Just Money’ campaign, which explores community responses to the problems of debt and payday lending. The community focus of Jellicoe meant that I was given time and space to hear people’s own testimonies about how they have been affected by the recession and what they think needs to be done in their communities. At each church I hosted a ‘Money Talk’ during a Sunday morning service, which was an opportunity for the congregation to discuss the issues of the recession and payday lending, and suggest solutions. Nearly everyone I spoke to agreed that it is part of the Church’s mission to reach out to the vulnerable, and use its voice to seek political change for the common good.
Watching institutions talk and work with each other for the community has made me think about how politics is done and the way we understand power. Coming from an Oxford, PPE mindset I discovered that I had previously – without realising – divided the world into two forms of power: the powers of the government and the market. Seeing communities stand together to create political change has made me reevaluate this. One Friday we took a group from the church on a ‘Money Walk’, to learn more about the financial institutions available in the local area, and visit payday lending shops to find out more about their practices. What surprised me on the walk was how quickly a small group of people can make the staff of a payday lending shop nervous, and hold their actions to account.
Communities are beginning to talk about debt, and the church is leading the conversation. Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury publicly declared war on payday lenders, stating that the church would compete them out of business by offering an alternative which actually helps communities. But Archbishop Justin’s words only carry weight because the power of the church is real, and lies in its parishes. Jellicoe has taught me when people stand together, they have power. The power of a united community must not be underestimated; it can bring even the most powerful economic forces towards justice.