Here is an excerpt from The Rev. Jennifer Potter’s recent article in Window on Wesley’s, the newsletter of Wesley’s Chapel in London, England. She writes:
If you walk down City Road from Wesley’s Chapel… you [might] find yourself in Lackington Street. That street name commemorates a remarkable man and behind the success of that remarkable man was the loan scheme that John Wesley operated from the Foundery. The Foundery was Wesley’s first London headquarters. It was just about 200 yards south of the present chapel… In that disused cannon foundery which was in a bad state after an explosion, Wesley managed to run a school, a clinic, a Book Room and have a place where elderly people could live freely. It was from the Foundery that the loan scheme operated. Here is a quote from Stevenson: City Road Chapel:
“Belonging to the Foundery there was also a lending society which was instituted about 1747. It began by Mr. Wesley begging 50 pounds. This money was lodged with the stewards, who attended every Tuesday morning to lend sums not exceeding twenty shilling to be repaid within three months. Of this society Mr. Wesley writes –
“‘With this inconsiderable sum, 50 pounds, 250 persons have been assisted during the year 1747. Will not God put it into the heart of some lover of mankind to increase this little stock? If this is not lending unto the Lord, what is?’
“In 1748, Mr. Wesley made a public collection for this fund. By this and other means, the capital was nearly trebled, when loans to the extent of 5 pounds were made. By this means, hundreds of honest poor were greatly assisted; and amongst those helped by this fund was James Lackington…”
Lackington went on to create a bookselling business through the power of his loan and lived his lifetime in membership with the Methodist Society at the Foundery. From modest beginnings, Lackington was given the chance through the power of his seemingly small loan to create a London business that was a community asset and, in turn, enabled him to live a life of dignity and contribution in what must have been a challenging time.
James Lackington’s story from our Methodist heritage is certainly an inspiring one, but what if we had examples of people who are living at the globe’s poorest level – less than $1.25 a day – but who are (or could be) empowered to create a life of dignity and possibility through a contemporary incarnation of the Foundery loan scheme.
A tool that does this is available: microcredit. Microcredit typically entails very small loans (perhaps even under $100) given in an accountable way that enables women, children and families in the poorest communities to get into their marketplace unencumbered by unscrupulous money-lending practices. To date, more than 100 million people living on less than $1.25 a day have begun to transform their lives through the smart, humane investment of microcredit.
We, as people of faith, have a chance to stand up in the public square and ask that a robust amount of funding be prioritized for microcredit by the world’s nations and institutions who say they are committed to the end of poverty. Let’s take that chance.
This article was submitted by the Rev. Lisa Marchal, an Indiana Conference clergy member who serves as a Global Grassroots Associate for RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund, a grassroots advocacy group and friend of the General Board of Church and Society of The UMC committed to the end of hunger and poverty. For more information, visit www.results.org.