The Light Church: Modern Christianity & social justice

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Along with regular church services, the Light Church runs a food bank, debt support service, education centre, mental health support café and more.

Social Problem

Faith communities can offer companionship and reassurance, along with emotional and practical support when times are hard. Churches have long been concerned with fairness in society, particularly related to poverty.

Organisation

Back in 2008, Matt and Josie Barlow and John and Lizzie Kirkby were feeling disheartened by the choice of churches in Bradford. Matt Barlow explains. “We struggled to find a church that really resonated with our hearts and offered us both a contemporary expression of Christianity alongside a passion for social justice. So, we decided to start a new church. It seemed a little bit crazy, but we decided to go for it. We let people know what was happening and thought we’d start with around 12 people. 50 people turned up to that first meeting, which we took as a sign. So off we went.”

Solution

The Light Church is thriving. There are 200+ adults and 80+ children in the congregation. Many members attend the church on Sundays, but there are also ‘home churches’ held during the week across the city.

The Light Church also runs a food bank and a café for people with mental health issues. In addition, it works with other organisations to deliver community services, including Christians Against Poverty on a debt support centre and job club, and Transforming Lives for Good (TLG) on an education centre for children who have been excluded from school or who are at risk of exclusion.

Loan

The Light Church was renting rooms in the Jubilee Centre, along with a building for its food bank and education centre. When the pandemic hit, the church was able to move the food bank into the Jubilee Centre, allowing it to serve many more people and adhere to social distancing. However, the landlord decided to sell the centre, and the church was unable to find another building to rent which could accommodate the larger food bank. So, Matt and the team decided to buy the Jubilee Centre.

They raised £600,000 towards the cost, and turned to Charity Bank for a £516,750 loan. The church already had a small bridging loan with Charity Bank, which it had used to refinance a piece of land. Returning to Charity Bank for the larger loan made sense for a number of reasons, not least of which were the affordable rates. According to Matt, Charity Bank made the loan process “easy” and “nothing ever felt like too much of a problem”.

Impact

Bradford is ranked the 5th most income deprived local authority in England with 29% of children living below the poverty line.[1] The Light Church’s food bank and other services have proven vital to families, particularly during the pandemic when requests for food parcels increased five-fold. Even in 2022, the food bank is still serving twice as many people as pre-pandemic. And the Light Church doesn’t just cater for people’s physical needs, it meets their spiritual needs too, by offering a welcoming, inclusive religious community.

“Jeremy Ince [Regional Manager of the North Lending Team] is really easy to work with. He did a great job of explaining everything, he was very friendly and nothing was ever too much bother. If we needed anything, we could just pick up the phone or drop him an email. Plus, Charity Bank’s rates are good, which is obviously important as we’re a charity.”

Matt Barlow, Lead Pastor at the Light Church

[1] https://thelightchurch.org.uk/community/bradford-central-foodbank


About Charity Bank

Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1,100 loans totalling over £400m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.

Find out more about us here.

Nothing in this article constitutes an invitation to engage in investment activity nor is it advice or a recommendation and professional advice should be taken before any course of action is pursued.