The Worship Center Christian Church in Birmingham announced during services on Sunday morning that it will pay off the payday loans of 48 people struggling with debt.
Those whose loans are being paid off owe a combined total of more than $41,000 and are paying high interest rates of 36 percent and much higher. Payday loans are unsecured cash advances that people use to make it through to the next payday. Payday loan centers proliferate throughout Alabama.
“It’s kind of a ticking time bomb with high interest rates,” Senior Pastor Van Moody said in an interview after the service. “That’s why many people never get out.”
Those having their loans paid off will be required to undergo financial counseling and attend financial workshops so they don’t get in the same fix again, Moody said.
“We’re doing workshops, helping with budgeting,” said Vanessa Davis, chief financial officer of the Worship Center. “Everything they need to get a fresh start.”
The church took up a special offering on Sunday, in addition to regular tithing, to help pay off the payday loans. The money will be paid directly to those it is owed, not to the debtors themselves, Moody said.
The idea for paying off title loans came after Moody preached sermons on Feb. 21 and Feb. 28 about getting out of debt. He dressed in a prison uniform for one sermon to demonstrate that being in debt is like being in prison.
Moody asked people in attendance to fill out forms in the lobby after the service to detail what kind of debts they owed. Not all of the people filling out questionnaires were members. Some were just visiting, Moody said. The church is paying off debts for members and non-members, he said.
“We are a church of generosity,” Moody said. “We believe in meeting needs and being generous.”
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