THE impending closure of the Honda car plant in Swindon, Wiltshire (News, 22 February), could be an opportunity for the town to develop a greater sense of community, the Bishop of Swindon, Dr Lee Rayfield, says.
On Saturday, he joined a rally opposing the planned 2020 shutdown, with the loss of 3500 jobs, and posted a message on Twitter: “Honda’s tagline is ‘The power of dreams’. How as a community can we come together to help a new, and perhaps deeper dream come into being?”
Later, he said: “This is about standing with our community and mourning with them about what has happened, but also about looking to see what we can do to make a difference.”
Economic inequality in the area was a problem, he said, and he had been disturbed by recent figures for debt. “There are a lot of people living very close to their limit.
“What we need to do is to help people dream again — but bigger, deeper, and richer than the dream of just getting another industrial king in. This could be a catalyst for us thinking differently and deeper about how we can build on the community life of our town to care more for each other, and how we can lead in being a more equal town.
“There is an opportunity to be better neighbours and deepen our sense of belonging. I hope that the Church can play a part in building that deepening sense of community in the face of what is happening. People from across the town have been offering support: there is a real community-wide energy to be a good neighbour.
“Maybe we can just get our horizons expanded a little more to see how some of the ways we have been living have not supported those who need our good neighbourliness.”
Churches of all denominations could play their part. “We have a presence in just about every community in Swindon. There are people in our congregations affected, directly or indirectly, by this closure, from shop floor to executives.
“They need our support, and they will get it; but, also, we can offer our buildings for those who want to come in to offer support: things like helping find a new job, helping write a CV, managing finances. The Church has always been good at building community.”