A letter from bishop lee rayfield
bishop of swindon
A prayer for Swindon and all those impacted by the closure of Honda
Your Spirit leads us to dream of a better future for all, empowering us to make it reality;
We give thanks for the blessing which Honda has been to Swindon over three decades, including in these difficult days;
We pray for those whose dreams now lie broken and who fear for their future;
Breathe upon us and all who seek the well-being of this town, kindling fresh dreams of deeper and richer blessing.
Inspire each of us to play our part in bringing these to birth;
For the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
The company came to our town in 1985 and for the past 34 years has contributed significantly to the well-being of the town, not only providing secure employment but supporting activities and initiatives across our communities. Honda’s presence enhanced the reputation and status of Swindon. In the midst of the disappointment at their leaving, we must remind ourselves and others to be thankful for all Honda has contributed and not treat them ungraciously because of the impact of their decision.
Inevitably, the closure of Honda’s plant brings back memories of the closure of the railway works. That reminds us that we have come through serious challenges to our town’s well-being in the past and have learning from that. Yet, at the same time we need to engage with the challenge Honda’s move provides at a time when so much feels uncertain and in flux.
Honda’s tagline is ‘The Power of Dreams’. The closure of the plant means that Swindon is needing to dream afresh and plan accordingly. As Leaders in God’s Church we are familiar with the place dreams have in the Scriptures and in so many stories of faith, including our personal ones. God calls us to dream, live out, and pray for the coming of the Kingdom which is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching, proclamation and example.
It seems fair to say that few people dream of living in Swindon. It is a place which too many under appreciate, including those who live and work here. Yet there are many aspects of the town which others admire and even envy. We need to be reminded that in comparison with many places, Swindon is well placed to lead on areas which other towns and cities struggle with. Honda’s decision provides an opportunity to do just this – to turn a challenge we would never have sought into one which opens unseen and unexpected fresh horizons for both the town and its churches.
Over recent weeks I have been meeting with a small ad hoc group of people from different churches, some of whom work for Honda or associated companies. We have been prayerfully reflecting on how we, as the Church, can play our part with others across Swindon to address the serious challenges ahead and support the dreaming and realisation of fresh dreams. With the timeline of Honda’s closure, this is a long-term work which needs careful planning. We are looking to support and work closely with the Steering Group which is led by Susie Kemp, the CEO of the Borough Council, and has various subgroups. This is the body through which we believe it would be best to make our collective offer as Church across the spectrum of church styles and the nominations we represent.
Prayer is central to who we are and will remain fundamental to our support for all affected by the plant’s closure. A gathering to pray for them, including employees, ancillary and supply chain companies, the Steering Group and its subgroups, is happening monthly and hosted at the home of Nathalie Marshall. We wish to publicise this more extensively around the churches. If you know of people who would commit to attending this, please would you let Nathalie know via firstname.lastname@example.org. We shall be producing some cards with a specially written prayer which we hope can be distributed amongst congregations and used regularly. The prayer is reproduced above. If you have people connected with Honda or associated businesses, Nathalie would be happy to field questions they may have.
With buildings, and people, in every community across Swindon, our churches are well placed to host events which those wondering about their future, and possibly very anxious about it, might attend to get advice and guidance from specialists. This could include financial planning, making use of transferable skills, completing CVs and job applications, interview techniques, and simply having people who will listen, and where appropriate, to pray. If your church would be happy in principle to offer your building to host such an event please would you email Ian Lowe () so that we can begin to draw up a potential list. Ian would also be happy to receive any reflections or ideas you may have on how we, as churches, can best respond and offer support.
Honda have made it clear that their redundancy payments will be exceptionally generous. However, there are key concerns for companies who are part of the Supply Chain for Honda, and especially for those whose survival is under threat and workers who may find it very difficult to find new employment. It is the Supply Chain companies which the Steering Group needs most help in supporting.
Christians from Redcar have been in touch to offer support and share the learning from churches in their town following the ending of steel production. We shall value this, and their prayers.
These are early days still, but I hope this background will help us as churches, and the Church across Swindon, to come together and work with others, whether people of faith or not, for purposes and actions which resonate with those of God’s Kingdom.
Yours in the Author and Perfector of our faith
Bishop of Swindon
Honda’s closure: Serving and supporting Swindon over the next two years
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ and partners in the Gospel
Many of us will remember where we were when we heard the news that Honda would be closing their plant in Swindon. The engagement of Government and local leaders with the company has not changed this decision and Honda are scheduled to cease production in July 2021. Over the coming months and years there are 5 planned waves of redundancy, the first of which has already been effected.