We are losing the most prominent building in the parish (I posted a picture of it on 14th December), and, much more seriously, a couple of hundred people are losing their jobs, with the sudden announcement yesterday of the closure of the Tioxide plant.
After the War, Grimsby Borough seems virtually to have said to industry ‘we have cheap labour to exploit and an estuary into which to pour any waste you want’, so, alongside other industry, attracted British Titan (as it then was) to produce white pigment from titanium dioxide along the Humber bank. Of course working and environmental conditions have been transformed since then; lots of people speak affectionately of what they gained working for ‘Titans’, and the firm has even been promoting projects for biodiversity in the estuary in recent years.
As a local parish priest I feel impotent. On Sunday, Churches Together in North East Lincolnshire was talking about how the credit crunch matters to us and how we are trying to make a difference, but the closure drives home a feeling that we don’t seem equipped to offer anything proportionate faced with a sharp leap in the number of those newly out of work to which it adds.
Nevertheless, Sunday does seem to have been important. About eighty of us got together for its annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity gathering which these days always tries to have a world facing agenda rather than a navel gazing one.
The Treasurer of the local Credit Union told us that five hundred members benefit from something the local churches set up together as our main project at the Millennium. Members save a small amount each week and are then able to borrow at a level they know can be repaid at low interest. The well off can both save and help others, and the less well off have an alternative to loan sharks.
A Liverpool priest who works for one of the charities involved told us about different places where advice and practical help can be given to those struggling with debt or with money worries, and how we can put people in touch with them.
The Bishop of Lincoln told us that he is a member of both the General Synod and the House of Lords, and that the church is trying to use both in February to exert pressure for much better systems of financial regulation and much more humane support for those who are victims of past problems.
Meanwhile, in the absence of anything appropriate, the picture is simply a gable end in Cleethorpes which caught my eye on Wednesday.