Thursday, May 14, 2009
Requiem for Prosperity
Next week I will conduct a memorial service for a person who died six months ago, a necessary ritual for a family that has only been able to gather now. We choose to mark the passing of loved ones, or institutions such as closing churches, with ritual acts to ease our grief.
Today the truck plant in Oshawa will close and I wonder if there will be any ritual leave-taking. That plant and others in the city have represented prosperity in this area of Ontario for decades. Now thousands of people who had meaningful employment in the plant are looking for work, not to mention the estimated seven workers for every GM worker who will lose jobs because they are no longer feeding that hungry vehicle producer.
These workers have often been vilified because they made really good money, but their prosperity meant wealth for the wider community. General Motors made its share of tactical blunders to help create this situation, but the execs didn't have control over Wall Street or the global economic downturn. Toyota, which supposedly produces the state of the art, fuel efficient vehicles we want posted a five billion dollar loss in the first quarter of this year, so no auto company is immune from the recession. People must make money to spend money.
Many area churches are feeling the effects of the economic uncertainty. Some of the most active congregations in our Oshawa Presbytery are shaking out the piggy banks because of significant decreases in contributions. No one is immune.
We can keep all those who lost jobs in our prayers in the days ahead. We can pray for those who are still employed and wonder what will come next. We can uphold those who are reliant on GM pensions and are anxious about their futures. I visited one of our elderly members recently, a widow of a GM worker who still lives in their modest home. She is trying not to be scared about tomorrow, but the uncertainty is troubling. We can hope for a revival of GM's fortunes, and new opportunities for employment in this area.
Perhaps a requiem for a closing truck plant isn't as fanciful as it sounds.