There are many things that come to mind when a high-street “name” fails in the way Thomas Cook has done. But, in terms of the immediate impact, two things have struck me:
Firstly, the brutal suddenness. I appreciate that the collapse was, “on the cards,” but it is still a shock when the final moment comes. Sarah (a chaplain in the Redditch team) was able to visit the Thomas Cook store for a moment on Sunday…but…come Monday morning they were gone. Even with the prior reaching out we, as chaplains, lose the potential for connection in a moment. The staff disappear to deal with the challenges they face, and we are left praying for them but without the ability to walk alongside. Clearly, our bereavement is less that turmoil faced by those whose jobs are affected but the challenge remains.
Secondly, the response of the high street. On Monday, members of the public were queuing out of the door of TUI, just a few yards down the mall here in Redditch. The staff frantically, looking for alternative fights etc for Thomas Cook customers let down as a result of the business failure. Staff came in who were on leave to help and other businesses, such as Costa and Greggs, provided refreshments for the staff. The staff were touched that the there was a sense of care and support from the wider business community. Staff in other stores also shared in that feeling of wanting to be supportive towards the staff who have lost their jobs. They too feeling the suddenness of things and in some cases wondering if they might suffer a similar fate.
In all of this how do we, as chaplains, respond? Can we speak prophetically into the need for truth and integrity in business leadership and, in this case, is there an element of a company created in a different time failing to adapt to new trading conditions? Perhaps there are lessons for us all here, we cannot simply hold on to a past which has past and hope for the best. Can we hold instead to a hope in a creator God, who was and is and always will be creative? A God is always present walking alongside us in all things.
Revd Paul Lawlor
25th September 2019