The Reverends Peter Thomas and Colin Corke are joint chaplains at MG Rover in Longbridge, where their respective parishes intersect, as Campbell Docherty reports...

"A piece of the silver, a silver chalice, got dented at the church a few months ago.

"One of my parishioners whisked it away into his network of highly skilled ex-Longbridge workers and it reappeared a few days later, repaired.

"All for the cost of a drink as well. That is the kind of skills and the sort of spirit of community that Longbridge has been famous for and that still remain there," Reverend Corke explained.


Don't miss 'MG Rover: Past, Present and Future' - a special 20 page supplement published with Saturday's Birmingham Post.


Rev Corke, of St John's in Longbridge, along with his fellow Rover Chaplain Rev Thomas, of St Stephen's in Rednal, have almost unique access to the entire Longbridge plant.

From the management corridors to the cleaners, they are permitted to walk through the entire site, listening to problems and relating the mood of the workers to their bosses.

Rev Corke said: "I have bumped into some hopeful people. Not naively hopeful, but confident that the skill that exists at Longbridge will be enough to keep car production going there.

"There is also a tremendous loyalty to Longbridge and Rover in this area. While many of the current workforce live in Hall Green and Redditch and even the Black Country and further north, the people that live in our parishes are often former workers."

The Rev Corke is the proud, enthusiastic owner of four Allegros, a Rover and a Metro and owns every edition of Auto Magazine from 1946 onwards.

His colleague, Rev Thomas he has been in the parish for 15 years and was heavily involved in Longbridge in 2000, when BMW pulled out and John Towers' Phoenix Venture Holdings saved the plant from immediate collapse into the abyss. Both men believe Longbridge's workforce has an unusually strong sense of community.

Rev Thomas said: "There are many younger people saying they would be prepared to take voluntary redundancy if it means that men with families can stay on there.

"For me, the sense of spirituality in the place comes from a man who puts cogs into an engine, but doesn't see himself as just part of a machine."