Sussex summit links land and faith

7 November 2014, Comments Comments Off on Sussex summit links land and faith

sussex summit links land and faithHow to grow ‘a richer community’ was among the challenges shared at a unique event spearheaded by A Rocha UK and the Wiston Estate.

Around 25 delegates were drawn to this second ‘Land Stewardship And Faith’ conference. They converged on the 16th-century Wiston House at the foot of the South Downs, Sussex. A summary report has just been released, and can be downloaded here.

Over three days in spring, delegates engaged in discussion around Christian community and the land. Land managers, scientists, entrepreneurs and theologians shared their professional and personal experiences.

It was Brother Luigi Gioia from the Pontifical University, Rome, who addressed the theme of community living. ‘Think about all the people, in whatever role or whatever function, all the birds who live in the tree entrusted to you – your family, tenants, employees, all the birds,’ he said.

‘Think about each one of them. Are they all singing in this tree? Are there things we can do to promote more community life, and create a deeper covenant, a richer community?’ Amid some of the most impressive parkland in southern England, they explored other issues such as:

– disconnection between today’s generations and the land,
– bringing church and community together around the land,
– Christian values restoring communities and their link with the land.

Speakers also included – A Rocha UK Conservation Director Andy Lester; Dr Hillary Marlow of Cambridge University; Professor Michael Northcott from Edinburgh University; Buckinghamshire Vicar Rev Margot Hodson; John Iles of Uncllys Farm; A Rocha UK Churches And Theology Director Dr Ruth Valerio and Greg Valerio from CRED Jewellery.

Morning devotions and evening compline were held at the chapel in the grounds, with other meetings in the main house. A Rocha UK facilitated the speakers and other logistics.

The brainchild of Andy Lester and Rick Goring of Wiston Estate, the conference brings landowners together to discuss the issues they face in land management in the context of the Christian faith. The event allows them to think about their work, combining theology and theories with practice. The conference is described as ‘a unique space’ where landowners can come together to share and encourage one another.

‘The conference built on the discussions of last year and the dialogue again proved to be incredibly constructive and indeed moving,’ said Andy Lester. ‘My hope and prayer is that we can continue to build on the friendships and trust that have been built, and work to support our many landowners with a faith. I believe this form of networking is unique and special.’

The third and final conference in this series will be held in spring 2015. It is invitation only. But if you wish to inquire or register your interest, please email andy.lester@arocha.org.  (Photo: Lisa Ostenson)