The High Sheriff of West Sussex marked the end of his term in office this week by holding the county’s first official prayer breakfast.
Attended by church, community and council representatives, the event on Saturday March 21, at the South Downs gem Wiston House, was a celebration of the Christian faith in West Sussex.
It follows the success of the annual National Prayer Breakfast held in London and a similar regional event in East Sussex.
Outgoing High Sheriff Jonathan Lucas, who completes his year of service on Friday (March 27), said: “This event reminds us of the great history and great Christian heritage in this country. It affirms our faith.
“I think there’s a purpose in what we do and values of justice, mercy and humility in what we do.”
Attendees from all corners of the county heard from notable speaker Lord Michael Hastings, who picked up on that topic saying that everyone, in whatever role they have, are meant to be there and have a purpose in it.
Sussex Police deputy Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney read the Bible reading as part of the proceedings. After the event she said: “For me, faith - in my case Christian faith - is the bedrock of good in society, which is beyond budgets or procedures.
“It helps strengthen communities so everyone can thrive.”
Other notable guests were Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert, chairman of West Sussex County Council Amanda Jupp and High Sheriff chaplain and Horsham vicar Rev Christopher Loveless.
Harry and Pip Goring, of the family who own the Wiston House Estate, were proud to host the event and hope it will continue as the venue.
It builds on the success of the Big Church Day Out, which has become an annual fixture in the estate’s calendar each May. It is back this year on Saturday and Sunday May 23 and 24.
Pip said: “I’ve always felt that God would use this house for His glory. I believe it’s His perfect timing.
“Prayers were said the way prayers were said today. The world needs us at the moment. I think its going to bear all sorts of fruit.
“I was asked in a BBC interview why don’t you live in Wiston House. What I told them was that I have always prayed around this house. It’s a very special place in God’s heart and He will always use it for his purpose.
“It’s taken 15 years to really feel that’s happening. It’s really being manifested now.”
Mr Lucas used the event to pay tribute to the community he has served over the past year.
He said: “I think the greatest highlights have involved meeting the most unlikely heroes and meeting volunteers who have done extraordinary things and are embarrassed when I say well done.
“The man who left the greatest mark on me was a lifer in Lewes Prison, a murderer.
“He said ‘I deserve to be here and the person I killed I cannot apologise to. His relations don’t want to know.
“I said to him ‘you’re a good man’. He said to me, ‘no, I’m a murderer’. He started to cry.
“I said, ‘what you were was a murderer, but what you have become is a man seeking redemption’.
“I don’t think anyone had ever told him he was a good man.
“There’s good in everyone. I have seen communities in this beautiful county that resonate with goodness - so many good people, who are working as volunteers for nothing to make this county a beautiful place.”
The High Sheriff is a title which dates back to Saxon times when the incumbant was responsible for collecting taxes and upholding law and order on the king’s behalf.
Today, it is used to promote and encourage voluntary sector initiatives, crime prevention agencies and emergency services.
Mr Lucas has been succeeded by Denise Patterson from Bognor Regis, who is being sworn in later this week at Lewes Crown Court.