Creating a county that is just and fair for all. That was the focus of this year’s West Sussex Prayer Breakfast at Wiston House near Steyning where leaders from every part of county life joined to affirm the work of volunteers, business owners and others who work for the county’s good.
Speaking at this year’s meeting was Sir Jeremy Cooke, a retired High Court judge who gave his story of seeking to administer justice impartially, fairly and justly, knowing that where law does not transform lives, love can.
He said: “As a judge I saw some of the worst aspects of life – murder, child abuse, drugs wars, blackmail, corruption and serious commercial disputes where wrongdoing and corruption, bribery and fraud are often to be found.
“In the muck of life, I would seek to do justice. But there are obvious limits to what a judge can do.”
Although law reflects and shapes society and makes people take responsibility for their actions, it cannot change people’s hearts, he said.
“It cannot cause them to do what is right, give them the right motivation, create real remorse or change them,” he said.
“But what the law and judges cannot do, the Spirit of God can do.”
He said knowing that he was accountable for how he used his authority made him careful to be impartial in all circumstances and see everyone in the courtroom as equal regardless of where they stood.
He said: “When I was talking with the Queen, she asked me if criminals were different from other people.
“The answer is essentially no, because criminals and lawyers all need to be put right in the eyes of God. We all need Jesus to do that for us.”
Attendees, of all faiths and none, said it was positive to meet and think about what was most important in their roles and their responsibility to serve well.
Hilary Bartle, the CEO of homelessness charity Stonepillow, said it made her think of how to give justice through her work.
She said: “It’s nice to see such an array of people here, in a time that’s challenging it’s good to see opportunity in terms of partnership and making sure we serve our communities well to give them opportunities and social justice.”
Opening the event, High Sheriff of West Sussex Caroline Nicolls thanked those representing the emergency services for their compassion, care and hard work in making the county a safer place to be, as well as the ‘huge’ contribution of volunteers.
“Without these special people, so much of the quality of life that we enjoy and perhaps take for granted just wouldn’t happen,” she said.
Guests were invited to write their prayers and aspirations for the county with prayers led by the incoming High Sheriff, Davina Irwin-Clark.
She gave thanks for everyone who served their communities. “May everyone who in their working lives, or in volunteering, come across deep need and desperate complicated situations be given stamina, integrity, courage and hope,” she said.
Pip Goring, who hosted the event, said she hoped everyone invited, regardless of belief, found the event inspiring and encouraging.
Mrs Nicolls said she liked how the event drew so many groups together. “It’s a chance to sit, take stock and think about what’s important in life,” she said.