Land & Faith

Richard Goring lives and works on the Wiston Estate with his wife Kirsty and their three young boys.  Here he tells us about his understanding and vision for how land and faith work together.

“The initial step for a soul to come to knowledge of God is contemplation of nature” Iranaeus (120 -202 AD)

Having grown up in rural Wiston land came first. I had always had a faith but prayed as a last resort. It was not until 1992 that I began to ask questions about who God might actually be. My sister had done an Alpha course at a church in London and persuaded my parents to do one too. (As a teenager, when your parents start smiling a lot, stop arguing, and ask you interesting questions, one becomes very suspicious). I assumed they had all been swept up in a cult and so went along to their church to investigate with my most cynical hat on.

I asked a lot of questions and was amazed by people’s kindness and lack of defensiveness. The questions didn’t always get answered but I knew I had found a place to ask them. Church was a whole lot more interesting inside than I had expected from the outside.

A few years later, whilst studying theology at Edinburgh, I remember being challenged by a tutor to consider that God’s love was not confined to the four walls of church (or those in it) but for all of Creation. For the next three years working in London that green space was hard to find but after a year of married life, Kirsty and I decided to head off on an adventure to the west coast of Canada which changed our lives forever.

We bought a Chevy van and travelled throughout British Columbia working on organic farms. The scale of the Canadian landscape is awe inspiring. Its vastness is a constant reminder of our microscopic size and vulnerability. The green cathedral of creation seemed invincible and yet it was clear that the smallness of man has had a huge impact. Kirsty and I both began to read articles about the scale of the impact we have had – and are having – on the extraordinary beauty that surrounds and sustains us. We (and our visas!) decided that it was time to come back to the UK but not to London, as we had originally planned, to Wiston.

The families we stayed with out in Canada were some of the toughest and most resourceful I have ever met; the reality of self-sufficiency is extremely hard work. Kirsty and I weren’t expecting to replicate this back here in Sussex but we did have a hope to reconnect to the land, as well as with the people living on it. Ten years later, and with three young boys (whose main connection with land is through a football pitch!) we are still finding our place and praying that we might see life flourish in all its forms on this small piece of God’s creation.

As part of this, we have recently hosted the fourth ‘Land and Faith’ conference at Wiston House. The hope is to gather a range of landowners, scientists and theologians to engage, both theologically and pragmatically, in what shapes our vision and decisions. We take time to reflect on why we do the things we do, to be inspired by others, and to share stories of what has worked and what has not. In a world that is changing incredibly fast, it is a time to think and pray about how we play our part in shaping the future that our children will grow up in.