Church of Morgan’s Vale and Woodfalls

Morgan’s Vale, Redlynch SP5 2HU

Church of England
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St Birinus Church - History - St Birinus - His Story and actions in this area

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Although little is known of his early life, Birinus was a 7th century Italian monk, consecrated bishop in Milan by Archbishop Asterius. It seems that Birinus was a man who felt compelled to proclaim the good news of God, but for him he felt this in a particular way – he wanted to make his mark!

We are told that in 634, this led to Pope Honorius 1 to choose Birinus to 'sow the seeds of our Holy Faith in the distant lands beyond the Kingdom of the English, where no other had been before him'.

When he landed on the south coast, it seems that his original plan had been to penetrate well into the interior of the country, but we also know from Bede's Ecclesiastical History that 'on arriving in Britain and first coming to the West Saxons, where he found all to be confirmed pagans, he thought it more useful to preach the Word there, rather than to go farther looking for people to whom he could preach.'

In AD635 King Oswold of Northumbria, who had already been converted to Christianity by Celtic Christians in Iona, Scotland, wanted to marry the daughter of King Cynegils of the West Saxons,and went to Dorchester to visit Cynegils. There he found Cynegils receiving instruction in the Christian faith from Birinus. The outcome was that Birinus baptised Cynegils – probably in the nearby River Thame – with Oswold standing as Godfather.

The two Kings then granted land to Birinus in Dorchester for the establishment of his episcopal see and cathedral church. Birinus thus became the first Bishop of the West Saxons

St Birinus
Stained glass window of St. Birinus at Dorchester Abbey
St Birinus Church 1894

Birinus died about AD650, was buried in Dorchester and was canonised soon after. His relics (bones) were moved to Winchester around AD690 by Bishop Hedda of Winchester. The relics were moved again in AD980 by Bishop Ethelwold and also in AD1150 by Henri de Blois. There is some confusion about his true final resting place. St Birinus is commemorated at Dorchester Abbey, firstly in a shrine, last reconstructed in the 1960s, that stands in the south aisle and secondly in some stained glass windows.

During his time in Britain, Birinus travelled up the Avon valley, in what is now Hampshire and Wiltshire, and arranged the building and consecration of the first wooden church in Downton. When that church was later replaced with a stone building it was dedicated to St Lawrence. In the late 19 century when a church was built here in Morgans Vale, as a Daughter church to the church in Downton, it was dedicated to St Birinus thus renewing his connection with this area.

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St Birinus Church Prayer

O God our Creator, whose love is for everyone, strengthen our commitment and desire to love and serve all in our community.

Help us to be obedient to your command to share the good news of your son Jesus Christ and his love for the entire world.

We pray for your promised Holy Spirit to give us courage, imagination and wisdom, so that we may be guided and equipped to do your will.

Amen.

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