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How Did Christianity Come To Britain?

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We do not know when our faith first arrived, but the first British Christian on record was a Roman soldier called Alban, who was martyred (died for his faith) in the late 100s AD. There were lots of Christians by 400AD when the Romans left. Even earlier than that, there is an ancient legend that says Joseph of Aramethea came to Britain with Jesus as a child to trade. This sounds crazy, but is looking more and more possible because of archaeological finds regarding trading at that time! After this the Christians fled to Wales away from the invading Anglo Saxons. A man called Ninian came to Scotland to preach the gospel in 380AD, just as Saint Patrick was taken as a slave to Ireland. When Patrick became a Christian, he was responsible for Ireland becoming 90% Christian. At the same time Saint David and others led the conversion of most of Wales. Huge numbers in Wales and Cornwall became Christians! Many Celtic monks travelled huge distances to tell people about Jesus - Sampson came from North Wales, to Cornwall, to the Channel Islands and then to Northern France. Boniface from Devon became a missionary to Germany. He chopped down a tree that the German pagans worshipped and overnight there grew in its place a Christmas Tree (which is why we use them today!). A Christian called Columba came from Ireland to the island of Iona in 563. He preached in western Scotland going as far as Inverness, whilst on the way he put the Loch Ness monster under the waves for 1000 years. At this time, England was made up of small kingdoms. Through Aiden, sent by Columba’s successors, Oswald the King of Northumbria became a Christian and used to translate for these missionary leaders. He died as a martyr for his faith. Monasteries around this time were nothing like the medieval ideas we think of, but were more like Christian villages, with churches, hospitals and schools! Missionaries were so successful that England became almost entirely Christian! By the time that Pope Gregory sent a mission into Canterbury in 597, many of the English kingdoms were Christian. There were differences between the Celtic Christians and those who had learned the faith from Roman Christians. Some of them were ironed out, but it’s interesting to think that there have always been different types of Christian in Britain. When the Vikings came and attacked Britain’s holy places, Christianity united the country. King Alfred (the Great!) united England in response to them and laid down the foundations of the nation, based on Christian faith. The original Celts loved songs and stories: they were very artistic and poetic. They believed in gods of nature and lots of their symbols were the circle, or ‘eternal ring’, of the Sun, which Celtic Christians placed the Cross of Christ over the top of. (Have a look on the cover of the Word 4U 2Day for an example!) They were a vitally important body of Christians, who showed the light of Christ at a time when paganism was on the rise and by their persistence they gloriously overcame it. They established Christianity in this country and provided the foundations for all that has happened in our day.

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1 Ahmed M = "Christianity emerged in the Levant (now Palestine and Israel) in the mid-1st century AD."
2 Ahmed M = "Christianity spread initially from Jerusalem throughout the Near East, into places such as Syria, Assyria, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Asia Minor, Jordan and Egypt."
3 Ahmed M = "In the 4th century it was successively adopted as the state religion by Armenia in 301, Georgia in 319."