Winchester was the capital city of the ancient Kingdom of Wessex and also of England long before London. This is the story of Alfred The Great. A king, who served the King of Kings. 1,000 years ago, churches were powerful centres of transformation providing education, medical care and emergency provision. One of them, Crowland Abbey, was destroyed by a Viking raid in 866AD and everyone inside was mercilessly slaughtered. Within two years the Viking King Guthrum had overrun half of England and was now threatening Wessex. It was the moment King Alfred stepped into his destiny.

In the first devastating raid on Wessex soil, Alfred was almost killed before withdrawing back here to Winchester. Every day, as he recovered from his wounds, he prayed not only for the people of England but also that the invading Vikings would hear and understand the Christian Gospel. Many battles followed and then, against all the odds, the Viking line was broken at the Battle of Eddington. Facing annihilation, Guthrum surrendered to Alfred, hoping for a quick end to his life rather than the torture he had planned had the tables been turned. The two kings stood face to face and Guthrum, expecting nothing but a Wessex sword, is overwhelmed as Alfred offers him not a slow or even a quick death but an invitation to live side by side in peace.

“Why would you do this for me? said Guthrum “Why would you offer me peace?” “Because” said Alfred, “I serve Christ, the Prince of Peace” The Viking King is shattered by the mercy of Alfred The Great prompting him to ask another question “Is there any way that I too could become a follower of Christ, the Prince of Peace?” Guthrum was converted on the battlefield and then baptised in Winchester. He and Alfred became allies and brothers bringing an end to the Viking raids in England. In the years that followed, Alfred wrote a moral code based on the Bible, the very word of God. It became a source document for English Common Law that was later embedded into the American Constitution. King Alfred The Great’s remarkable reign over Wessex and then a united England, meant diverse peoples were brought together, borders were respected and former enemies lived side by side. His Christian values set the moral compass for generations after him.

The question King Guthrum asked of King Alfred is the question millions have asked ever since. “How can I become a follower of Christ?” The answer hasn’t changed ‘Believe and be Baptised’ that’s what the Bible says and that’s what Guthrum did. To follow Jesus Christ is to follow the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. To know his transforming forgiveness, a clean slate through his death and resurrection. It is the pathway to limitless life or in the words Jesus himself ‘life to the full’

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