Edington Priory church: 1361-2011

Julia Taylor reports on a full programme of events in the first week of July, organised to mark the 650th anniversary of the church's consecration in 1361.


It was not the stones, said the Bishop whose early Sundays had been spent among them, not the grey stones flecked with gold lichen which had housed the Priory Church for 650 years so far. What comprised Edington Church was not a building which must in time become dust, but the people in it, and its consecration, ‘the act and activity of making holy’, was about them – past, present and those to come*.
With a full church, an MP, a Lord Lieutenant, the Bishop and a clutch of clergy, Edington Priory Church had begun its week of celebrations on July 3rd with the dedication of a consecration cross in the Lady Chapel, and a Solemn Eucharist was in progress.

The celebrant, the Rt Rev’d Humphrey Southern, Bishop of Repton, spent his youthful Sunday mornings in the church. Edington’s current Rector, Dr Graham Southgate, served as deacon; and the Bishop’s mother, Mrs Antonia Southern, served too, as Eucharistic assistant.

Children had their part, called by name to receive commemorative mugs. After the Grace the entire congregation sang Stanford’s Te Deum with fervour and considerable volume, and many streamed to the marquee where lunch for 150 was served and conversation reigned till Choral Evensong. Settings by Tomkins and Dyson, and a Stanford anthem, were sung by the Edington Festival Singers, directed by Jeremy Summerly, organist Matthew Martin.

From Thursday till Sunday an exhibition of impressions of the church featured paintings and other works by local artists. Children’s exhibits included a biscuit ‘church’ with cut-out windows glazed with melted jelly sweets (Elizabeth, 9) and the worryingly roofless Lego model whose priest had been thoughtfully provided with a hard hat by Zebedee (8).
In 1450 during Jack Cade’s rebellion Bishop Ayscough of Salisbury was dragged from Edington Church and murdered. At the end of morning service on Sunday 10th celebrant and past Rector, Canon Neil Heavisides, now Precentor of Gloucester Cathedral, was chased out by a mob of rebellious Sunday school children (gold-foiled mitre and all) and obligingly allowed himself to be slaughtered.
The week, a triumph of planning and hugely successful, ended with a service of Compline after an afternoon of visits by 250 local people to the less-familiar parts of the building such as its crypt and two towers. William of Edington, bishop of Winchester and this church’s builder, would have been proud.  
* Read the full text of the Bishop's sermon here
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