Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Seasons' Greetings from everyone at St. Mary le Tower

Click to hear the full version of this arrangement by Ben Parry.

Upcoming services

To maintain social distancing, the following services will be ticketed via Eventbrite. (Tickets are FREE and solely for the purpose of adhering to COVID-safe regulations.) 

Tickets for each service will be available approximately two weeks before each event, either via our Eventbrite page directly, or Facebook. There is also a link from our website

(To offer as many seats as possible most important services are offered twice this year.)

Click the picture to see a larger version

Please contact our churchwarden or the vicar via the contacts page on our website if you know of someone who does not have internet access, but would like to attend. Only a limited number of tickets will be available on the day and seating cannot be guaranteed.

The RSCM is offering an open invitation to join in with our unique, participative Big Christmas Carol Service on Saturday 12th December, in partnership with the Churches Conservation Trust. 

Download the letter with all the details here and join in!

In the meantime, here are our choral scholars from Framlingham College singing "O come all ye faithful"!

Prayer for the Nation - Wednesday


Continuing our lockdown month of Prayer for the Nation, on Wednesday we pray for businesses, the workplace and economic wellbeing.

In this time of great challenge, we pray for the economic wellbeing of the country. 
We remember before God those who face great uncertainty in their work. 
We lift before God those who have lost their jobs and face an uncertain and difficult future. 
We pray for a renewed commitment to our common life together.

We conclude the month of prayer with the following:-

A Grace 
Dear God We are grateful for all that you have given to us – this food, each other and our health. 
We pray for those who lack these things we enjoy. 
Give us thank full hearts and opportunities to share your gifts with others. 
We lift before you this country in these difficult days – and pray you would protect us, encourage us and keep us.

We have a number of community interest businesses based at Tower House:-

Nativity Plays

Most people will have memories of the annual school nativity play, whether it is of their own role in one, or watching their children or grandchildren perform. (Or even producing one as a teacher!) This year school productions will be very limited and are unlikely to be offered to a live audience in the same way. 

"Our Nativity Play" by Eric Finney 

It went pretty well, our Nativity play, 
In front of the mums in the hall. 
Though it wasn’t quite perfect,our teacher Miss May 
 Said that slip -ups weren’t noticed at all. 

It’s a pity the innkeeper’s wife is away 
With pains in her head and her turn; 
Sally Ann took the part and forgot what to say- 
She stood there just sucking her thumb. 

Still,it wasn’t too bad our nativity show: 
Our mum seemed to like it a lot 
When a king dropped his casket on Josephs big toe, 
and he called them a clumsy great clot! 

All the angels were great;in the whitest attire 
They came on in a great ghostly group, 
But Sandra’s right wing fluttered clean off it’s wire 
And her other wing started to droop. 

The boss of the shepherds was Christopher Powell: 
His costume was tight ‘cos he’s fat, 
So he cut a great slit in his mum’s stripy towel - 
I bet he got walloped for that. 

All the audience clapped our Nativity play; 
I don’t know what that kid in the choir meant 
When he said that he thought our teacher Miss May 
Ought to think about early retirement. 

Well there were a few slip- ups perhaps on the day. 
But they just didn’t matter at all 
When mary sang Jesus asleep on the hay 
And we all gathered round in the stall.

History of Nativity Plays

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The word nativity comes from the latin word 'natal' which means birth (and is also where we get the word 'native' from). 

The first Nativity Play was performed in a cave by monks in Italy by St. Francis of Assisi and his followers in 1223 to remind the local population that Jesus was born for them, as he was born into a poor family like theirs and not to a rich family. St. Francis told the part of each character in the story himself using wooden figures in the play. After a couple of years, the play had become so popular that real people played the parts of the characters in the story and songs were sung by the people taking part which eventually became what we call Christmas carols today! 

Wooden figures are now used in crib scenes in many churches, and also in people's homes to tell the story of the birth of Jesus. Our Christmas Tree Festival even has it's own nativity, and it has become a tradition for visiting children to find the characters for the nativity amongst the trees in the church. 

Here are our choral scholars from Framlingham College singing "O little town of Bethlehem". Hopefully next year you can enjoy carols and Christmas trees in the church!

Mince Pie Brownies

Another recipe for you to try! For a tea time treat these brownies are a lovely Christmassy version of the traditional favourite. 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and grease and line a 8x8 inch square baking tray. 


  • 4 mince pies, crushed. (Homemade or store bought!) 
  • 113g unsalted butter 
  • 100g dark chocolate 100g white/caster sugar 
  • 100g light brown sugar 
  • 2 large eggs 1/4 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 70g)plain flour 
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground mixed spice 
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Place the butter and dark chocolate into a heat proof bowl and microwave in 20 second increments, stirring in between until the chocolate and butter are all melted together. 
  • Place the sugars, eggs and vanilla extract into a large bowl and whisk until combined and slightly frothy. 
  • Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and whisk briefly to combine. 
  • Add in the flour, cocoa powder, mixed spice and baking powder and whisk until everything comes together and there are no lumps of flour. 
  • Tip in the crushed mince pies and fold in gently with a spoon. 
  • Pour the brownie mixture into your prepared pan and spread into an even layer. 
  • Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the top looks matte in the oven light and an inserted skewer into the centre comes out with a few crumbs on, not liquid mixture. A skewer into the edges should come out clean. 
  • Leave the brownies to cool completely in the pan before transferring to a chopping board and slicing into 9-12 squares. 
  • The brownies will keep in an airtight container, at room temperature, for 5 days.
Mincemeat/pie filling is so versatile. We also enjoy it in baked apples. Simply core the Bramley apply, fill with mincemeat and microwave covered. A childhood favourite of mine! 

Parousia - Advent

The term "parousia" has been used since ancient times to describe the arrival or visit of a king or emperor.  The Greek word parousia here corresponded to the Latin word "advent", or coming. For example, in memory of the visit of Emperor Nero to the cities of Patras and Corinth, advent coins were struck that carried the legend Adventus Augusti Corinth. The numerous journeyings of the Emperor Hadrian were celebrated by many advent coins, and often new eras were reckoned from date of the parousia. 

Parousia is Greek for ‘presence’, interchangeable with "arrival" or "coming", and is used in the New Testament to refer to the coming of Christ within an eschatological context regarding judgement and resurrection. 

Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash

The early Christian church believed the main elements of the coming of the kingdom of God had already been realised in the life of Jesus and in his death, which had been vindicated by the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15: 23–4). Jesus also foretold the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (Mark 13: 2), which was necessary for the fulfilment of the coming of the kingdom if God. When it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, its place was taken by the crucified and risen Son of Man, who became the new focus of divine presence. This was what St Paul and his contemporaries were waiting for, a kingdom of peace, justice, and love (Romans 14: 17) and for the early Church the most important part of the process had already occurred with Jesus' resurrection. The timing of the remainder was unimportant. 

Parousia can have several interpretations in the context of Advent. It is mainly used in Christian theology to refer to the second coming of Christ, but some scholars use the word to refer to Christ's spiritual presence in a church. The season of Advent is a time of waiting as we prepare to welcome Christ on Christmas Day, so parousia might therefore be interpreted as the coming of Christ into our hearts, our lives, and our community. 
Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

Tree of the Day - SMLT Festival trees

 For our final "Tree of the Day" post, I wanted to include some photos of our fabulous Festival trees, which we will all miss this year. Here's to a better 2021, and ever MORE Christmas trees next year! 

A personal favourite, this simple tree is absolutely stunning.

The popular bird tree in the children's corner - watch out for a new Adam and Eve tree next year!

The Westgate "Rainbows" group tree.

Star of Wonder/ Christmas Giving

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

The Star of Bethlehem appears only in the nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew where "wise men from the East" are inspired by the star to travel to Jerusalem. There, they meet King Herod of Judea, and ask him: 

 "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."

Herod calls his scribes and priests who quote to him a verse from the Book of Micah which states that the Jewish Messiah would be born in Bethlehem to the south of Jerusalem. The star leads them to Jesus' home in the town, where they worship him and give him gifts. 

The Greek word, generally translated as 'star' (αστερα - astera/astra from which we get 'astronomy') can also mean planet, or could refer to other objects such as a comet. There is no mention that the star is particularly bright, and it doesn’t have significance for anyone other than the Magi. However, over the years there have been many possible explanations suggested for this element of the Christmas story, including a comet, supernova, conjunction of planets... but the Star of Bethlehem has become a symbol used across the world.

Make your own Christmas Star decoration

For this you will need to download and print this template. You can then trace around the template on card, and decorate with anything of your choice. The small slits enable the star to be slotted together to make a 3D star.

You can find many more star craft ideas here on Hub Pages. 

Giving gifts at Christmas

One of the reasons we have the custom of giving and receiving presents at Christmas is to remind us of the presents given to Jesus by the Wise Men: Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh. Whilst it is really exciting receiving gifts, thinking of presents to give others can be extremely rewarding, and doesn't need to cost much more than your time. Make some Christmas star biscuits, have fun decorating them and give them to a loved one or friend? 

An even more important reason for giving presents is that we should remember God's gift to us at Christmas. God's gift to humanity was the ultimate gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, and it came in the simplest and humblest of wrappings. One of the most famous Bible verse says: 

"God loved the world so much, that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life." John 3:16

Giving should be so much more than an exchange of gifts, and gratitude is such an important part of Christmas.

You can download this template here to create a Gratitude Acrostic - think of all the things you have to be grateful for, and either list them - one for each letter of the word "Christmas"; or write a gratitude poem starting each line with a letter from "Christmas". 

Do send us pictures of your star creations and your poems, we would love to see what you have been doing and share your efforts with our community! Please send them to 

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Being an Organ Scholar at St Mary le Tower

In addition to several choral scholarships St Mary le Tower offers an Organ Scholarship annually. You can find out more here. An Organ Scholarship provides an excellent opportunity to participate in traditional liturgical music as well as offering accompanying and solo performance experience. 

Our most recent organ scholar, Adam Chillingworth writes about his experiences:-

"I took up the organ scholarship at the beginning of Year 9, and started off by turning pages for William, who was extremely helpful in teaching me what sounds to make and how to support the fantastic choirs at the Tower. After a short time I took on a portion of the playing and it was a great opportunity to learn all the staples of the choral repertoire, as well as some less well-known music on such a fine organ. Chris was always very supportive and encouraging, and was an ideal leader. During lockdown I enjoyed recording hymns for the virtual services and then being allowed back into the church to support Charles and Chris. The outside-of-services experiences that St Mary-le-Tower provided will be remembered for many years to come, notably the annual Messiah concert, and the Oxford Tour in 2019. I would thoroughly recommend the St Mary-le-Tower organ scholarship to any aspiring organist or church musician!"
Adam playing the continuo organ at our 2018 performance of Handel's "Messiah"

Adam is a talented young man who has gone on to win the Advanced Organ category of the Suffolk Festival in 2020, having won "Most Promising Organist" in 2019. A pupil at Norwich School he is now working with Norwich Cathedral. Definitely one to watch for the future!

The St. Mary le Tower Organ
The organ at St. Mary le Tower is a 3-manuel Willis organ. 

The famous 17th century organ builder, Renatus Harris, installed an instrument in the Tower at the West end. This was taken down from a gallery around the middle of the 19th century and broken up some 10 years later. This formed part of a wider rebuilding and restoration programme in the church, including the addition of the tower. Pinned to the North aisle wall is a fragment of the case, giving an impression of the scale of the instrument. 

‘Father’ Henry Willis was commissioned to build a new instrument in the north aisle of the new Chancel. This three-manual, 32 stop instrument forms the heart of the organ used today. In 1931, the organ was rebuilt by Spurden Rutt. This work included some revoicing, the installation of pneumatic action and some layout changes. 

1964 saw a return to the Willis firm. Henry Willis IV converted the action to electric and replaced the console in the style of the firm. The organ grew in size to one of some 42 stops. The 1985 overhaul was undertaken by Bishop & Son, a local firm. Further revoicing of the reeds and mixtures and the addition of some small-scale upper work took place; the action was converted to “Solid State” switching. 

Work in the 21st century has included the refitting of keys and the replacement of the pedal board in 2006 by Bower & Company of Norwich. The organ presently has 46 speaking stops and 2713 pipes. 

Prayer for the Nation - Tuesday


Continuing our lockdown month of Prayer for the Nation, on Tuesday we pray for the elderly, isolated and vulnerable.

We echo God’s commitment to those most at risk of this virus by praying today for those who are particularly vulnerable and isolated: 
praying for their deliverance, protection and comfort. 
We hold before God those who care for them – 
that they would be strengthened and encouraged in this work.

Lord Jesus Christ, in these dark and difficult days, we turn our hearts to you. 
In ages past, you have delivered our nation from disaster. 
Do it again, we pray. 
Give wisdom beyond human wisdom to our leaders, 
Give strength beyond human strength to the NHS and all our frontline workers. 
Give comfort beyond human comfort to the elderly and all who grieve. 
Lord Jesus Christ, in these dark and difficult days, turn your face towards us, have mercy upon us, and heal our land, we pray. 

Tales of the past

You might have heard of "The Hold", near Ipswich waterfront. Predominantly funded by a £10.3m National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, when fully open it will house the majority of Suffolk Archive's collections, as well as providing facilities for the University of Suffolk, which contributed to the project, and other public spaces including a café, shop and exhibition gallery. The Hold will replace Suffolk Archives Ipswich branch on Gatacre Road in west Ipswich. 

As the University website says:- 

"The Hold is the flagship new heritage facility for Suffolk located on the University of Suffolk Ipswich campus. With more than 900 years of the county's rich and diverse history to discover, this exciting new building will allow people of all ages and backgrounds to step inside and discover more about where they live and their own heritage. The Hold will be open to everyone, offering not only archives specific services in the searchroom, library, and education room, but also state-of-the-art public facilities and teaching spaces for staff and students from the University of Suffolk. An exhibition gallery, café, shop and garden will complete the visitor experience. "

The Hold is the home of the Suffolk Archives, Ipswich branch and is also where our very own Bridget Hanley works! Suffolk Archives have some lockdown activity suggestions for young and old here. One particularly interesting suggestion is recording life in lockdown. We have such a good understanding of the recent past because there is a wealth of information available to study. The further you go back in time, the more challenging it is to research and gain a real "feel" for past times. Recording our struggles in lockdown today is literally creating History - your account will contribute to future generations understanding of the pandemic and how it affected ordinary people.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

History at St Mary le Tower

Here at the Tower we had a lady make contact with us last month, regarding a framed picture she had bought at a jumble sale near Birmingham, Alabama, USA. The picture was of a brass from a church, and the label on the back of the frame said it was of a lawyer, 1475, from St Mary le Tower in Ipswich. It turned out this was a brass of a Robert Wimbell, a "notary public". He commissioned the memorial brass with a prayer to the Trinity across his breast. It is in our chancel, currently underneath the chancel carpet. How bizarre that the picture should end up on the other side of the Atlantic!


Non alcoholic Christmas drinks

Christmas time is the time to eat, drink and be merry. However not everyone wants, or is able to drink alcohol. There is no need to miss out on festive beverages however, these 3 alcohol free drinks have the flavour and fun of a festive drink without the alcohol!

1) Spiced Apple syrup with clementine and cloves

  • 200ml apple juice 
  • 1 cinnamon stick 
  • 1 tsp whole allspice 
  • 1 mace blade 
  • 2 whole cloves 
  • small strip fresh ginger 
  • 1 clementine 
  • zest finely peeled with a vegetable peeler 
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • Heat the apple juice with the whole spices, ginger, zest and sugar. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 mins. 
  • Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then strain the syrup into small bottles.

2) Eggnog

Homemade Eggnog from "Mel's Kitchen"
NB this recipe does not include raw eggs and is safe for children. 

It's definitely advisable to grate your own nutmeg, which gives a significantly better flavour!

  • 6 large egg yolks 
  • 4 oz/115 grams granulated sugar 
  • 240 mls double cream 
  • 500 mls milk 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light and creamy. 
  • In a saucepan, bring the cream, milk, nutmeg and salt to a bare simmer, stirring often. 
  • Slowly ladle in half of the hot milk to the egg mixture, whisking vigorously to avoid little bits of cooked egg. 
  • Ladle in the rest of the milk, whisking vigorously the entire time. Do this until all the hot milk has been added to the eggs and the mixture is well combined. 
  • Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan of milk on the hob, whisking quickly, and cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until it reaches 70 degrees C on a thermometer. 
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. 
  • Pour the eggnog into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. 
  • Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Tip:- This recipe is a little more challenging, since you have to avoid the egg cooking in lumps.

3. Non alcoholic mulled wine

This is another BBC Good Food recipe, and very easy.
Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash

  • 500ml pomegranate juice 
  • 25g golden caster sugar 
  • handful of frozen blackberries 
  • 250ml apple juice 
  • 1 cinnamon stick 
  • 1 star anise 
  • 4 cloves 
  • 3 black peppercorns 1
  •  orange, quartered

  • Put the pomegranate juice, sugar, blackberries and apple juice in a saucepan. Add the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, peppercorns and orange. Heat gently until simmering. Taste for sweetness, then strain into heatproof glasses.

Gaudete or Refreshment Sunday

The third Sunday in Advent is "Refreshment Sunday", also known as Gaudete Sunday, and this year it falls on 13th December. 

"The season of Advent originated as a fast of 40 days in preparation for Christmas, commencing on the day after the feast of Saint Martin (11 November), and was originally called Saint Martin's Lent, a name by which it was known as early as the fifth century. In the ninth century, the duration of Advent was reduced to four weeks (a period starting four Sundays before Christmas), and Advent preserved most of the characteristics of a penitential season, which made it a kind of counterpart to Lent. Gaudete Sunday is a counterpart to Laetare Sunday, and provides a similar break about midway through a season which is otherwise of a penitential character, and signifies the nearness of the Lord's coming." (Wikipedia) 

On Gaudete Sunday rose-coloured vestments may be worn instead of violet which is otherwise prescribed for every day in the season of Advent, and it is therefore also known as "Rose Sunday". Rose is the liturgical colour for joy. In churches that have an Advent wreath, the rose-coloured candle is lit in addition to two of the violet candles, which represent the first two Sundays of Advent. Despite the otherwise sombre readings of the season of Advent, which recognises the need for penitence in anticipation, the readings on the third Sunday emphasises the joyous anticipation of the Lord's coming.

An advent wreath with three purple candles and the rose coloured candle to represent joy.

Gaudete means “rejoice”. and it is a reminder that the Advent season is a season of joy because our salvation is already at hand. To have a Sunday of rejoicing in the midst of the traditional Advent fast is not simply a concession to human weakness. It serves to correct spiritual pride, reminding those who fast that the whole of the Christian life is a matter of grace. John the Baptist reminds us that salvation is a gift of grace, it is not bestowed on us in return for penitence. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved, it requires no external conditions, unlike happiness. 
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” Philippians 4:4-5
Advent is a time of watching, waiting and listening, remembering and anticipating, renewal and wonder. On Gaudete Sunday we should rejoice in the unconditional love of God, as we anticipate the fulfilment of his gift of love at Christmas.

Tree of the Day - Cats in Christmas Trees!

It's well known that many cats find Christmas trees irresistible! Two choir families in our community own ginger cat brothers Leo and Sunny. Both are fascinated with Christmas trees, although Leo is probably too big to sit IN the tree this year!

Above is Sunny, owned by Matilda and Veronica Cutting. 
Below is Leo, his long-haired brother, owned by Kitty and Archie Thompson. 

It seems cats in Christmas Trees is a "thing" on the internet, so if you fancy viewing more, click the cat below!

On thing is certain, those of us with cats get to put up the Christmas tree more than once a year. 
Most mornings in fact....

The Nativity Story

Advent is a time of preparation, of remembering and of hope. It is a time of traditions, as is Christmas. Of story telling and connecting. Traditions and stories are really important ways that people remain connected to a community, because they are a means of sharing the past, living together in the present and considering the future. They are a bit like the "glue" that holds everyone together! You are no doubt familiar with the Nativity Story, of the journey Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem and the birth of the infant Jesus in the stable. The story of Jesus' life is the story which holds Christianity together and connects Christians all over the world.

The Nativity Story on the "Topmarks" blog. 

There are many ways to share the nativity story during Advent and Christmas. The link above is to an online version. I have also linked to another version on the  "Why Christmas" site in previous posts. 
(Both are suitable for children but it's always recommended to be with your child whilst they are online. 
In any case, it's always lovely to share stories!)

Below is another Christmas Story to share, and at the end a game to make your own!

"The Quietest Time of the Year" by Karl Heinrich Waggerl (Austrian poet, 1897 – 1973
This traditional German story has been kindly translated by Isolde Cutting, a member of the Ladies' Choir and former Choir Assistant.

When I was a boy, Advent began for me with my mother getting me out of bed one morning, far earlier than usual. The verger was always ringing the quarter bell already, when I finally, half dreaming, stumbled to the church. Nowhere a light in the bitterly cold darkness, and often I had to fight my way through the snow with my hands and feet, as, of course, not a soul had been out before me. 

In the vestry the verger was kneeling in front of the oven and was blowing into the embers, so that at least the Holy Water would thaw in its kettle. But of course there was no time for me to warm my fingers, the priest was already waiting for me to put my cassock and surplice on, so that I could process in front of him with the bell. 

In the church it was bitterly cold too. The flames of the altar candles stood motionless as if frozen, and only when the door opened and wind and snow burst in, the lights flickered, startled. The church folk quickly pressed the door shut again, they shuffled laboriously into the pews. Then they stuck their Advent candle on the shelf in front and folded their hands around the warming light. 

In the meantime I lugged the mass book back and forth and rang the bell at the appropriate time. And when I was required to kneel for a bit longer, I may have fallen asleep again. Then, the priest would audibly clear his throat, to wake me up. 

He alone was undeterred by any discomfort. “Rorate coeli” he prayed loudly and fervently. "Thaw, oh heaven, the just." 

And then, suddenly, everything was deeply moving again, and beautiful and festive, the shimmering twilight in the nave, the white steam of breath from the mouths of the people, when they answered the priest, and he himself steadfast in the dignity of the good shepherd. 

Afterwards, the three of us would stand behind the oven in the vestry. The verger rattled the cast iron pan and lifted the lid and fed us all with roasted chestnuts. I hopped from one foot to another, and even the priest rolled the hot chestnuts around in his mouth for a while. 

Maybe it was no sin, if I meanwhile quickly calculated, how long it would take, until, at Christmas, the priest would press my wages into my hand, one whole guilder.

Perhaps you would like to make your own Christmas story? For this activity you need a die, or 3 dice if you want to do all three rolls in one go! Click on the picture below to find the download link and instructions. We would love to read your stories once they are finished, send them to .