Prayer when lighting a candle in church.
Lord, this candle that I have lit,
May it be LIGHT from you
To lighten my way
Through difficulties and decisions.
May it be FIRE from you to burn up my selfishness,
my pride and all that is impure within me.
May it be a FLAME from you to warm my heart
and teach me love,
Lord, I cannot stay long in your house,
This candle is a little bit of myself
that I offer to You.
Help me to continue my prayer
In all that I do this day.
From a prayer used in the Cathedral of Tours
The "Ten Commandments" (also called the "Decalogue") obviously come from the Hebrew Bible, but it is not so obvious to determine exactly what they are or how to count them. These commandments are recorded in two different biblical chapters (Exodus 20:1-17 & Deuteronomy 5:6-21), yet each text is slightly different, and neither passage explicitly numbers the commandments one through ten.
Although there are actually more than ten imperative verbs (at least 15) in each of these texts, several other biblical passages refer specifically to the "ten words" or "ten statements" (Heb: aseret ha-dibrot; Gk: deka logoi) that God gave to Moses (Exod 34:28; Deut 4:13; 10:4). In several books of the New Testament, Jesus, Paul, or other apostles quote some of the Jewish commandments, both from the Decalogue and from other parts of the Torah, although they never ennumerate a list of exactly ten.
Most Christians believe that the Ten Commandments form the core of God's Law (the "Torah" or "Instruction" given by God through Moses, in the first five books of the Bible). Yet these are far from the only commandments contained in the Hebrew Bible. Rabbinic Jewish tradition maintains that the Torah contains a total of 613 commandments ("mitzvot"): 248 positive ones (injunctions, what one must do) and 365 negative ones (prohibitions, what one must avoid).
Moreover, in Jewish understanding, all 613 mitzvot are equally important, so the Decalogue is not really considered the "core"; ritual and dietary commandments are considered just as important as theological or ethical commands. If you break any one of them, you've broken God's Law. When Jesus is asked which of the commandments is the first or most important, he does not quote the Decalogue directly, but rather combines quotations from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (love God; the "Shema" of Judaism) and Leviticus 19:18 (love your neighbor).
As a result of all the discrepancies, Jews, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and other Protestants have subdivided and numbered the Decalogue differently over the centuries. Jews, Orthodox Christians, and most Protestants more closely follow the version of Exodus 20, while Catholics more closely follow the version of Deuteronomy 5.
History of the Church
This ancient church stands on gently rising ground overlooking the River Alde. Its antiquity is confirmed by Saxon features clearly evident in the tower's flint work. But some believe it is even older and they suggest it was originally built by a Count of the Saxon Shore as a defensive structure to cover the ford and its river below. We do know that small barges could sail upstream as far as Laxfield until Napoleonic times. It is intriguing to reflect that if the tower were indeed used to watch for raiders sailing up-river from the coast, about 15 km away, this would make it a kind of Romano-British version of the radar towers at nearby Bawdsey which also monitored the arrival of unwelcome visitors in more recent years!
The church's patron saint is St. Peter and there is evidence to indicate that at one time the church's dedication included St. Mary who shares the Victorian stained glass in the east window with him. This would be entirely consistent with the fact that the Bruisyard nunnery was dedicated to St. Mary (of the) Annunciation.
The Norman north door has been blocked for many years.
The nave has a simple arch-braced roof. The braces from the principals to the ridge are ornamented with small carved figures.
The icons fixed to the rood beam represent St Francis and St. Clare. They were made by the present-day Poor Clares at Arundel and given to this church in an exchange of presents to mark the new millennium.
The rood stair is encased in a massive buttress behind the simple wainscot pulpit dated to the 18th century. This pulpit has a tester which works remarkably well to amplify the preacher's voice. The fine set of Laudian altar rails, now fixed at the chancel step, were moved from their original position presumably when the pulpit was installed. The present altar rails are clearly Victorian.
The altar itself is a simple Jacobean table.
The south window, near the pulpit, with its pleasant brick mullions and tracery, has quaintly dated graffiti scratched into the glass by a glazier who, hopefully, could glaze better than he could write.
The font dates from the 15th century and is typical of the kind often seen in Suffolk churches. Its bowl is ornamented with shields and the shaft supported by seated lions. The bowl was split, in centuries gone by, when a staple was driven into the stone to provide for a locked font-cover. The present cover is modern.
In the nave is displayed a set of Royal Arms which, it is proudly claimed, must be he worst executed in England! Painted on rough sacking, it is some sort of approximation to the Arms of the House of Hanover before the Treaty of Amiens (1802) when it was agreed that the lilies of France should no longer be incorporated in the Arms of England.
In the south wall of the chancel there is a simple ogee-headed piscina. It is still in regular use, as is the impressive silver communion plate bearing the date 1564.
Two duchesses of the House of Plantagenet who died in the nunnery of the Poor Clares at Bruisyard lie buried beneath the nave floor; only the matrices of their small brasses remain. Also buried here is their first president, Fr. Simon Tunstead who died in 1369. A professor at Oxford and the 23rd Provincial of the Franciscan Friars Minor, he must have had a wide knowledge of Franciscan houses throughout England, yet he chose this tiny abbey as his final resting place. These burials, with others, were probably relocated to the church following the dissolution of the nunnery.
The church's south transept, long used as a vestry but presently (2004) being converted for use as a parish room, was built as a funerary chapel in the reign of Elizabeth I, incorporating material from the nunnery. Its builder was Michael Hare, a staunch Catholic and one-time privy councillor to Queen Mary. He was the son of Nicholas Hare who had acquired the convent's land and buildings from King Henry following the dissolution. He and two of his wives are buried here. The brass of his effigy is missing but the brasses of the two ladies are there, providing excellent examples of what the well-dressed lady was wearing in 1611. The splendid Tudor hall, complete with a priest's hole, was built by him on the site of the nunnery about 1 km east of the church. It is now a popular conference and holiday centre.
The parish bier is housed in the old Hare chapel and on an adjacent wall is an interesting set of the Ten Commandments printed on paper and dated 1794. Here, Aaron's robes appear to be an accurate reconstruction from the Book of Exodus - but Joshua seems to have stepped straight out of a Cecil B. de Mille epic film about ancient Rome!
The round, inexplicably tapered flint tower with massive walls, whose base has been converted to serve as a vestry, houses one modern bell. It was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and hung here at the beginning of this millennium. Given in memory of a former parishoner, it rings out from a belfry which once housed three medieval bells.
The church used to have a finely embroidered 13th century psalter, known as the Felbrigge Psalter, used by one of the nuns at Bruisyard. The oldest known English embroidery on a book, this is now in the British Library (MS Sloane 2400). Its covers may well have been the work of the nuns here, but it was probably written and illuminated in Northern France in the mid-13th century. It belonged originally to Sister Anne Felbrigge, whose father was standard bearer to Richard II and whose mother was a cousin of Richard's queen, Anne of Bohemia. The psalter carries a note recording its transfer to the convent on the death of Sister Anne. Two embroidered panels, depicting the Annunciation and the Crucifixion, are set into the binding of the manuscript and, although very worn, the embroidery is a fine example of Opus Anglicanum (English work). The panels are worked in coloured silks and silver gilt thread on a twofold linen ground (a fine upper layer over a thicker lower one). The stitches used are split stitch for the silk whilst the metal threads are surface-couched on the background in a chevron pattern. This method of attaching the threads was very rare in England at this time. A close inspection of the remaining metal threads shows their construction: a thin layer of silver gilt wound around a core of silver thread. Where the coloured silk threads survive they show various shades of greens, blues and grey, browns, fawn and white, and a striking deep rose pink. For further information about this and other English embroidered bookbindings visit: http://www.bl.uk/collections/early/embin2a.html
The Poor Clares, so called because they took the vow of poverty seriously, were introduced into England by Blanche, Queen of Navarre, the wife of Edward, Earl of Lancaster at the end of the 13th century. The Convent of Minoresses at Bruisyard in Suffolk was founded in October1367 by Lionel the Duke of Clarence, brother to the Black Prince. He replaced a short-lived chantry priests' college which is remembered in the name of the nearby College Farm by nuns of the Order of St. Clare. It was the fourth foundation of this order in England, the first (1293-4) being in the parish of St Botolph's at Aldgate in London on the site now called the Minories. The second foundation was at Waterbeach near Cambridge and the third at Denny in the same district. It is interesting to note that thirteen sisters from Denny formed the first community at Bruisyard. These Minoresses were allowed to own property in common but kept enclosure: `… each woman who shall be brought to this order for to nyze (draw nigh) to our Lord Jesus Christ and to His full sweet Mother should dwell all the days of her life enclosed as a treasure kept to the sovereign king.' They were under the authority of the Friars Minor who provided them with chaplains and confessors. They wore a brown habit, white kerchief and black veil. Bruisyard was always a small house and their annual revenues were valued at £56. 12s. 1d. when suppressed in 1542 after a licenced reprieve of three years granted by Henry VIII. This income was derived from lands, tenements and rents in places as far afield as Debenham and Sawston. Interestingly, there is some evidence that the nunnery lived on as a clandestine community of at least four ex-nuns who were sheltered by the Hare family. We do know that a continuing loyalty to the outlawed Catholic faith brought the recusant Michael into conflict with the authorities more than once!
This information is intended to help visitors learn more about this historic church and some of the people connected with it in years gone by. But of course the church is not simply an ancient monument: it is also a centre of lively worship for local Christians in these challenging times. Visitors will find a friendly welcome awaiting them at any of our services. Details of Sunday services may be found elsewhere on this web site. Those who visit the church are invited to light a votive candle in the chancel to mark a prayer, intention or remembrance and to post the name of anyone they would like prayers for on the board within the blocked north doorway. And there is a standing invitation to offer a prayer for those who worship or minister here. .