IT'S OFFICIAL ... The 61 bus will be in full operation from January 3rd to replace the old 261 route linking the communities of Blackmore, Hook End, Wyatts Green, Doddinghurst, Pilgrims Hatch and Brentwood
Wednesday, 4 January 2017
Saturday, 31 December 2016
ESAH160: Lost Landscapes. Reconstructing Medieval Essex. Es...: The Essex Record Office in partnership with the Essex Place Names Project and the Essex Society for Archaeology and History present a co...
Friday, 30 December 2016
ESAH160: Essex Journal. Autumn 2016. (Vol. 51. No. 2): Includes an article on the Chelmsford Planning Survey and the development of the High Chelmer precinct after the Second World War.
Thursday, 29 December 2016
High Country History Group: Journal No. 62 (December 2016): The latest Journal of the High Country History Group contains the following items: - Greensted Hall, the Seat of Captain Budworth - ...
Wednesday, 28 December 2016
High Country History Group: Journal No. 61 (September 2016): The quarterly Journal of the High Country History Group contains the following items: - Green Man Public House, Toot Hill - an update -...
Tuesday, 27 December 2016
High Country History Group: Journal No. 60 (June 2016): The quarterly Journal of the High Country History Group contains the following: - The sad story of Mr Mikkish - World War II Airfiel...
Monday, 26 December 2016
In his 1985 letter the Revd. Montague Knott, on his retirement, wondered whether it would be his last Christmas letter. His final Christmas letter on file was 1994 but be lived to the age of 100 passing away in 2006. His funeral service was held at St Laurence Church, Blackmore.
In 1986 he wrote, from his new home in Ingatestone,”My beloved Blackmore and its people are only minutes away by car. My successor in the cure of souls in Blackmore and Stondon Massey is Martin Sellix, an able man, who, with his charming wife Pam, is making an impact. He is helped by John Fleetwood, a retired cleric, who formerly gave me such valuable help”. The highlight of his year was a three-and-a-half week trip to the Republic of China, Hong Kong and Thailand.
Despite being an octogenarian, he still owned a car in 1987 which he described as “a must” for “filling in at different churches within a radius of 10-15 miles”. He continued to take baptisms, weddings and funerals “with great joy”. On 8th November he began to take responsibility for Fryerning parish during its interregnum with the parish service of Remembrance. Of Blackmore, he reported, “My successor to the living at Blackmore is doing an excellent job. Blackmore has suffered severely recently through a cloudburst that caused a flash flood putting the village centre and the church under three feet of water [August]. The damage must run into tens of thousands of pounds. Only a week or so after we had the hurricane force winds which also did great damage to buildings and the trees [October]”.
In 1988 “Canon Hudson, who was Rector of Ingatestone when I moved to Blackmore in 1957, has announced his decision to retire from Ingatestone and Buttsbury on the Feast of St Edmund, 20th November. A decision has been made to create a team ministry of the parishes of Ingatestone, Buttsbury, Fryerning and Margaretting, with a team rector and an assistant priest. The Reverend Philip Coulton has had the care of a group of parishes in the Diocese of Lincoln and he to be made Priest in Charge of the four parishes until his assistant is found. Philip Coulton is coming to us in February next”. He added that “Serving the congregation and parish of Fryerning has been a joy”. Of Blackmore “Martin Sellix has been building up the congregation. From time to time I find myself back in Blackmore, generally visiting friends. The head teacher of the County Primary School, Mr Howard Jones, with whom I worked as Chairman of the Governers for a number of years, retired at the end of last term. … Peter Hunt, who was my Lay Reader for years at Blackmore, is moving to Ingatestone. It will be pleasant to see more of him and his wife Joy. … Peter was invited to become Pastor of the Baptist Congregation in Blackmore, which he has done. It seems that both congregations in Blackmore are growing”.
In 1989, Montagu Knott reported that after a very short retirement, Canon Edward Hudson, “died of cancer and a service of thanksgiving was held on Monday 16th January last”. Christopher Martin came to Fryerning and Margaretting to be Team Vicar, joining Philip Coulton, Team Rector at Ingatestone and Buttsbury.
By 1990 Montagu Knott regarded Fryerning as his own church for worship. “Speaking of parish churches, my successor as Vicar of Blackmore, Rev. Martin Sellix seems to be doing an excellent job. There was a flash flood which brought 3 feet of water into the church. Then later came wind damage to the roof which had to be re-tiled. The refurbishment has been costly but has been excellently carried out”.
More clergy changes were reported in the 1991 letter. Christopher Martin was moving in the New Year from Fryerning and Margaretting to the Diocese of St Albans. “The Church of England is having to reduce the number of its paid clergy”. Soon Mountnessing would be added to the overall charge of Philip Coulton.
1992: “I keep in touch with Sister Pamplin who nursed my dear wife in her last illness. We meet several times in the course of a year. Pam acts as deputy to the warden of a block of flats occupied by elderly people”. At Fryerning, Revd. John D. Brown had been appointed incumbent for a period of five years.
In 1993 having passed his 88th birthday he wrote, “I have given up taking services. My memory lets me down. I am able to attend church locally on a regular basis and value the fellowship I receive”. Of Blackmore, “From time to time I meet up with The Jericho 60+ Club, which I helped to found in Blackmore when I was Parish Priest. I try to join their day trips to places of interest as well as occasional visits to the club’s ordinary meetings. My friend Joan Hobbs, who is a leading light in Blackmore and Chair of the Jericho 60+ Club, also a founder member, keeps very active and kindly helps me to retain my links with the club”.
Sunday, 25 December 2016
1 Wadham Close, Ingatestone, Essex. CM4 0DL
19 Christmas 85
The address above will be the first signification to many of the change in my situation. For the last twenty-eight years my Christmas letter to relatives and friends has been written in the study in Blackmore Vicarage. This comes to tell you that what I anticipated in last year’s letter has come about in a way that reveals to me God’s gracious provision and leads me to exclaim, as did the Psalmist, “The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Psalm 16:6. I resigned my incumbency of the United Benefice of Blackmore and Stondon Massey at midnight on the 2nd June and moved from the Vicarage into the pleasing bungalow in which I now live on 18th July.
The Churchwardens of the two parishes, who are responsible officers during an interregnum, and others, have done an excellent job in keeping things going well until the Rev. Martin Sellix, the newly appointed incumbent, is installed on the 17th January 1986. I have met my successor on two occasions for a chat and feel that he will prove the right man for Blackmore and Stondon Massey. My prayer has been and will continue to be, that Christ our Saviour will be glorified through priest and people of the United Benefice.
Moving out of Blackmore was a rather traumatic experience after twenty-eight years during which I saw the population grow from 1,500 to well over 4,000 and the character of its people change from rural to a largely commuter-belt type. Stondon Massey has some 600 population but I have always felt close to Stondon and caring for its people over the last five years has been a special joy. When a person surrenders his charge he is expected to keep out of his former parish while the new incumbent gets settled in, which is why I sought a home in Ingatestone where I’d be near enough for my Blackmore and Stondon friends to visit me without any real inconvenience. Especially as the four mile drive is a very pretty one.
Ingatestone calls itself a village. It must be one of the largest in Essex. It has excellent shopping facilities in a single high street. The neighbouring ecclesiastical parish of Fryerning is joined to make the civil parish of Ingatestone and Fryerning, with a population of 4423. The surrounding countryside is unduloting and very pleasing to the eye. There are a good many largish houses around. We have the Anglo-European School and a primary school, also a church school. The first is a comprehensive school which came into being when we joined the Common Market. It has a very good name. Ingatestone Parish Church of St. Mary and Edmund, in the care of Canon Edward Hudson, is linked with the adjoining Parish Church of St. Mary, Buttsbury. Fryerning’s Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, in the care of the .Rev. John Gravelle is else linked with an adjoining parish, St. Margaret, Margaretting. It seems likely that I shall be asked to take services in all four churches. I have already done so at Ingatestone and Fryerning.
I live in a cul-de-sac of well-designed bungalows for pensioners. The neighbours I've met are charming. Each bungalow has a small turfed lawn in front with a centre path, to the front door. This opens into a passage with a good sized kitchen on the left. I have a nice outlook from the large window. A small but adequate bathroom opens on the right. At the end of the passage on the right is my bedroom-com-study with a largish window looking onto the garden. On the left of the bedroom in the lounge which again is roomy. Beside other gifts on my retirement, the two parishes presented me with cheques amounting to more than £1,300. I have spent the whole of it on equipping and beautifying my home so that wherever I look I have evidence of the love and care of my former parishioners. In many ways my life-style has not changed. I still rise at 5 a.m. or just: after, with half an hour at exercises and another in half hour at my devotions before bathing and breakfast. Most days I get an hour’s walking around the pretty lanes; which spread in all directions. I have had the privilege of taking quite a number of services. This keeps me, metaphorically, on my knees and on my toes at the same time. I have also taken nine weddings but I am free from the stress of administration and the "Always available" commitment. I felt the time had come to retire before it became evident that the job was beyond me.
By the time this letter comes into the hands of most of its readers I shall have passed into my 81st year and ninth decade. Even as I write, my mind is full of gratitude to God for my present well-being and the opportunity to serve him and my saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. During the weeks preceding my day of retirement different sections of the two communities marked the event with parties and presentations. I had a tremendous surprise at the Village Fayre Weekend in Blackmore to see my much loved, long-time friends, Bernie and Ruth Aldridge from Peterborough in Ontario, Canada, present. Bernie, as ever, busy with his camera. It was he who opened the way for me to introduce the work of the Gideons into this country.
Each year more and more friends of long standing are leaving this earthly life. A loss I feel keenly is that of Bishop A.W. Goodwin Hudson, who died in September. A godly and gifted man of many Christian interests to all of which he brought insight and sound judgement. As often as not he and his wife and I would meet for an over-night stay in Town. We were born in the same year.
The succession of farewell occasions consequent upon my retirement have involved me in little speeches of appreciation and thanks for kindness shown, suitably apposite I hope. I do not know, whether or not this will be the last of my Christmas letters but I feel it is the point at which I should record my appreciation for the constant friendship, understanding support and helpful counsel received over many years from relatives and friends. I am grateful to you all, so may I indulge in another "little speech" with which to draw my letter to a close.
Reverting to my opening paragraph and the Psalmist's declaration 'Yea, I have a goodly heritage" what gladdened my heart during the period following my conversion in 1922 was the belief that, beside being a truly forgiven sinner, my Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, had secured in addition to God's pardon, a rich heritage that would suffice for all eternity. Though my joy in that heritage has waxed and waned at times, my certainty of it never. The written testimony of the Holy Bible, the inner witness of the Holy Spirit and personal involvement in the service of Christ and his Church have built into my experience for 63 years a certainty that God, our Maker, can be known, in the Lord Jesus Christ, on a personal basis. Clouds of fear and uncertainty are overshadowed so much of our world today that we do well to consider what the future holds when our physical bodies have served their turn and are laid aside and the spirit returns to our God who gave it being. It is easy in a world that so engages our senses and to lose sight of the personal responsibility we have towards God. Jesus said, “I tell you everyone will have to give account on the day of judgement”. The Apostle Peter confirms this in a letter to the early Church when he writes of those who exclude God from their lives, saying, “They will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead”. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome and declared, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. The restitution Christ made for our sins fully met the Father’s righteous claims against the sinner. Moving into my 81st year I see my part as living with a sensitivity as regards sin that will keep me ready to repent of what is wrong in thought, word or deed and just as ready to receive the forgiveness that will enable me to enjoy my heavenly Father’s approval. This is my prayer for all I know.
With my news I send you my affectionate regards and the wish that your Christmas will be a happy one and your New Year rich with blessings from our loving heavenly Father.
Montague H. Knott
Saturday, 24 December 2016
Friday, 23 December 2016
The Vicarage Blackmore Essex CM4 0RN
19 Christmas 83
Starting this 27th Christmas Letter from Blackmore Vicarage with last year's letter before me, the expression "Promise & Fulfilment" comes to mind. The promise of two months sabbatical leave for a visit to North America in 1983 had a wonderful fulfilment in August and September. Beginning in Ottawa on 2nd August I moved by car, plane, train and ferry all the way across Canada to Vancouver. Except in Ottawa, I passed from home to home and carry treasured memories of Bernie and Ruth Aldridge, Bill and Rosemary Rognvaldson, Herb and Hilda Wheally, Liz Miles and Rick Wilson, Tony and Joan Griffiths, and lastly, Logan and Lily Miles. All treated me with kind hospitality, each stay was memorable. A month in Canada was followed by a month in the States which ended with a stay on Long Island, New York as guest of Adrian and Christine Alley.
It proved no handicap not to have friends to contact in the States. My clerical collar brought many contacts. People were friendly and easy to talk to. A meeting of eyes and a smile led to a lovely meal with two charming ladies and a night tour of Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. A New Yorker met on a five day tour proved an engaging companion. We met again in New York before my flight home.
There is insufficient space in this letter even to outline the scenic wonders that met my eyes but the Rockies in Canada and the Grand Canyon in the States stand out as the most impressive. You can imagine my sense of gratitude to my parish for making this holiday possible and for raising £900 to cover the round trip air fare. Also for the way church officers and others cared for the parish during my absence. The major responsibility fell upon my good friend the Rev. John Fleetwood aided by Joan, his wife. In both Stondon Massey and Blackmore the congregations appreciated the ministry and pastoral care of this retired colleague who lives in Blackmore. Everything was in apple-pie order when I returned.
The Anglicans and Baptists continue to work together with young people. Staffing is a perennial problem. Our Baptist friends are putting a new floor into their church and meanwhile are holding their services in Blackmore Parish Church. A theological student is serving as a trainee pastor to the Baptists for a year before going to theological college. He is a welcome addition to the Baptist Team. The jointly held fortnightly prayer meeting is growing. The fortnightly bible study has become three house groups, which we hope will increase in number. The Mothers' Union is a small group but the Young Families Group is flourishing and now supports a monthly morning communion. Blackmore Wives has revived with an expressed desire to be church related. The Family Service each month is attended by the newly formed Scout Cub Troop as well as by the Brownies and Covenanters.
In May, my duties as official escort to Mrs Joan Hobbs while she was Chairman of Brentwood District Council, came to an end. I found it an interesting, instructive and rewarding experience and in some ways I miss it.
Because of my absence in North America I was not able to organise Gift Days in our two parishes but whilst I was away Blackmore held a Flower Festival featuring September Saints which was well attended and much appreciated. Days later Stondon Massey held its annual See Stondon Church Exhibition. Despite rainy periods the exhibition was well attended and the stalls well patronised. We are fortunate in having two such lovely 12th century churches as the Priory Church of St. Laurence and St. Peter & St. Paul in which to feature the occasions I have described. Mention of the three Christian communities in our united benefice is a reminder that distinctive traditions and firmly held convictions in respect of doctrine do not hinder a loving and mutually supportive relationship in the Church's outreach to the community.
That last word brings me naturally to speak of our two senior citizens clubs. One meeting at the Ex Servicemen's Club seems to be in danger of closing whilst the Jericho 60+ Club is a growing and going concern. Our Blackmore Primary School and the P.N.E.U. School at Stondon are going well. The Deputy Head at Blackmore is leaving to take up a Headship at Broxbourne so we shall need a replacement. The Blackmore Players continue-to entertain with three productions a year. The stage setting and acting seem to me of a high order. The Stondon Singers who specialise in the music of William Byrd have had an encouraging year. They were asked to sing Evensong in Ely Cathedral not long ago and their music was appreciated. The usual village events took place, the Village Fayre Weekend and the Bonfire & Fireworks Display on Guy Fawkes Day.
As I write these lines we are in the Autumn of the year. Trees are beginning to look threadbare and they picture to me the autumn of life. In two years time I shall move from being a septuagenarian to becoming an octogenarian. A number of people who were meaningful friends have surrendered their mortal lives during this year past and I feel the poorer and lonelier for their going. It has to be that way or it would signify that those friendships were not what friendship should be. One wonders whether our world is not itself in an autumn experience. There is so much that suggests decay, breakdown and a summer passed. At a human level and in the realm of the spirit our world is a battlefield. The cry on every hand is for peace. The Bible itself echoes the cry. Jeremiah accused the rulers of his people saying, "They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace, when there is no peace'." It is wonderful for the Christian who hears the voice of God when he reads the Bible and hears too, Jesus saying "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." World peace begins in heaven, in the heart of Jesus and on earth it begins in your heart and mine when Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, lives there.
I began with the expression "Promise and Fulfilment". In the closing message of the Bible, the Revelation, the Lord Jesus makes a promise. "I will make a new heaven and a new earth." Patching up will not do. The old must be completely done away with. Something altogether new and free from the self-destructive elements of the old. It has begun already for those in whose experience the Christ has already established the "Kingdom of God within you". The promise is in process of being fulfilled but we look for a complete and unending fulfilment in a time still future, for our long-suffering Creator God is giving men time for a change of mind and an amendment of life. This letter will go to those who are dear to me by the ties of nature and friendship. Some may need to use the time given by God in his patience for such a change of mind, for such an amendment of life.
I send my affectionate regards and good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
Montague H. Knott
Thursday, 22 December 2016
Essex CM4 0RN
19 Christmas 82
A special interest attaches to this year's letter for more than one reason. It is not only the 26th from Blackmore Vicarage but it marks the year when I came to my 25th anniversary as Vicar of Blackmore Also it heralds a year when I hope to take an extended holiday in Canada and the U.S.A. In the late 40's and early 50's I visited North America a number of times and made friendships with a number of people. Friendships sustained through the post. Inevitably the passing years have seen the passing of a number of these erstwhile friends but some remain and I shall do my best to see them. Then, some of those I have married have crossed the Atlantic and settled and I hope to see them also.
On the 16th July, a little ahead of my 25th Anniversary date, the 25th, the Parish marked the occasion in a way that took me by surprise. They arranged a "This is your life" event in our fine Village Hall. The Rev. John Fleetwood, retired and living in Blackmore, took the part of Eamon Andrews and uncovered my life from birth and baptism to the present. People who had shared experiences in life with me over some fifty years were back stage to present themselves on cue. I was in an emotional whirl for days after and goodness knows what my parishioners thought as they learned what I'd been up to during my fifty two years before coming to Blackmore. The icing on the cake, so to speak, was the arrangement of a two months sabbatical holiday in August and September 1983 with a gift of £700 towards my travel.
One reason for this letter is to let you know that 1982 has been a year of grace for me. Our Lord Jesus has made himself increasingly precious. He has seen to it that I've had no idle moments and has blessed me with health to cope with parish and pastoral responsibilities. I suppose my years would mark me as in the autumn of life, although to me it feels like high summer, but my contemporaries are fewer and the year has brought the loss of quite a few parishioners I counted as my friends. Among the menfolk too many succumb to coronaries. I suppose that in our competitive world men are stressed in a way that women are not and so we have a number of widows with teenage children. These bereavements leave me with a real sense of personal loss. On the other hand there are newcomers who seem to settle in quickly and happily. I can understand this for ours is a happy community.
The Parish of Stondon Massey has been part of my spiritual charge for three years now and a rewarding experience it has been. The parish church of St. Peter & St. Paul is only half the size of the Priory Church of St. Laurence but has its own distinctive charm and the local interest seems to be growing. I feel myself loyally and ably supported by the congregation. As regards the Church of St. Laurence we miss the support we had previously from a number who have been touched by the charismatic movement and are attached to house groups. They come occasionally to services but we are denied their skills and regular support. We have accepted to the Alternative Services Book at Blackmore and are having each Sunday one service in the new rite and the other according to the Bcok of Common Prayer. Stondon Massey sticks to the Prayer Book.
In Youth Work numbers have declined somewhat and we have staffing problems. I speak of Blackmore. In Stondon we are considering how we might start a children's work. Accommodation and availability of time are the current obstacles. Some of those confirmed earlier in the year are coming more or less regularly to Holy Communion. A number were helped at a Down to Earth mission led by Eric Delve, in Brentwood, our district town. Now we are taking an interest in a mission to be held some twelve miles away, in Harlow, next Spring. This will be led by the Rev. Canon David Watson. Three of our young men have formed a group and are coming along very nicely. Some of the more conservative among our number would say noisily. A good many of our young people attended. holiday camps, the Aqua-Sports Camp at Marlow attracting the largest number. The Young Families Group is going well. We look on this as a seed bed for the Mothers' Union which, with the Women's Fellowship, grows slowly. Joint church prayer meetings are poorly attended but there is more support for the Bible Studies.
A memorable occasion was the Brentwood District Civic Service. Mrs. Jean Hobbs one of our parishioners is Chairmen of the Council and the custom is for the annual Civic Service to take place in the Chairman's own parish church. Joan and I lost our respective partners within a week of each other nearly thirteen years ago. I have been able to assist her during her during her year of office, as Official Escort. I have found the experience most interesting. It has added to our pleasure as a community that this year we have won the Essex Best Kept Village (Larger Villages) Trophy. Brentwood District is twinned with the Landkreis Roth in Bavaria. Joan led an official delegation to Roth last July and we go again in February to the Spalt Festival, The foregoing rather grew out of church activities and services. If I may touch again on our two churches both have need of repair. Things are further forward at St. Peter & St. Paul but at St. Laurence we are starting a new cycle of work following the architect's quinquennial inspection. For the first time in 800 years Blackmore church has a standpipe supplying mains water for flower arrangers and cleaning.
Turning to other parish interests, the County Primary School at Blackmore and the P.N.E.U. School at Stondon Massey are producing good results and I am happy for the entree I have to each. Our two clubs for senior citizens continue to flourish as do the Women's Institutes in both parishes. Our dramatic group, the Blackmore Players, are well supported. It is a continuing problem to find leaders for youth activities. The Brownies flourish but the Girl Guides have folded up. I hear there are moves to start a Cub-Scout Pack.
I cannot conclude that part of my Christmas Letter which is designed to report our "goings on" in the two parishes without paying tribute to my four churchwardens and two parochial church councils. They give me consistent support, especially Peter. Hunt my Lay Reader. Other individuals also give me great help. The Rev, John Fleetwood, already mentioned, is a gracious and helpful friend. Every week brings fresh evidence that I am lovingly and prayerfully supported by my parishioners. They put me greatly in their debt. Interaction, our bi-monthly newsletter, is a continuing link between parishioners and me.
Last year I picked out the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales as the most notable event of public interest. This year I think it must be the Falklands. The Government reacted to the occupation by the Argentines in a manner which expressed the general sentiment of the country. There was very real heroism and on both sides a regrettable loss of life. One feels the problem will not go away and the ambivalence of successive governments, irrespective of party, for the past quarter of a century undoubtedly led to this year's war.
This is being written on the day we commemorate the Saints of Essex. The Epistle at Holy Communion is taken from St. Paul's letter to Titus. Titus was exhorted to amend what was defective in the church, and the reason for so doing was that "The grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great Gad and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds!! I find we live in a subtle and insidious world system and only a day by day exposure of one's mind and life to the teaching and authority of the Holy Bible protects one against lowered standards and a remoteness from the presence of the Lord Jesus. The Apostle speaks of "Our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God & Saviour Jesus Christ". This blessed hope is viewed as of the future and it has sustained the Church for two thousand years but there is a sense in which our gracious Lord & Saviour will reveal his glory and came with his power into our personal experience day by day. When the Lord said the Kingdom of God is within you I believe he was referring to that area of our being where his rule remains supreme. We Christians have eternal life now. As St. John declares in his 1st Epistle "He that has the Son has life and he that has not the Son of God has not life. When we lay down our Christian service on earth we will be set free from those elements our unregenerate nature which hinder our full enjoyment of the life Christ gives. Our Lord's gift at the Holy Spirit to his Church was to enable individual Christians to enjoy the benefits of the Kingdom of God here and now and that in increasing measure. As the years go by I like to think of myself as in the ante chamber to the Throne Room of Heaven. We who call ourselves Christians ought to walk life's way in company with the Lard Jesus so that our transition from the earthly to the heavenly state does not seem a crossing of a great divide.
In sending my greetings and good wishes for Christmas and the New Year I would express the hope that news from you will tell me that 1982 has been a good year for you.
Montague H. Knott
Wednesday, 21 December 2016
The Vicarage Blackmore Essex CM4 ORN
19 Christmas 81
In November of last year the Alternative Services Book came officially into use and takes its place alongside the Book of Common Prayer with which the people of our land have been familiar for three hundred years. At the presentation of the offerings of the people in the Service of Holy Communion the minister and congregation say in the new rite: "Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the splendour and the majesty; for every-thing in heaven and on earth is yours. All things come from you and of your own do we give you." These sentiments are drawn from King David's ascription to the Lord his God as recorded in I Chronicles, chapter 29. They express my own feelings of wonder and gratitude as I begin this 25th Christmas Letter from my study in the Vicarage at Blackmore.
It is my hope and prayer that the year 1981 has gone well for you too. In saying that I do not mean that you should have had no cares, no frustrations, no times of testing. Sometimes in Christian experience these are the means God uses to bring us into spiritual well-being and the first requisite to physical well-being so often is spiritual well-being. I can think of some who this year have experienced sickness, surgery, bereavement, who on reflection would say, "This year has brought its good. Things have gone well for me." They have found that God gives reserves of courage, endurance and hope. They have found that God is alive in people bringing through them his provision for the occasion.
To turn to happenings in the Parishes of Blackmore and Stondon Massey during the year now drawing to its close. The cure, or care of souls is demanding, rewarding and a joy to my heart. Our small but loyal congregation at Stondon Massey has been encouraged on four special occasions when the church was filled. The Deanery Christian Aid Service in May, The William Byrd concert on the first Saturday in July, the See Stondon Church Exhibition and Gift Day on 12th September and on Sunday 27th a Civic Service. Our District Town of Brentwood is twinned with Roth in Bavaria. Each year we exchange visits. The group from Roth with their hosts, our own town and parish councillors and our usual congregation heard an excellent sermon from the Rev. John Fleetwood. We have been able to complete roof repairs to St. Peter & St. Paul Church at a cost of £2600. We are renewing the wiring next at a cost of £1000 and plan to follow with sundry repairs to the church windows which will cost another £680. Stondon's church, which dates from 1115 A.D., well repays the care shown it by the congregation.
Maintaining the fabric is a continuing challenge where the Priory Church of St. Laurence is concerned and again the loving care of the congregation is in evidence. For the first time in 800 years water is being layed on. We are over-due for a Quinquennial Inspection by the Church Architect and I anticipate a further programme of works to be carried out. Two or three times a month we can count on a full or almost full church for services but this is not a church-going age. We had a Confirmation Service with Holy Communion at which the Bishop of Barking officiated earlier in the year when ten adults and teenagers were confirmed. It was one of the full occasions. The activities maintained jointly by the Baptists and ourselves: youth work, bible studies, prayer meetings and shared worship twice each month, continue. After more than ten years serving the Baptist congregation Pastor Douglas Francis resigned. He is missed. I am ably and greatly assisted in serving the two parishes by a retired colleague, The Rev. John Fleetwood, my Lay Reader Peter Hunt and my parochial church councils. Other lay help covers secretarial duties, the writing up of parish registers, the maintenance of the churchyard, cleaning of the church and its brasswork, the arranging of flowers and not least spiritual tuition.
A link between our two parishes is the bi-monthly news-letter 'Interaction". The "Minister's Letter" gives me a chance to convey the Christian message to parishioners I would not be able to meet in person. And the section "Niblets of News" enables me to present items of general local interest. I get numerous indications that Interaction is read quite widely. Our village activities continue, cultural, dramatic, educational and sporting. Our District Councillor Joan Hobbs had serious surgery earlier in the year but recovered to become Vice-Chairman of Brentwood District Council. Next year she will be Chairman. She is a regular member of our congregation. Bad weather over the Spring Bank Holiday spoiled much of our programme for the Village Fayre Week-end. The Blackmore Parish Gift Day left something to be desired as regards weather but parishioners were generous and brought gifts amounting to £580. In both parishes the Harvest Services and the Harvest Supper and Barn Dance were well supported and greatly enjoyed.
A splendid work is being done at nearby Barrow Farm where the Mitchell family have a school of riding for the disabled. With help from all around they have erected a fine indoor riding school. Speaking of schools the Head of our local Primary School has inspired and brought into being an excellent adventure play area with all manner of equipment. Parents were generous with their help. A lot of muscle went into the enterprise. At the other end of the age range a number of parishioners have died. Most I had known over the twenty five years I have been in Blackmore. Their going left me as well as their families with a sense of loss. On a happier note our principal organist Brian Scott who … is on the way to recovery and hopefully will be in harness again soon after Christmas.
I think I speak for the vast majority in our country when I say that two events during this year have brought a lively interest and real pleasure. Of course, I refer to the marriage of Prince Charles to the Lady Diana and confirmed news that the Prince and Princess of Wales are to become parents next year. There is so much that is wrong in the world, so much dangerous brinkmanship in industrial and international relationships that the marriage and the baby come like shafts of light piercing a sky full of dark clouds.
Even as I wrote of the royal babe my thoughts turned to another babe whose birth we shall recall before the year is out. Already preparations are in hand for the Christmas Services. For me the Season never looses its mystery and its wonder. Every month I hold the newly born in my arms when they are brought to be baptised. Sometimes I think of the aged Simeon for thus he held the Son of Mary and as he looked on the face of the infant Jesus he saw a potential that would fulfil all his pious expectations and flood his soul with peace. Then I wonder what potential God has built into the little one in my arms. What potential for self-will and God neglect. What potential for loving, serving, suffering as our holy Saviour did. We ought all to ask ourselves how our potential has developed.
Most of us prefer plain speech, ambiguity can be misleading. I refer you to the closing passage of chapter 16 of John's Gospel. His last hours on earth had come and Jesus was concerned to strengthen and encourage his disciples for what lay ahead. For three years he had shown them that he came from the Heavenly Father. Being divine he took humanity that through him humanity might be transformed and given the very nature of Jesus, the Christ, and made the spiritual children of God. John tells how the disciples said "Ah, now you are speaking plainly ... we believe that you came from God." Jesus said "I am not alone for the Father is with me ... in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
May the peace of God which passes all understanding garrison your mind and heart this Christmastide and throughout the New Year 1982.
With gratitude for your friendship and Christian affection.
Montague H. Knott
Tuesday, 20 December 2016
The Vicarage Blackmore Essex CM4 0RN
19 Christmas 80
It is with a sense of gratitude to God for his many mercies that I address myself to my Christmas Letter 1980. Much has happened that could have been foreseen and again much that was not. Under the latter heading is my taking over the care of the adjoining parish of Stondon Massey in January last following the retirement of the previous incumbent. The parish church dates from 1115AD, is dedicated to St. Peter & St. Paul and is lovely to look at inside or out. It seats about ninety persons but since the village has developed one and a half miles away we rarely fill all the seats. William Byrd, the sixteenth century composer of church and other music is buried in the churchyard. Each year the Stondon Singers, drawn largely from our two parishes, gives a recital of Byrd music which is always greatly appreciated.
Interaction, the bi-monthly parish newsletter, has completed its second year and I believe serves a useful purpose in disseminating parish news as well as being a means of presenting a Christian message. It was not difficult to incorporate items of special interest to Stondon Massey and increase production to take in the larger readership. Blackmore and Stondon Massey are to become a united benefice. I feel a little like Noah who had two of everything for his ark, I have two Parochial Church Councils, two annual meetings, two harvest suppers, two parish gift days and so on. I also have wonderful helpers so that one is able to cope. Looking back, over the six issues for 1980 I have furnished myself with material for this letter.
The Anglican and Baptist Congregations continue to worship together on the third and fourth Sunday evenings of each month and work jointly in caring for our youth and in Christian out-reach. A number of the believers have been touched by the Charismatic Movement and seem to find the Baptist services less inhibiting than those taking place in the parish church. One prays that love for our Saviour will prove a ground out of which will grow love of the brethren in a way that will preserve the life and liberty of the Church in Blackmore. The human body has its growing pains and doubtless growth in the Church, the Body of Christ, will also produce its pains. There are those in both churches who enjoy the fellowship we share and at the same time find the doctrines and form of worship to which they are accustomed meaningful and do not want to lose an identity within the universal church. I once found myself speaking to a fellow Christian who told me he was an "Exclusive". I asked what the term signified and he replied "I want to be exclusive of all that God would exclude and inclusive of all that God would include." I think that expresses how I feel.
Turning to the community and its interests, things continue in an established pattern. The Social Club, Football Club, Blackmore Players, Squash and other activities centred on the Village Hall continue. Each November the Guy Fawkes bonfire and fireworks display take place on a field adjoining. We have a toddler and three pre-school groups. I am a governor of our Blackmore County Primary School and Stondon has a fee-paying P.N.E.U. school. The economic situation and passing of the educational bulge has led to reduced intakes but otherwise the instruction of our young goes well. Our old school building, modified, proves a well used Community Centre to which has been added our local library. All these amenities are staffed by parishioners who find outlet for service to the community by these means. Each parish has a branch of the W.I. and there are three clubs for senior citizens, Both the Village Hall and Community Centre serve as bases for Church and other youth movements.
Two village events remain as worthy of mention. First, the Village Fayre and Street market. This is becoming an annual event. The Street Market with its stalls and attendants was all medieval. Fine weather helped make the three day event a time of great fun with games, contests, races and dancing on Horsefair Green. On Sunday we had outdoor community hymn singing and community services in the two churches. Second, was the building of Duck Island in the village pond. By making the effort a village enterprise, the cost to the Parish Council was no more in hundreds than it would have been in thousands of pounds if outside contractors had been employed. Early one summer Sunday morning people were out of doors damming the inflow of water. As soon as the water had drained into the moat the pond bed was cleared of refuse and busy hands filled bags with sand and cement. These were built into a retaining wall and the centre filled with soil. A duck path led from water level onto the island and the pond margin was also reinforced with sandbags. From early morning to early evening men and women, boys and girls in suitable garb toiled to finish the task as the cement mixer ground away and housewives brought coffee, tea and sandwiches. In the evening the dam was removed to the pleasure of our duck population. How, nicely grassed over, with a weeping willow for shade, Duck Island is a feature of our pond.
I made my annual five day excursion into East Anglia in the Spring and enjoyed seeing and staying with relatives and friends. The possible trip to Germany mentioned in last year's letter materialised. Fifteen of us went to Rohr in the District of Roth in Bavaria. The hospitality was impressive. Two words come to mind - cleanliness and hard work. I stayed in the home of Gerd and Gerdi Sanders. He is the Lutheran Pastor of Rohr and its neighbouring villages. They did everything possible to make the eight day stay enjoyable. In August the Sanders family came to England and chased around seeing the sights. Part of the time they spent in Blackmore staying at the Craft Centre. I also took three days to stay at Marlow where the Covenanters have their Aqua-Sports Camp. Water skiing, wind surfing, sailing and canoeing were the order of the day. It was for campers a time of physical and spiritual renewal. Spiritually the camp was of a high order.
As this 24th Christmas Letter from Blackmore comes to its close one is aware of the uncertainty that obtains in human affairs. The Russians and their Allies seem to have become so strong militarily that they consider they need not fear the reactions of the capitalist world when pursuing their political and empirical aims. The two heavyweights USSR and USA aware of the potential for destruction in their hands are allowing lesser fry to wage war whilst watchful that the out-come is not prejudicial to themselves. Certainly the situation in the Middle East seems full of portent in the light of prophetical passages found in the Bible. Through the centuries other generations have made a similar assessment, and the crisis has passed but never before has there been such facility in communication, such potential in technology, as obtains today.
This year has seen the coming and going of the 25th Anniversary of my Ordination and of my 75th birthday. I testify that to me the Holy Bible has greater relevance than ever before. The Lord Jesus Christ has become a greater reality in my life than ever before. I yearn to lead my people into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ our Saviour. It was he who said:- "I have come in order that you might have life - life in all its fullness". (Good News Bible)
My letter began with an expression of gratitude to God for mercies received and the means of the majority of those mercies is the company of those who are my friends and colleagues in the Lord's work. For any measure of your interest, care, prayers and practical help I thank you.
With affection and Seasonal Greetings,
Montague H. Knott
Monday, 19 December 2016
The Vicarage Blackmore Essex CM4 0RN
19 Christmas 79
An annual letter which aims to keep one's friends up to date with news has to be drafted with rather more preparation than the usual answer to a letter received. Over the years the parish journal has been a source of material. Last January the former quarterly magazine gave way to a bi-monthly news-letter which I have entitled "Interaction". The hope is that it may promote an interaction between parishioners in general and those professedly and practically involved in the living Church. The Bible makes it clear that the Church, like Israel of old, is called to a priestly function, to represent God to the people and the people to God.
The early part of the year brought its sadness. Ted Marriage, a gentleman farmer who lived in the big house, Jericho Priory, next to the church and a member of our congregation died. The east and south walls of the parish church face into the Priory garden and we shall miss the generous interest of Ted Marriage in the use of his grounds for church and parish occasions. A pillar of our church was Margaret Eastmond, who died early in February. She served the church in many ways and has left a big gap.
If we have suffered losses we have also had our gains. The pastoral ministry of the church has resulted in an increase in our worshipping community. John and Joan Fleetwood, retiring from a nearby parish are proving a delightful and helpful addition to our number. John makes the third retired parson in Blackmore but he is younger and is able to give me needed help from time to time. Peter Hunt, my Lay Reader, is always a source of help and counsel.
During the year, Brentwood, our nearest town of size was twinned with Roth in the Ruhr. In September a civic delegation from Roth was entertained in Brentwood and Blackmore was chosen as the most interesting satellite village to show to the visitors. The delegation and their hosts came one Saturday and were shown our Village Hall, the School, Community Centre and Library, the Craft Centre, our ancient pub, The Bull and last but not least, our Priory Church of St. Laurence. All of which seemed to impress the visitors. The Roth Lutheran Minister sent a lovely colour photo of his church on his return and an invitation to visit him so perhaps I may be able to join our delegation when it goes to Germany next Spring.
A first time occurrence was a ten day visit by the Suffrogan Bishop to our Deanery of Ongar. The Bishop of Barking spent a day in each parish. His coming to Blackmore was appreciated. We showed him all we could in the time available and he seemed gratified to observe evidence of God's blessing on the work and witness of the local church.
The Anglican and Baptist Churches are coming to the end of another year wherein there has been warm fellowship and close cooperation in Christian outreach. Each department of our Youth Work continues encouragingly. The summer camps went well. Joint services on two Sunday evenings in each month are maintained. Bible study, prayer and women's meetings are well attended. Yet not as well as they should be or as Pastor Francis and I could wish. A Missionary Week-end at the end of October aroused interest and, we hope, will lead to a deepening of the Church's concern for the spiritual and material needs of our neighbours in this and other lands. Nine different societies were featured in the exhibition in the parish church. A missionary play entitled "The Other Man's Skin" written and produced by a member of our congregation, Lilian Haward, carried a real message.
Encouraging pastoral opportunities occur when preparing those concerned for baptism, either adults or the parents of babes who are to be baptised. Also young people who are to be married. I think four of the brides married in the past year made their first entry into the parish church when I baptised them as babes. It is moving to receive a child into the congregation, watch her grow through childhood, into womanhood and then join her in Christian marriage to the man of her choice. Bereavement and funerals also are used of God to bring some to a new experience of God in Christ and into the fellowship of the church.
Pockets of development within the parish result in more houses and more people. Otherwise it is "All systems go" as the Americans put it. The School, the Village Hall, which is quite a complex these days, the Community Centre and Library and the Craft Centre are all fully functioning. The Blackmore Players maintain their three productions each year, the W.I., our two Old Folks clubs and the Stondon Singers continue to serve and please. The Village Fayre and Medieval Street Market was rained off, alas, but the Parish Harvest Supper was a great success. So was the "Holiday Play School" during the school holidays. About 180 children were catered for. The possible siting of a third London Airport at nearby Willingale has caused great stir and opposition. Also there has been a change at the Post Office. The Paul Family, mother, father and three school age sons came some seventeen years ago and proved a most helpful part of our community. Service with a smile sums them up. The boys grew and are now married and Ernest and Betty have sold out and retired. They have gone for the winter to their eldest son and his family in Australia. David and Pauline Rackham who have lived in Blackmore for some years have taken over the Post Office and are carrying on the good work.
Over the end of June and beginning of July I took a holiday on the Continent. The first five days were spent in Bordeaux with David and Annette Whisker who left Blackmore last year to take up work for the Lord in France They proved kind hosts and gave me a happy and spiritually profitable stay. I found Bordeaux interesting and am looking forward to another visit. Next I went to Paris for another five days. I last saw Paris in 1925, as a young commercial traveller, visiting my employers there. The principal places of interest appeared unchanged although the city has grown tremendously. During the day I saw the sights and in the evenings, a young friend who works at the British Embassy, Alistair Kerr, was my kind and informative host. From Paris I went to Cognalee near Namur in Belgium to stay with Guy Delvigne and his sister Jacqueline, in the Presbytery. I have known Guy for twenty years. He is a priest with the care of two churches and loves the Lord. Scouting is a great interest of his and he does a fine work among Scouts. Namur is an interesting town, pleasantly situated at the confluence of two rivers. I saw a little of Brussels and would like to spend more time there on another occasion. This first visit left me grateful for an experience of warm Christian fellowship and, perhaps, something of surprise that we found common ground in so many areas of faith and worship.
I find that I have recorded the news that I believe will interest my friends new and old, far and wide, so I bring to a close my twenty third Christmas Letter from Blackmore Vicarage. In numbering the years I recall that I was in my fiftieth year when I was ordained into the Ministry and on Trinity Sunday next year I shall reach the 25th anniversary of my ordination. Such recollections make me freshly aware of God's leading in my life and of his wonderful sufficiency in every situation. The words of the Psalmist spring to mind –
"Bless the Lord, 0 my soul; and all that is within me bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." Psalm 103, 1-5
Grateful for your interest and your friendship I send you my affectionate greetings and best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
Montague H. Knott
Sunday, 18 December 2016
The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex CM4 0RN
19 — Christmas — 78
In previous years the Christmas greetings conveyed through my annual letter have been the first of the year but this year they are the second. A local group based on the nearby town of Brentwood is producing a talking newspaper for the blind and partially sighted in the district. A few weeks ago I was asked to record a short talk for the blind listeners and as it will be heard by them at about the time you read this I concluded with a greeting and good wishes as I shall do this letter.
As I address myself then to this twenty-second Christmas letter from Blackmore Vicarage I recall a sermon I heard preached many years ago. The text was "There are many who say, ‘O that we might see some good! Lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, O Lord'." Psalm 4:6. The preacher pointed to the many who saw nothing but gloom and doom arising out of man's inventive genius and then invited his congregation to consider God, the Psalmist's God, who had better things in store for man. Half a lifetime later I find the world is not greatly changed. Man's capacity for violence and destruction go side by side with his capacity for caring concern. Those who have been enlightened and enlivened by the Lord do not despair, however gloomy the prospect, because like the Psalmist, they find their God is master of the situation. The Psalmist records the ground of his confidence - "Thou hast given me room … The Lord hears when I call to him … Thou hast put joy in my heart ... Thou alone, O Lord, makest me dwell in safety". With such an experience who can wonder at the Psalmist's confidence and that confidence can be ours - yours and mine - with equal validity.
Turning to the Parish of Blackmore and the Church in Blackmore, 1978 has been a busy and rewarding year, yet one is aware of the potential for greater things if only the Holy Spirit had greater freedom to bring us under the discipline of the Lord Jesus Christ and to teach us from the Holy Scriptures. Of Blackmore then, my friend and colleague in the Gospel, Pastor Douglas Francis continues to lead a growing and active fellowship at the Baptist Church. We in the Parish Church also rejoice in those who are coming into fellowship. Jointly our congregations continue to serve the younger generation. Our joint outreach this year took the form of a tent mission led by Geoff Carr. He was able to lead a number to profess faith in Christ and others had their faith strengthened. Geoff reached various sections of our community and was able to speak at assembly in the schools in and around Blackmore where our children attend. Our togetherness continues in joint worship on two Sunday evenings each month and in the house group Bible studies and prayer meetings. A number of our young people were able to attend Covenanter and Juco camps. I had three wonderful days with some of them at the Aquasports camp at Harlow, only I didn't aqua!
We are still without a regular organist for the Parish Church but we have several with musical talent in the congregation. A new singing group calling itself "The Priory Singers" has been formed and includes some of our small choir. The group shows great promise. Church repairs are always with us and our south wall has been a long while in the hands of contractors. We have been helped by a grant of £500 from the Historic Churches Preservation Trust and a loan of £500 from the Diocese. A fine oak mobile bookstall has been donated to the Church and is being well supported. The occasional services of baptism, weddings and funerals give me pastoral opportunities. The Ongar Deanery of which our parish is a part provides opportunity for wider fellowship with neighbouring believers through quarterly joint services of Evensong. We meet together in a different Church each quarter and this gives some of our more remote country Churches a chance to have an overflowing congregation from time to time.
On personalities, we greatly miss David and Annette Whisker and their three children. They felt a call to serve the Lord in France and have removed to Bordeaux. David was Churchwarden and Treasurer and most able in both offices. Peter Hunt, my Lay Reader and other Church-warden continues tower of strength and has as his co-warden Dr. Stuart Jennings with his wife Catherine and their two boys have moved into Whisker's house. We all had a sense of loss when Peggy Ford went to her Lord on the 14th March. Geoff her husband preceded her by two years. They were a lovely couple. Other parish activities which have my interest and support and to which reference has been made in previous Christmas Letters continue. The Women's Institute thrives as do Blackmore Players, the Jericho Sixty-Plus Club and Blackmore Wives. Blackmore Charities Trustees have succeeded in increasing income from the Charities' assets so that more money is available for distribution. It is a privilege to be involved in the affairs of our local Primary School where things are going well, thanks to an able staff. Last Christmas we had a Nativity Play on horseback in the open-air for the physically handicapped. We hope to do the same again this year. It such a wonderful occasion for the handicapped youngsters. Another great occasion was the Silver Jubilee of the Coronation of Majesty the Queen. We had our Street Market again and there was a general dressing up in medieval attire. King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn graced us with their presence once again - and we had a lovely time, with two weddings thrown in for good measure for yours truly.
Holidays have been rather piece-meal this year. The inside of a week at Eastbourne in January, the inside week in East Anglia visiting relatives and friends in June, three days in Weymouth with the Easeys who entertained me in their home in Italy last year when they lived there and lastly, two weeks in Jerusalem in September. This last was in company with Bishop and Mrs. Goodwin-Hudson. We saw a good deal of the Old City and its places of interest. Each day we spent some time visiting the Garden Tomb where the Bishop has involvement as Chairman of the Garden Tomb Committee. We met interesting people in Church affairs and Israelis with responsibility in various fields, such as education, medicine and broadcasting. There was a conducted tour of a kibbutz whore we had an excellent meal. A visit to a development of a 400 acre site in the Judean hills called the Garden of Israel. Here all the flowers, herbs, plants and trees referred to in the Bible are being planted and grown. In ten years time the present promise should become a full realization.
Walking in the hills where Jesus once walked and looking on scenes which must have been familiar to his eyes, a wonderful sense of the presence and Person of the Saviour of mankind. This letter brings you my Christmas and New Year greetings but above all my earnest hope that the presence and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ might be a growing experience once in your life through all your days to cone.
MONTAGUE H. KNOTT
Saturday, 17 December 2016
The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex. CM4 ORN
19 - Christmas - 77
When I reached my twenty first birthday, in law I came of age. It might be said that with this communication my Christmas letter has come of age for it is the twenty first to originate from this study. Following custom I abstracted a copy of last year's letter from the file and as I did so thought I'd take out also the letter for Christmas 1957. What nostalgia swept over no as I recaptured the sentiments that moved, me when I had so newly entered my incumbency of the Parish of Blackmore. At the time of writing that first Christmas Letter the land between the Vicarage and the Church was the kitchen garden of Jericho Priory and I had an unobstructed view of the church tower from my study window. Now three houses stand on the site of the kitchen garden. I remember my dear wife sat in front of the fire knitting as I wrote. For thirteen years she partnered me in my ministry and I drew strength from her loyalty, practical support and warm affection. It is almost eight years since our Lord took her from her earthly service and I have been blessed in the spiritual oversight of a parish which has kept me busy and has shown a kindly care for its Vicar.
The year 1977 has been a good one. Both churches have maintained a consistent ministry of God's word and our joint efforts in work among the children and teenagers continues to encourage. This year, for the first time, some of our Jucos (11-13) went to camp and enjoyed it, while our Covenanters (13 and up) went again to Aqua-Sports Camp at Marlow and also enjoyed it, despite the weather. In both instances some committed their lives to Christ and others deepened their faith in the Saviour. In February a team of some twenty four people of different ages and from different backgrounds came from the Parish Church of St. Luke, Cranhan Park to lead in a Together Week-end. It was an exciting experience. The team was entertained in various homes and a real sense of togetherness in Christ was our experience. Then, in Easter Week, a team came from the London Bible College to lead a Holiday Bible Club. Again the team was entertained in local homes. The children turned out in good numbers and there was meaningful contact with parents too.
Pastor Douglas Francis and his Deacons at the Baptist Church are encouraged by an increase in the number of young people attending their services and in the Parish Church the attendance at the monthly Family Service fills the Church. The fortnightly House Group Bible Study is conducted by one or other of our combined company who is gifted to minister the Word of God, usually in the house of the one leading the study. Recently our numbers have been in excess of thirty persons. There are many one would like to name but to do so might seem invidious. However, I must make mention of my Churchwardens, Peter Hunt and David Whisker. In my spiritual warfare on behalf of the people of Blackmore I feel they are Aaron and Hur to my Moses. I thank God for them. Other church activities continue. The preparation of parents before the baptism of their babes, the preparation of couples prior to marriage and the sharing with bereaved families, all provide wonderful pastoral opportunities.
The highlight of the year was surely the Queen's Silver Jubilee Celebration. Blackmore went to town over it, as they say. The whole community threw itself into the celebration. A school pageant, a medieval street market, races, community singing, firework display, dancing and a moving Service of Thanksgiving in the Parish Church. A Silver Jubilee Programme of a high standard remains to testify to a truly wonderful and loyal occasion. The weather was kind, crowds came in from all around and I shall never forget how early each morning the men of the village were out clearing the debris and untidiness of the previous evening so that by 10am Blackmore had a "Best kept Village" look. It was fitting that the nation should show its affection for its Queen, whose service to her people and worthy occupancy of the Throne commands our loyal support.
The preceding paragraph introduced the subject of leisure and leads me to mention two spells of holiday taken this year. In May I went to Italy for two and a half weeks staying at Rocca di Papa nearly twenty miles south of Rome. I was entertained by a gracious Christian couple with whom I had become acquainted when staying with Alan and Marian Leach last year. My host and hostess were Bill and Jopie Easey recent converts but full of the joy of the Lord. Day by day we shared the Scriptures and found the experience most profitable. Rocca di Papa is part of a range of volcanic mountains the highest point of which is Montecavo. I climbed it and was repaid with a wonderful view. Day by day I walked on the mountains and enjoyed every step of the way I made two or three trips into Rome and spent four days in Florence with Jopie and her pretty daughter Carol. Bill had to be away on a businessman's course over that period. The Easey's are coming to live in England in January so I hope to see more of them. My second break in September was spent in the West Country, mainly in Wales. I had happy fellowship with friends new and old and found myself viewing sights and staying in places for the first since before the last World War. And the weather was good on the whole.
Other items that suggest themselves for mention are Village Hall to which we are adding Squash Courts; the refurbished Community Centre and Library are being increasingly used; our Jericho Sixty Plus Club thrives and we have started a Family Film Night. The Blackmore Players present three productions each year, a Pantomime, a Comedy and a Drama. The players and members of the congregation presented a nativity play in December. Our Baptist friends still await planning permission for the development of their site.
As I think of the five thousand souls committed to my spiritual care I draw comfort from the realization that a gracious God pursues them in love. Throughout their lives people and events give testimony that God cares for them, will come to them when they admit Him to the rule of their wills and in the ordering of their lives. One sees this taking place. There are a number in the parish who will readily admit that the year has seen the introduction of a new dimension into life, a peace, a joy that had not been there before. On what better note could I finish! The Lord Jesus said:
"You are made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.... If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full".
My Season's Greetings and affectionate good wishes for 1978 come with this letter.
MONTAGUE H. KNOTT.
Friday, 16 December 2016
The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex. CM4 0RN
19 - CHRISTMAS - 76
I've just completed my first year as a septuagenarian and it has been a good year, thanks to the providence of God and the friendship of many. My heart echoes the words of the hymn writer "How good is the God we adore, our faithful unchangeable friend”. Each year as I come to the writing of my Christmas Letter, I feel humbled as I consider how faithful to his promises God proves himself to be. If you have been on my mailing list long enough this will be the twentieth of my Christmas Letters to reach you. I cannot speak of my outgoing to you without making grateful acknowledgement of the response my letters evoke. Sometimes a few on a Christmas card and sometimes a newsy letter. All are so welcome and make more meaningful my prayers for you.
The start of 1976 found me very much the poorer for the loss of my dear friend and Churchwarden, Geoffrey Ford, who went home at the end of last year. Through the years Geoff was a true and dependable yoke-fellow in the work of the Church. David Whisker, a younger and equally dear friend, has become Churchwarden in place and works creatively with Peter Hunt, my Lay Reader and colleague and co-worker in the ministry of the Word of God. An impending change for me is the handing over of the editorship of our parish quarterly, Friends. For sixteen years I have had the interest and pleasure of writing up our quarterly and with Oct-Dec. issue Friends came to an end. With the Jan-Mar. 1977 issue the parish quarterly becomes 'Contact', the joint editors will be Zoyla Hunt and Sandra Keetch. This spreading of the load will be a good thing and there are lots of ideas in the air.
Our Baptist friends seem encouraged and are hoping to improve their facilities by the development of their parcel of land. They hope to erect a block of flats for retired missionaries or pastors and a general purpose building of church and ancilliary apartments. For some years now the Anglicans and Baptists have worked jointly in outreach. Now we are worshipping together on two Sundays in each month. The Junior Church, Adventurers, Jucos and Covenanters the age range 4 - 17 years. We are encouraged by the interest shown especially when teenagers make a clear cut profession of faith in Christ and show it in their lives. A highlight for the Covenanters is the annual Aqua Camp. I was able to join them for an overnight stay. The site at Marlow was a large field beside the Thames. Nearby were water-filled gravel pits where sailing and water-skiing were the order of the day. The tented camp was well organised and the weather perfect.
Other interests continue, Women's Fellowship, Mothers' Union, Group Bible Studies. Our Baptist friends are encouraged by the attendance at their Youth Service on the second Sunday in each month and in the Parish Church we generally have a full house for the Family Service on the first Sunday of the month. We are trying to encourage these young families to come also to a shortened Family Communion on the third Sunday. It is wonderful to see how the Holy Spirit is working in the parish. Nominal Christians are coming alive with the life of Christ and it makes a difference to the quality of their lives and the effectiveness of their testimony.
I see another sign of spiritual advance in the increased giving of the congregation. This has meant that the Church's giving to support Christ's work in this and other lands has shown a marked increase this past year. We continue to face church repairs. Earlier in 1976 repairs to the tower were completed and now we face repairs to the south wall of the nave. The District Council cuts the churchyard grass regularly and other voluntary help keeps the churchyard tidier than ever I've seen it. Before turning to the secular side of parish life I would mention the Blackmore Young Wives' Fellowship. I always receive a warm welcome when I am free to attend. Membership seems to have dropped but varies according to the subject. The programme offers variety but seems always to have general interest.
Earlier letters have spoken of our fine Village Hall upon which so much community activity is centred. Now we are blessed with additional facilities. The old primary school has been modified and a branch library has been built on. The School building is now the Youth & Community Centre. The Church already makes use of it and the local Youth Club will resume using it. The Village Hall is in great demand and we welcome other accommodation to ease the pressure. The Sports and Social Club, the Blackmore Players and our successful Play School all make great use of the Village Hall. In fact, during the summer vacation we ran a Summer Play School for 150 children. It was a great success. In January we started the Jericho Sixty-Plus Club with 40 members. Our other over sixty-club the Stondon and Blackmore Old Folks Club goes steadily on. At the latter I conduct a fifteen minute devotion once a month. It consists of a Scripture reading, a mini-talk, a hymn and a prayer.
The County Primary School is one of my special interest. It is a privilege to serve as a manager, to find we have dedicated teachers and other staff which make it a well-run school. And then there are the children. They help to make Blackmore the wonderful place it is. We are fortunate to be in a Green Belt area. The parish centres in the village with some 1500 out of our 4000 population and around the village are fields. Outlying parts look towards the village and this gives a wonderful sense of community.
Two valued young friends invited me to stay with them Italy for two weeks in February. The husband works for the European Space Agency and they had a home a few miles outside Frascati where they now reside. Rome was 25 miles away and I was able to explore it to my instruction and pleasure. I also visited Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum. I completed my holidays in September with a trip starting in South Wales and moving through the southern counties back to Essex. Two weeks of calling on friends of long standing which proved enjoyable. This concludes my survey Blackmore and of Blackmore's Vicar and his doings for another year. I hope you will find items of interest and subjects for prayer.
Looking at the conclusion of last year's letter I see wrote of "uncertain times with an even less certain future Humanly speaking, I see no reason for a change of sentiments. As a nation we have been spending money we have not earned. We borrowed against expected future wealth and are in danger saddling the yet unborn with the cost of our feckless behaviour. I am reminded of a ship with its engines broken down and tide carrying the vessel unresisting towards the rocks while the crew questions the authority of the captain and makes demands for more pay, more leisure and improved retirement pensions. Meanwhile the passengers look on with no manifest sense of urgency or power to change their situation. The Psalmist (107, 25f) pictures the scene in these words, "a mighty wind began to blow and stirred up the waves. The ships were lifted high in the air and plunged down in the depths. In such danger the men lost their courage; they stumbled and staggered like drunken men - all their skill was useless. Then in their trouble they called to the Lord and he saved them distress".
If only the men of this generation would call to the Lord.
In another place the Psalmist (4, 6 & 7) says, "There are many who pray: 'Give us more blessings, Lord. Look on us with kindness'." Such are those who consider only their bodily needs, their earthly desires. The Lord Jesus charged men to seek first the Kingdom of God for God would take care of their material state. So the Psalmist continues, "But the joy that you have given me is more than they will ever have with all their corn and wine". To advance in years framing one's attitude to the world around and one's understanding of what the future holds, from the Bible is open to every Christian. And to be taught by the Holy Spirit to hold material things with an ever-loosening grasp is the wisdom of every Christian. While to move onto life's highway at the beginning of each new day in company with the Lord Jesus, enjoying his presence and experiencing his power is just a wonderful prelude to heaven itself. May all this be a growing experience with you.
In sending the Season's Greetings, I assure you that you are remembered with affection.
Montague H. Knott.
Thursday, 15 December 2016
The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex. CM4 ORN
19- CHRISTMAS - 75
In one way, yet not the only one, this has been a special year for me. I have reached and passed my seventieth birthday. I say with the Psalmist "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life". It is with a deep sense of gratitude to God that one takes stock of one's life and traces both the mercy and the goodness without which a very different story would be told.
Going back to the year under review, there has been no general election, no special diocesan event, no overseas holiday on which to comment but in our local situation there has been much Christian involvement. The Holy Spirit has been working in the lives of individuals and the believing community. The Anglican and Baptist Congregations continue to work together amongst the young and in Christian outreach sharing in prayer and Bible study to those ends.
I have glanced afresh at a copy of last year's Christmas Letter to see if I should refer back to any item and I was reminded that the Rev. Dick Rees was called from earthly service to serve and honour his Lord in a heavenly sphere. This able servant of Christ will be missed by many yet the faith he held and the quality of service that his life revealed will surely continue in the lives of those he influenced.
In the parish a new children's department has been started called Jucos. It covers the 10-13 years age range for boys and girls. The Anglican and Baptist congregations, by pooling personnel and facilities are now able to give Christian instruction to our young people from age four to seventeen years. Blackmore Parish is in the Archdeaconry of West Ham. During the year the Archdeacon, James Adams became the Bishop of Barking, with pastoral care for the Archdeaconry. Our new Archdeacon is John Taylor, former Vice Principal of Oak Hill Theological College where I trained before my ordination in 1955. We had a Flower Festival over our Patronal Weekend and our annual Parish Gift Day showed a more generous giving than last year.
Pastor Douglas Francis and his Baptist Congregation have an old chapel with vacant land alongside. They plan to redevelop with a modern Church and flats. This could facilitate the work of Christ's Church in Blackmore and we pray for the success of this venture.
As regards the community generally, things go in an ordered way. The various activities seem to maintain their vigour. There was no Donkey Derby but instead, a Fete. The display of produce and art was of a very high order and well worth seeing. We got our name into the Press because of an effort to clean and tidy up the village. Our menfolk were pictured cleaning up the village pond.
Our school grows. We now have three demountable classrooms added to the permanent structure. The teaching and ancillary staffs work well together and the children benefit. On Guy Fawkes' night the Parent Teachers Association arranged a bonfire and fireworks display which was a great success. More than one thousand people watched and I helped the ladies sell cups of hot soup. The Local Authority invited me to continue as a manager for which I am grateful. Soon after the return from summer holidays we opened our splendid new swimming pool. It is covered and heated and has all amenities.
My holidays were taken in England and Scotland this year & provided an unique experience. I made a list of twenty six friends of long standing with whom I maintain contact through the post & who live anywhere between here & Edinburgh and covered more than two thousand miles calling upon them. I found no fewer than twenty one of them at home. Only one knew in advance of my coming. Every call brought pleasure and a revival of memories.
Some had entered into retirement and looked good advertisements for it. A young doctor I knew years ago gave me four wonderful days in his home. He is an ear, nose and throat consultant and has a lovely family. I also stayed several days with a Scottish widow and her daughter. The husband was my close friend and I was best man at their wedding fifty years ago this year. A German Jewess, whose family died at the hands of the Nazis, and who herself escaped through the care of the Dutch underground movement, came to England in 1946 and stayed three weeks in our home. I tracked her down twenty nine years later to find her looking much the same but married to a Scot and the mother of twenty-one year old twin daughters, It was wonderful to meet again and hear a thrilling story of God's movement in her life. Another friend who had given long years of competent and faithful service to an employer, not always easy to get along with, found himself inheriting half his employer's considerable estate when the latter died. I can't think of anybody more deserving or likely to use his good fortune more wisely.
After a lapse of several days I resume the writing letter. Pondering on news of the success of the Gospel Christ in many parts of the world it seems that this success is most evident in the poorer parts and in places where the active opposition to Christianity. The materialism of the rich countries seems to stifle the Holy Spirit in those places. Yet one of the greatest comforts to my mind is that the Holy Spirit is at work unceasingly everywhere, though it may not be apparent. From time to time I look at parishioners who give no evidence of concern for spiritual things, who never or rarely come to the House of God and I remind myself that from the cradle they have been within the compass of God's love. That the Holy Spirit by inward conviction and through various agencies has moved in their lives to build up an experience of God which in his good time, could lead to their conversion. I say could, for God’s salvation is free to all and if one should miss that experience it would not be because God could not but because men would not.
For this reason I try to encourage members of Christ’s Church in this parish not to be isolationists but to be outgoing, identifying themselves with the interests of their neighbours providing that doing so does not compromise Christian standards. So many about us are asking questions, they are seeking someone who will have time to listen. They are ready to be moved by a true spirit of compassion. Our blessed Lord found it so. It was not in the Church of his day that he encountered understanding and co-operation in his work for God but out in the market place or on the highway, among those for whom the Church was uncaring, I am grateful to our Heavenly Father that the Church locally has been used to win a number to Christ both from among the non-churchgoers and those who are. Of course there are tensions. Those who find change unacceptable. Those who resist at the point where they are challenged to be more wholly the unquestioning servants of Christ.
Concluding this, the nineteenth successive Christmas Letter I have written in the Study of the Vicarage in Blackmore I am mindful of the changes which have taken place. From a rural and largely agricultural parish to a mainly dormitory one. With a trebling of houses and people yet at the centre and nestling in the fields a true village with a Church that links it with the Normans. If times and places change, from our village Church is proclaimed the unchanging message of an unchanging God. He is close to every one of us. In these uncertain times and faced an even less certain future God says, "Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen I will help your I will uphold you with my victorious right hand”.. (Isa. 41:10).
Holding you affectionately in remembrance I send my good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
Montague H. Knott