The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex. December, 1958.
"His name shall be called - the Prince of Peace" Isa. 9.6. "Thou shalt call his name Jesus for he shall save His people from their sins". Matt 1.21.
Once again my wife and I find ourselves thinking and speaking of friends far and near, for once again we approach the Season of Goodwill. How quickly the cycle of another year has turned and how much seems to have happened in our lives.
With a copy of the letter we sent a year ago before us, we are reminded that we had then newly entered upon our Ministry in this Parish of Blackmore. As we foresaw then so we have found since, we like Blackmore, the place and the people. And according to our ability we have sought to serve them as Ministers of the Gospel of Christ.
As to the living church, our numbers have been augmented. Several have made a clear-cut decision for Christ and there is evidence of a deepening of spiritual life as the Holy Spirit does his gracious work in the lives of men and women. We have commenced a small but sustained work amongst the children. The Women's Fellowship is an encouraging feature in our church life. Recently we have commenced a conversational Bible-study group which is appreciated. We are grateful for increased attendances at our Sunday Services.
We are also able to report favourably on the Parish Church, which dates back to 1115 A.D. The fabric and the churchyard were in a deplorable state and it is estimated that it will cost £5000 to bring them into good order. In January we set ourselves to the task and have succeeded in raising 1375 in our own Parish to date. A legacy of £100, a loan of £750 and grants from charitable organisations have brought us a total of £2100 towards the £2800 needed for the first stage of our repairs. The scaffolding about the tower and steeple is evidence that the work is in hand.
The Vicarage, which was newly built when we came to live in Blackmore just over a year ago looks much more presentable now that the garden is taking shape. We believe God has helped us to make it a place where folks feel welcome. We have no church hall and so most mid-week gatherings are held in our home and my wife has performed the duties of hostess most ably.
It is with a sense of humble gratitude to God that we record the foregoing and feel it a pleasant duty to inform our friends, since we are conscious of much prayer being offered on our behalf. The demands that result from the spiritual care of more than 1500 souls in an extended parish are considerable and we are constantly proving that only the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for these things.
We greatly rejoiced in the response from the many we have come to know and love through past years, resulting from our letter of a year ago. It has been particularly gratifying to see and hear friends from across the Atlantic and we treasure the memory of those fleeting reunions.
Now we approach that Season when we remember that the Saviour of the World is come. We who are Christians recognise that He is the source of all blessing so that the close of the Old Year leads us to look back in thankfulness for His mercies and on into the New Year with trustful expectation.
Again we anticipate news from those who are in our thoughts at this time and again we send our affectionate greetings and good wishes for the coming year.