The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex.
19 - CHRISTMAS - 65
This ninth Christmas Letter from Blackmore means that for more than eight years our home has been established in the Essex Countryside. Friends of long standing have asked whether we like life in a country parish and our reply is -we like the place, we like the people and we like the work. There is always a welcome into the homes of the parish. Special occasions, a birth, a marriage, a bereavement, some good fortune or an unexpected trial, provide opportunities to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in sharing with and serving our spiritual charges. Our ministry is already reaching into a second generation for there are children who come running to greet one when visiting the village school whose parents were joined in marriage during our first years in Blackmore.
When reviewing the year in retrospect we arm ourselves with the Vicar's diary-and the year's issues of "Friends', our parish magazine; thus we recall the principal items of interest. The usual services and activities referred to in earlier letters continue. The St. Laurence Youth Club was started in January. The Young Wives Fellowship is in its second year. The fortnightly Bible Study in the Vicarage has made a start with the Gospel on John. Scion our team of helpers will be making up the Christmas food parcels for the old folks. There were 87 last year. The combined Garden Party and Gift Day in June was a success, as was a wonderful Flower Festival in the Church over the August Bank holiday. The Church Army supplied officers to lead in a parish mission. Home meetings were used to reach non-Churchgoing adults. It is not easy to assess the outcome. It seems certain that interest was aroused with some and that the local church must follow up with an evident concern for those who showed interest.
We have benefitted from the new lighting and heating in the church. Work is in hand for the renewal of two large dormer windows and then we face a major task of repairs and decoration to the interior of our church. It will cost in the neighbourhood of £2,000.
If our letter seems parochial thus far it is not that we are unaware of events in the larger world about us. It is that we so value the prayers and evident interest of those to whom our letter goes that we feel a duty to inform them. As to the larger world it is at the same time encouraging and disappointing. The idealogical tensions which in places issue in conflicts; the entrenchment of the "haves" against a surrender of standards and privileges to the "have nots'; the unscrupulous exploitation of national and international situations to serve political ends; these all sadden one's heart.
Against this the Christian can take comfort in what seems an evident movement of God the Holy Spirit in the affairs of men. The searchings of heart and fresh recognition of the authority of Holy Scripture in the Roman Church; the universal desire of Christians to find a unity in Christ with a readiness to meet on points of agreement rather than to squabble over points of disagreement; the impact of evangelical witness through the Pentecostal Churches; the use of radio and television to carry the Gospel into the very homes of the people; the continuing endeavour of Christians everywhere to be followers of their Lord and Saviour; these gladden one's heart.
Considering the conditions of the time, parochial and extra parochial, we find our thoughts turning to the record of the Apostle John - Jesus said, I have told you . . . In the world you will have trouble, but courage! The Victory is mine; I have conquered the world. In me you may find peace. (John 16, 33. L.E.B.). Peace can be appreciated only by those who have endured in conflict the absence of peace. In the peace which ensues from conflict there is the peace of the victorious - triumphant and reward and the peace of the subdued - oppressive and impoverishing.
It was in the world that the Captain of our salvation or, the leader who delivers, as the N.E.B. puts it, met hi: conflict and triumphed so making peace by the blood of his cross. It is in the world that Christ's soldiers - his followers, are called to engage in the conflict which will lead to their peace. This ultimate, spiritual and eternal peace is secured on the ground of Christ's own victory over Satan at the cross. According to Scripture the peace God gives is meant to be the experience of Christian here and now.
Those who are not led by Christ may have a kind of peal secured by their submissions to the Evil One but it is spiritually oppressive and impoverishing; the Christian on the other hand can rejoice in the spiritual and moral comfort in which he is involved because by this means he can, in following his Lord, endure with courage, experience victor: and rest triumphantly, rewardingly in the peace he finds in Christ.
Peace was at the very heart of the angels' message as they announced the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem, whose advent we celebrate this season.
It was good to hear from so many of our friends. You', no idea what pleasure you gave us. If you didn't receive an acknowledgement, in kindness receive this in lieu and with much gratitude. H.B. has found the going rough at times through the year and M.H. managed to slip a disc from which he is recovering. Otherwise we are fine and all is well, for which we render thanks to God.
With every good wish for Christmas and the Year of Grace 1966.
Hilda & Montague H. Knott.