The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex.
19 - CHRISTMAS - 66
Having taken pen in hand to compose this tenth Christmas Letter from Blackmore, one pauses to reflect -the fire of memory burns brighter and in its flames one sees faces and places, some near, some far. How good it would be to sit alongside and ask: How are you? How have you fared through 1966? We can learn only as we hear from you so we would encourage your communication by sending you news of our own affairs.
The face of our village is changing. The rash of new buildings which, in recent years, has been so evident in the Hook End and Paslow Common areas of the parish, is now very evident in the village itself. More than half of the bungalows and houses are less than ten years old and many less than two. The growing population puts pressure on our school facilities and at long last a new school is in building with the first stage almost completed. We are well on the way to a new village hall. The land has been donated and planning permission given.
We now have a Blackmore Choral Society which is conducted by the Headmaster of our local primary school. The Society sang Stainer's Crucifixion in the parish church on Good Friday evening. This was much appreciated by a company which filled the church. The Blackmore Women's Institute has grown in number and is a lively unit.
The foregoing are among the signs that the nothing-ever-happens-here village to which we came nine years ago is changing. We try to identify Christian service with as much of the life of the community as we can, with a view to making the Christian Message available to any who show interest.
Although we cannot report that our parish church is full at the times of services, except on special occasions and at festivals, we are not without encouragement. In particular, our Young Wives' Fellowship, which has grown in numbers and is quite go ahead; also the Youth Club has managed to keep going for two years now, though its attachment to the church is rather tenuous. From our point of view it is worthwhile as offering a point of contact with our local youth. The fortnightly Bible study is encouraging and seems to be appreciated by those who attend and by those who share by means of the tape recorder. The studies have drawn several friends from the Baptist Church in the village. We rejoice in this coming together. During the year on one occasion the Baptist Congregation came to a service of Evening Prayer and on another our congregation joined in worship at the Baptist Church. The Mothers' Union, Women's Fellowship and Junior Church continue much as they have done in other years but within the membership of the church there is a growing readiness to serve.
The church accounts and the annual Garden Fete which, for some years, had been among the Vicar's responsibilities, have been taken over by able members of the congregation. We held a Flower Festival over the August Bank Holiday for the second year. This was a great success and brought hundreds to see our lovely old church and, we trust, to worship God and praise him for his handiwork in nature and for the skills of man. Recently a party of our ladies started the task of making embroidered kneelers for the church. Another group made up Christmas Cards to sell in aid of the restoration of the church. Thus it can be seen that interest and active participation grows.
During the year the two large dormer windows on the north side of the church have been restored and this means that we are now able to concentrate on the interior. All that has been done to restore the church fabric was urgent but nothing like as apparent as will be the interior. If all goes well the appearance of the church inside will be worthy of so ancient and historic a place of worship.
The passing centuries have established this season of Christmas as a sign of world-wide significance, speaking of the coming of God into the world and affairs of men in the t human person of Jesus, born at Bethlehem and anointed the Cl Saviour of the world.
To those of us for whom the Bible is the authoritative word of God is found within its pages a revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ whose coming was foretold hundreds of years before the event. Among those who prophesied this coming none spoke with greater clarity than the Prophet Isaiah a man of learning, culture and deep religious experience. He recorded God as saying, in reference to the coming One: 'Behold my servant whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delight I have put my spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice the the nations . . . I will lead the blind in a way that they know not, in paths that they have not known will I guide the I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough place into level ground. These things I will do and I will not forsake them". Isa. 42: 1 and 16.
To read the chapters in the second half of Isaiah as a message from God to man is to set oneself free from the frustration, uncertainty and hopelessness that characterises so much of this modern world. In the foregoing selections in particular there is God's invitation to know the Source of true peace with justice and to experience in one's daily life that providence which marks out a clear pathway and lightens it as we go.
As we grow older the years seem to pass ever more quickly. With the closing of 1966 we look back with gratitude at the many mercies of the Lord for our own well-being and for much fellowship with Christians. With this our news and views we send our Christmas Greetings and sincere good wishes for 1967.
Hilda and Montague H. Knott.