19 - CHRISTMAS - 69
The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex.
Last year's Christmas Letter concluded with a post-script making it easy for recipients to remove themselves from our mailing list. It is a source of encouragement a pleasure to record that only a few have dropped out from total of nearly five hundred, and many wrote to ensure the they would continue to hear from us.
Reading again last year's letter leaves me with the impression that, in a number of areas, we seem to have little that is new to report. However, behind the scenes there is continuing activity. As regards the church, the organ was rebuilt and is giving great service and pleasure. No further work has been done in the church but we are so to carry out modifications to, and renewal of, fabric and furnishing which will add greatly to the charm and useful ness of our church. The celebrated wooden bell-tower is been further restored during the next stage of repairs.
Parish activities continue to thrive. The community has its Choral Society, Drama Group, Women's Institute, Social Committee and Sixty-Plus Club, in all of which members of the church take part and bring their influence to bear. The monthly Family Service and the monthly combined service of Evening Prayer and Baptism fill the church. The fortnightly Bible Study continues profitably and there is a marked advance in our outreach to the young. The group of keen young couples mentioned in last year's letter, have met had marked success in home meetings for Bible study but are strengthening the Baptist and Anglican churches with their active membership. They plan to build up the churches youth work within the framework of the Covenanter Movement. We have also started Guides and Brownies and hope that Scouts and Cubs will follow.
Highlight of the year now drawing to a close was the Flower Festival held over the second week-end in August. The Saturday was our Parish Gift Day and the Sunday our Patronal Festival. St. Laurence, to whom our church is dedicated, was a deacon in the church in Rome and was martyred during the third century. If the legend concerning him is true he was a man who counted his treasure in souls won for Christ and not in silver or gold. Our ancient church makes an ideal setting for a flower festival and this year's effort seemed to surpass previous festivals. It was so much more than a moving display of beautiful flowers and foliage, people were moved to a spirit of grateful worship and they came in their hundreds from within and without the parish. On each day Choral Evensong was followed by a music recital of impressive quality.
As regards the Anglican Church in this country and union with the Methodists, the will of the majority seems not so much to be no but not yet or, not in this way. We are now committed to Synodical Government and this is to be welcomed as tending to a greater lay participation. The 4 policy of a service of naming and blessing for the babes of those parents who desire their children to mark their entry into Christ's Church by baptism upon their own decision to become Christians, is getting slowly off the ground. Old traditions die hard.
Coming back to ourselves and the situation in the Vicarage, Miss Pamplin still brightens our home with her cheerful and practical presence. We anticipate that she will move to another sphere of service in the Nursing Profession before the year's end. The improved state of Hilda's health left Miss Pamplin free to take a post as ward sister in a nearby hospital, at the beginning of March. She has continued to reside with us and has been a tower of strength when off duty.
A year ago our doctor thought Hilda had reached the end of the road as far as her earthly pilgrimage was concerned but thanks to careful nursing and a strong constitution she has made a wonderful come-back. The lesser half! is greatl blessed both in the home and in the parish. It is good to feel oneself supported in one's work for our wonderful Lord by such splendid helpers as our congregation provides. I am sure we feel ourselves to be, as Scripture puts it, "Fellow workers together with God".
To conclude this letter, may I share a few thoughts concerning our present situation and future prospects as Christians, for Christ came to secure our best interests in respect of both. Our present must be causing thousands to reflect upon the future. Fundamentally man does not change. As always, he is born, he dies, he works, he plays, he love he hates, he rejoices, he sorrows. Man is ever learning and ever forgetting. He creates new situations and discovers new skills and in the process makes old the previous situations and forgets the skills they produced. Surely no situation has arisen before like that of this generation. Automation, the computer, space exploration and the uncovering of the deeps with television to bring these modern wonders to the eyes and ears of Jr. Everyman. Inevitably there must be concern for the future and speculation as to what it holds.
Is man of a stature spiritually and morally to carry such responsibilities? Will he overreach himself? Is there a danger that he could be a carrier of earth disease or that he could expose himself to hazards beyond his power to cure? Is privileged man cocooning himself with specialized foods, specialized medicines, hygiene, central heating, powered travel so that the withdrawal of these would leave him resistless to the conditions under which the underprivileged manage to support their existence. Have we been blowing a big beautiful and many-hued bubble which could burst or are we on the way to other and more remarkable situations? In our situation are we really living, with the prospect of a fuller life?
We are about to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ who said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly". The Bible states, "He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life". Life has its source and continuance in God who communicates it through his son, Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit. It is this life principle vivifying the spirit that makes a man a Christian. It relates to the present situation and the future prospect. This life has resources within itself that infuse the being with vigour, overcome the frailties to which man is heir, sustain his confidence through every vicissitude and keep bright his hope of life's extension beyond the grave where, the Bible says, "No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him". The Christian should be able to say - this I know, this I believe, this life I have. May this be your rich and all sufficient experience throughout the year to come.
Please accept this as a personal and grateful acknowledgement of a letter or greeting from you if I have not been able to write before. It has been a joy to have seen and had fellowship with friends from home and overseas during 1969. We rejoice in the ties that bind. God grant you joy and blessing this Christmastide and throughout 1970.
With affectionate greetings
Hilda and Montague H. Knott.