19 - CHRISTMAS - 71
The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex.
I am sitting in my study to write this my fifteenth Christmas Letter from Blackmore. Through the window I see a cloudless blue sky and sunlight brightens the dying foliage of tree and bush. The red brick garden wall is dappled with light and shade and October has but four days left. Christmas seems rather remote and summer lingers on. But if my greetings and good wishes are to reach my relatives and friends in far away places before Christmas I must draft my letter at no later date, In the appropriate file I have numerous letters making acknowledgement of my last Christmas Letter and bringing news of those of whom I think and for whom I pray. Thank you all for writing, Each letter will bring me renewed pleasure as I re-read it and make supplementary comment at the foot of this necessarily general letter.
Turning now to the parish it appears to me that our community continues to thrive in its various interests and activities. Our people seem ready with their smiles and the children are numerous and bonnie. The companies of Christians related to the Baptist and Parish Churches, working together, study to serve Christ in the overall life of the community, particularly among the young. To accommodate the Junior Church, the Adventurers and the Covenanters, the full age range, we use the village hall, the old school building, the Baptist Hall and the parish church. Guides and Brownies parade at the monthly Family Service in the parish church. Church officers play an effective part in filling out the functions of the witnessing church as also do the Choir, the Needlework Guild, the Flower Guild, the Women's Fellowship, Mothers Union and Young Wives Fellowship.
Further work has been carried out in the restoration of our old church, mainly in the tower. The latter looks superb. Special events were the Flower Festival and the Parish Gift Day, both of which proved interesting and rewarding. In July, our church and choir appeared on television in colour in the programme "Seeing and Believing", In early December I hope to make an appeal for the church over radio on the Week's Good Cause Appeal. Another special event was Bishop John Tiarks' resignation and the coming of Bishop John Trillo to the See of Chelmsford.
Our new County Primary School is already bursting at the seams and additional classrooms are needed. The young fathers of the village have nearly completed the conversion of the old school canteen into an indoor swimming pool for the children, under the auspices of the Parent-Teacher Association. The old school itself is about to be adapted as a Youth and Community Centre for all age groups and as a department of the County Library. Our Football Team is giving a good account of itself and helps train the boys at weekends, The Blackmore Players, our drama group, is well supported and is managing two plays and a pantomime each year. A high standard too. The annual Donkey Derby drew great crowds and was a success. Each year sees new houses going up here and there. This year several stretches of pavement (sidewalk) have been laid down.
Sometimes when I meet an old friend whom I see very occasionally the question is asked "How are you getting along in Blackmore?" My reply invariably is "I like the people, I like the place and I like my job." It is a joy to serve such a parish as also to be served by the parish. I have received great kindness, especially since I lost my dear wife. I have considerable correspondence and two parishioners help with typing and duplicating. A keen Christian man has been taking theological examinations to qualify as a Lay Reader. When he is licensed he should be a great help with the services.
Ours is a world of change and I always feel a sense of loss when some family I have come to know has to remove from Blackmore. But as one advances in years more hurtful partings come increasingly upon one. This year my only brother died suddenly from a coronary. Although we did not meet often we were very close in affection. A loved sister-in-law passed away as also a missionary friend who, since her retirement, had become an absolute pillar of the church. Another dear friend, whose best man I was at his wedding in 1925, was taken from us recently. Mercifully, for the Christian, human sorrow in bereavement is lightened by his confidence that being with Christ is a far better part and the resurrection holds the promise of a glad reunion in the glorious presence of Christ our Redeemer.
After a gap of twenty years the way opened up for me to revisit Canada. An invitation to give a week of Bible talks at a Christian holiday centre led to my staying on for a further two weeks to renew acquaintances with friends of the past, some of whom I had been writing each Christmas. All my travels were in the Province of Ontario which I reached in a Jumbo Jet. I started with two days on the Niagara Escarpment where I saw something of the Canadian Menonites, a strict Christian sect which reminds one of the Puritans. The Bible talks were given at Elim Lodge in the Kawartha Lakes country. I went to Canadian Keswick, a Christian conference centre in the Muskoka country. My last week was spent in Toronto and district. I was able to preach in the Church of the Epiphany in Oakville. In all I was entertained with great kindness in seven different Canadian homes.
Increasingly I discover all sorts of problems hidden beneath the surface of people's lives. In nearly all cases I can trace these problems as arising from a failure to relate to God. As I grow older and realise that my years of active Christian service are limited in number, I feel an increasing urge to be involved with people. The one question I want to ask men is "Do you know Jesus, my Lord?" The one possession I want to commend to my fellows is the Holy Bible. The one society into which I fain would draw the wayfarer is the company of Christ's Church. In this way I know a responsive soul would come to God the Eternal Father. This is really what Christmas is all about. This is why God became flesh and dwelt among us in the Babe of Bethlehem two thousand years ago. Be thankful for his coming.
As for me, I am busy, well and rejoicing in the Lord. It is my hope and prayer that the same is true of you. This brings my affectionate Christian greetings,
Montague H. Knott