19 - CHRISTMAS - 72
The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex.
It is early October, for some weeks the writing of this my sixteenth Christmas Letter from Blackmore Vicarage, has been in mind. For the past two days the radio announcer has given latest date of posting for Christmas notices, in respect of certain distant places and this has galvanised me into action. At last I've started. I know I shall not go uninterrupted to the end of my letter.
This has been a good year in many respects and I am glad of the opportunity to share my news with you. From letters received and conversation with recipients of my Christmas Letter, I find an interest in parish affairs this is where I'll start.
The Church Annual Meeting came early on. We prepare, for it in part by revising our Electoral Roll, as we were required to do. This process eliminated some dead wood and gave a more realistic total of those described as church members. Our church officers and Council are a responsible body and I feel myself strengthened by it in ministry and pastoral duties.
A special source of encouragement is that one of our fellowship, having studied and passed his theological examinations, was admitted a Lay Reader by the Bishop of Chelmsford in January. He has real gift and assists me in the services.
January also saw the start of the Thursday Fellowship. This is a group of mainly younger women who desire to grow in a knowledge of the Scriptures and to relate their Christian witness to the contemporary situation. They meet twice monthly and are going well. This leads me to the Blackmore Young Wives which has a mainly secular emphasis. Many of its members are regular attenders at the monthly Family Service when the church is generally full. Throughout the year the fortnightly meeting in the Vicarage for prayer and Bible study has been maintained. The Anglican and Baptist communions in Blackmore, working together in witness and service to Christ, have met challenge and encouragement, particularly in the field of work amongst the young.
What are called the occasional service's relating to baptism, marriage and burial take a fair proportion of my time. I always spend more time in preparation with those concerned than is given to the actual service. Pastorally these times of preparation are valuable, for human feelings are deeply stirred over a birth, a marriage, or a death and our God is a God for every situation be it one of joy or sorrow. Every bride looked charming and every babe most lovable. Among the mourners, God's promise of comfort to those who cast their care upon Him has not failed. I sense that my own bereavement of my dear wife has been used of the Lord to give me a closer identification with the sorrowing.
Although we have something over 3,500 people in our parish, Blackmore is still very much a village. In such situations one tends to find a closer link between church and community, with the parson having a special part. It is my privilege to serve as a School Manager, as a Trustee of Blackmore Charities and as President of the Old Folks Club. These and other involvements enable me to touch community life at different levels and to identify with the interests and aspirations of my people.
Our new Village Hall, opened a year or so ago is well used and much in demand. As our school population grows we hope to hear any day that additional classrooms will be built to complete our building programme. At the end of the summer term we lost our Head Teacher and Deputy Head through retirement and resignation respectively. Both had a warm place in our regard and will be missed. However, I believe the new Head Teacher and Deputy Head will serve our community well.
The former school canteen has been converted into an indoor swimming pool by the Parent Teacher Association which raised the money and did nearly all the manual work. It is a wonderful job and well used by children and parents. The old school is being used as a youth and community centre. Members are carrying out modifications and we expect to put the premises to increasing community use.
Our drama group the Blackmore Players continue vigorously, putting on their three productions each year. The Donkey Derby was held as in previous years. We held Church Garden Party. These and other events brought a general involvement of parishioners and raised funds fox church and community.
I have reached a point in this letter where I would like to introduce a thought which might stay with you through the year to come and bring some spiritual cheer. As I so often do, I had left home at 6.00 a.m. for a walk around our country lanes some two weeks ago when I had unusual experience. The sky was dark and starlit. My eye caught a moving light brighter than any of the stars. My first thought was, a fast moving plane but immediately I realized I was looking at an earth satellite. I was fascinated as I considered this thing, lightless and MON by forces outside itself, traversing the sky. As I walking all my world was shrouded in darkness. Up there the satellite moved in an inky void. Then whence its light. Beyond my eastern horizon and wholly unseen was the sun and because the satellite rode so high in the sky its reflective surface caught the full glare of the sun and it shone brightly in its dark setting.
As I continued my walk shrouded in pre-dawn shadow, where my accustomed eyes could see shapes but not colour I thought I had a picture of life on earth. From what one hears and sees so many appear to live out their lives it shadows, their existence is colourless. The satellite is also a thing of earth that came under a compulsive force which set it above the earth. There it was exposed to the radiance which gave it light. Thus has God dealt with men. He has brought them under the compulsive force of his Spirit lifting them out of the darkness of unbelief, above the shadows of doubt, to a state where they are lightened by the Sun of Righteousness and pursue an unswerving course in the Way of Life. The Psalmist (34.5) says of such "They looked unto him and were lightened and their faces were not ashamed." The Apostle Paul penetrates the external light to its inner source when he says (II Cor. 4.6) "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
Remember, during this coming year, if shadows beset your path or darkness seems to hide your future, God's own Spirit is available to lift your spirit so that you rise above any earthly situation to find rest and triumph in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness who ever rises above our horizons with healing in his wings.
It is no surprise to me to find that this letter begun in early October is concluded as the month draws to a close. There have been many interruptions. As for me, as I wrote at the outset, it has been a good year. The Lord has sustained me in health of spirit and body. There is never an idle hour yet each day I enjoy a sense of inner quiet and feel relaxed. My friends and parishioners surround me with affection and care so that I am always in their debt. I hope the post will bring me good news of you in due course.
The God of all grace grant you joy at Christmastide and abiding peace throughout the year to come.
Yours affectionately in Christ,
Montague H. Knott.