The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex. CM4 ORN
19 - Christmas - 77
When I reached my twenty first birthday, in law I came of age. It might be said that with this communication my Christmas letter has come of age for it is the twenty first to originate from this study. Following custom I abstracted a copy of last year's letter from the file and as I did so thought I'd take out also the letter for Christmas 1957. What nostalgia swept over no as I recaptured the sentiments that moved, me when I had so newly entered my incumbency of the Parish of Blackmore. At the time of writing that first Christmas Letter the land between the Vicarage and the Church was the kitchen garden of Jericho Priory and I had an unobstructed view of the church tower from my study window. Now three houses stand on the site of the kitchen garden. I remember my dear wife sat in front of the fire knitting as I wrote. For thirteen years she partnered me in my ministry and I drew strength from her loyalty, practical support and warm affection. It is almost eight years since our Lord took her from her earthly service and I have been blessed in the spiritual oversight of a parish which has kept me busy and has shown a kindly care for its Vicar.
The year 1977 has been a good one. Both churches have maintained a consistent ministry of God's word and our joint efforts in work among the children and teenagers continues to encourage. This year, for the first time, some of our Jucos (11-13) went to camp and enjoyed it, while our Covenanters (13 and up) went again to Aqua-Sports Camp at Marlow and also enjoyed it, despite the weather. In both instances some committed their lives to Christ and others deepened their faith in the Saviour. In February a team of some twenty four people of different ages and from different backgrounds came from the Parish Church of St. Luke, Cranhan Park to lead in a Together Week-end. It was an exciting experience. The team was entertained in various homes and a real sense of togetherness in Christ was our experience. Then, in Easter Week, a team came from the London Bible College to lead a Holiday Bible Club. Again the team was entertained in local homes. The children turned out in good numbers and there was meaningful contact with parents too.
Pastor Douglas Francis and his Deacons at the Baptist Church are encouraged by an increase in the number of young people attending their services and in the Parish Church the attendance at the monthly Family Service fills the Church. The fortnightly House Group Bible Study is conducted by one or other of our combined company who is gifted to minister the Word of God, usually in the house of the one leading the study. Recently our numbers have been in excess of thirty persons. There are many one would like to name but to do so might seem invidious. However, I must make mention of my Churchwardens, Peter Hunt and David Whisker. In my spiritual warfare on behalf of the people of Blackmore I feel they are Aaron and Hur to my Moses. I thank God for them. Other church activities continue. The preparation of parents before the baptism of their babes, the preparation of couples prior to marriage and the sharing with bereaved families, all provide wonderful pastoral opportunities.
The highlight of the year was surely the Queen's Silver Jubilee Celebration. Blackmore went to town over it, as they say. The whole community threw itself into the celebration. A school pageant, a medieval street market, races, community singing, firework display, dancing and a moving Service of Thanksgiving in the Parish Church. A Silver Jubilee Programme of a high standard remains to testify to a truly wonderful and loyal occasion. The weather was kind, crowds came in from all around and I shall never forget how early each morning the men of the village were out clearing the debris and untidiness of the previous evening so that by 10am Blackmore had a "Best kept Village" look. It was fitting that the nation should show its affection for its Queen, whose service to her people and worthy occupancy of the Throne commands our loyal support.
The preceding paragraph introduced the subject of leisure and leads me to mention two spells of holiday taken this year. In May I went to Italy for two and a half weeks staying at Rocca di Papa nearly twenty miles south of Rome. I was entertained by a gracious Christian couple with whom I had become acquainted when staying with Alan and Marian Leach last year. My host and hostess were Bill and Jopie Easey recent converts but full of the joy of the Lord. Day by day we shared the Scriptures and found the experience most profitable. Rocca di Papa is part of a range of volcanic mountains the highest point of which is Montecavo. I climbed it and was repaid with a wonderful view. Day by day I walked on the mountains and enjoyed every step of the way I made two or three trips into Rome and spent four days in Florence with Jopie and her pretty daughter Carol. Bill had to be away on a businessman's course over that period. The Easey's are coming to live in England in January so I hope to see more of them. My second break in September was spent in the West Country, mainly in Wales. I had happy fellowship with friends new and old and found myself viewing sights and staying in places for the first since before the last World War. And the weather was good on the whole.
Other items that suggest themselves for mention are Village Hall to which we are adding Squash Courts; the refurbished Community Centre and Library are being increasingly used; our Jericho Sixty Plus Club thrives and we have started a Family Film Night. The Blackmore Players present three productions each year, a Pantomime, a Comedy and a Drama. The players and members of the congregation presented a nativity play in December. Our Baptist friends still await planning permission for the development of their site.
As I think of the five thousand souls committed to my spiritual care I draw comfort from the realization that a gracious God pursues them in love. Throughout their lives people and events give testimony that God cares for them, will come to them when they admit Him to the rule of their wills and in the ordering of their lives. One sees this taking place. There are a number in the parish who will readily admit that the year has seen the introduction of a new dimension into life, a peace, a joy that had not been there before. On what better note could I finish! The Lord Jesus said:
"You are made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.... If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full".
My Season's Greetings and affectionate good wishes for 1978 come with this letter.
MONTAGUE H. KNOTT.