The Vicarage, Blackmore, Essex CM4 0RN
19 — Christmas — 78
In previous years the Christmas greetings conveyed through my annual letter have been the first of the year but this year they are the second. A local group based on the nearby town of Brentwood is producing a talking newspaper for the blind and partially sighted in the district. A few weeks ago I was asked to record a short talk for the blind listeners and as it will be heard by them at about the time you read this I concluded with a greeting and good wishes as I shall do this letter.
As I address myself then to this twenty-second Christmas letter from Blackmore Vicarage I recall a sermon I heard preached many years ago. The text was "There are many who say, ‘O that we might see some good! Lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, O Lord'." Psalm 4:6. The preacher pointed to the many who saw nothing but gloom and doom arising out of man's inventive genius and then invited his congregation to consider God, the Psalmist's God, who had better things in store for man. Half a lifetime later I find the world is not greatly changed. Man's capacity for violence and destruction go side by side with his capacity for caring concern. Those who have been enlightened and enlivened by the Lord do not despair, however gloomy the prospect, because like the Psalmist, they find their God is master of the situation. The Psalmist records the ground of his confidence - "Thou hast given me room … The Lord hears when I call to him … Thou hast put joy in my heart ... Thou alone, O Lord, makest me dwell in safety". With such an experience who can wonder at the Psalmist's confidence and that confidence can be ours - yours and mine - with equal validity.
Turning to the Parish of Blackmore and the Church in Blackmore, 1978 has been a busy and rewarding year, yet one is aware of the potential for greater things if only the Holy Spirit had greater freedom to bring us under the discipline of the Lord Jesus Christ and to teach us from the Holy Scriptures. Of Blackmore then, my friend and colleague in the Gospel, Pastor Douglas Francis continues to lead a growing and active fellowship at the Baptist Church. We in the Parish Church also rejoice in those who are coming into fellowship. Jointly our congregations continue to serve the younger generation. Our joint outreach this year took the form of a tent mission led by Geoff Carr. He was able to lead a number to profess faith in Christ and others had their faith strengthened. Geoff reached various sections of our community and was able to speak at assembly in the schools in and around Blackmore where our children attend. Our togetherness continues in joint worship on two Sunday evenings each month and in the house group Bible studies and prayer meetings. A number of our young people were able to attend Covenanter and Juco camps. I had three wonderful days with some of them at the Aquasports camp at Harlow, only I didn't aqua!
We are still without a regular organist for the Parish Church but we have several with musical talent in the congregation. A new singing group calling itself "The Priory Singers" has been formed and includes some of our small choir. The group shows great promise. Church repairs are always with us and our south wall has been a long while in the hands of contractors. We have been helped by a grant of £500 from the Historic Churches Preservation Trust and a loan of £500 from the Diocese. A fine oak mobile bookstall has been donated to the Church and is being well supported. The occasional services of baptism, weddings and funerals give me pastoral opportunities. The Ongar Deanery of which our parish is a part provides opportunity for wider fellowship with neighbouring believers through quarterly joint services of Evensong. We meet together in a different Church each quarter and this gives some of our more remote country Churches a chance to have an overflowing congregation from time to time.
On personalities, we greatly miss David and Annette Whisker and their three children. They felt a call to serve the Lord in France and have removed to Bordeaux. David was Churchwarden and Treasurer and most able in both offices. Peter Hunt, my Lay Reader and other Church-warden continues tower of strength and has as his co-warden Dr. Stuart Jennings with his wife Catherine and their two boys have moved into Whisker's house. We all had a sense of loss when Peggy Ford went to her Lord on the 14th March. Geoff her husband preceded her by two years. They were a lovely couple. Other parish activities which have my interest and support and to which reference has been made in previous Christmas Letters continue. The Women's Institute thrives as do Blackmore Players, the Jericho Sixty-Plus Club and Blackmore Wives. Blackmore Charities Trustees have succeeded in increasing income from the Charities' assets so that more money is available for distribution. It is a privilege to be involved in the affairs of our local Primary School where things are going well, thanks to an able staff. Last Christmas we had a Nativity Play on horseback in the open-air for the physically handicapped. We hope to do the same again this year. It such a wonderful occasion for the handicapped youngsters. Another great occasion was the Silver Jubilee of the Coronation of Majesty the Queen. We had our Street Market again and there was a general dressing up in medieval attire. King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn graced us with their presence once again - and we had a lovely time, with two weddings thrown in for good measure for yours truly.
Holidays have been rather piece-meal this year. The inside of a week at Eastbourne in January, the inside week in East Anglia visiting relatives and friends in June, three days in Weymouth with the Easeys who entertained me in their home in Italy last year when they lived there and lastly, two weeks in Jerusalem in September. This last was in company with Bishop and Mrs. Goodwin-Hudson. We saw a good deal of the Old City and its places of interest. Each day we spent some time visiting the Garden Tomb where the Bishop has involvement as Chairman of the Garden Tomb Committee. We met interesting people in Church affairs and Israelis with responsibility in various fields, such as education, medicine and broadcasting. There was a conducted tour of a kibbutz whore we had an excellent meal. A visit to a development of a 400 acre site in the Judean hills called the Garden of Israel. Here all the flowers, herbs, plants and trees referred to in the Bible are being planted and grown. In ten years time the present promise should become a full realization.
Walking in the hills where Jesus once walked and looking on scenes which must have been familiar to his eyes, a wonderful sense of the presence and Person of the Saviour of mankind. This letter brings you my Christmas and New Year greetings but above all my earnest hope that the presence and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ might be a growing experience once in your life through all your days to cone.
MONTAGUE H. KNOTT