Monday, 19 December 2016

Blackmore: Christmas Letters from Revd. Montague Hardwick Knott (1979)

The Vicarage Blackmore Essex CM4 0RN

Dear Friend(s)

19 Christmas 79 

An annual letter which aims to keep one's friends up to date with news has to be drafted with rather more preparation than the usual answer to a letter received. Over the years the parish journal has been a source of material. Last January the former quarterly magazine gave way to a bi-monthly news-letter which I have entitled "Interaction". The hope is that it may promote an interaction between parishioners in general and those professedly and practically involved in the living Church. The Bible makes it clear that the Church, like Israel of old, is called to a priestly function, to represent God to the people and the people to God.

The early part of the year brought its sadness. Ted Marriage, a gentleman farmer who lived in the big house, Jericho Priory, next to the church and a member of our congregation died. The east and south walls of the parish church face into the Priory garden and we shall miss the generous interest of Ted Marriage in the use of his grounds for church and parish occasions. A pillar of our church was Margaret Eastmond, who died early in February. She served the church in many ways and has left a big gap.

If we have suffered losses we have also had our gains. The pastoral ministry of the church has resulted in an increase in our worshipping community. John and Joan Fleetwood, retiring from a nearby parish are proving a delightful and helpful addition to our number. John makes the third retired parson in Blackmore but he is younger and is able to give me needed help from time to time. Peter Hunt, my Lay Reader, is always a source of help and counsel.

During the year, Brentwood, our nearest town of size was twinned with Roth in the Ruhr. In September a civic delegation from Roth was entertained in Brentwood and Blackmore was chosen as the most interesting satellite village to show to the visitors. The delegation and their hosts came one Saturday and were shown our Village Hall, the School, Community Centre and Library, the Craft Centre, our ancient pub, The Bull and last but not least, our Priory Church of St. Laurence. All of which seemed to impress the visitors. The Roth Lutheran Minister sent a lovely colour photo of his church on his return and an invitation to visit him so perhaps I may be able to join our delegation when it goes to Germany next Spring.

A first time occurrence was a ten day visit by the Suffrogan Bishop to our Deanery of Ongar. The Bishop of Barking spent a day in each parish. His coming to Blackmore was appreciated. We showed him all we could in the time available and he seemed gratified to observe evidence of God's blessing on the work and witness of the local church.

The Anglican and Baptist Churches are coming to the end of another year wherein there has been warm fellowship and close cooperation in Christian outreach. Each department of our Youth Work continues encouragingly. The summer camps went well. Joint services on two Sunday evenings in each month are maintained. Bible study, prayer and women's meetings are well attended. Yet not as well as they should be or as Pastor Francis and I could wish. A Missionary Week-end at the end of October aroused interest and, we hope, will lead to a deepening of the Church's concern for the spiritual and material needs of our neighbours in this and other lands. Nine different societies were featured in the exhibition in the parish church. A missionary play entitled "The Other Man's Skin" written and produced by a member of our congregation, Lilian Haward, carried a real message.

Encouraging pastoral opportunities occur when preparing those concerned for baptism, either adults or the parents of babes who are to be baptised. Also young people who are to be married. I think four of the brides married in the past year made their first entry into the parish church when I baptised them as babes. It is moving to receive a child into the congregation, watch her grow through childhood, into womanhood and then join her in Christian marriage to the man of her choice. Bereavement and funerals also are used of God to bring some to a new experience of God in Christ and into the fellowship of the church.

Pockets of development within the parish result in more houses and more people. Otherwise it is "All systems go" as the Americans put it. The School, the Village Hall, which is quite a complex these days, the Community Centre and Library and the Craft Centre are all fully functioning. The Blackmore Players maintain their three productions each year, the W.I., our two Old Folks clubs and the Stondon Singers continue to serve and please. The Village Fayre and Medieval Street Market was rained off, alas, but the Parish Harvest Supper was a great success. So was the "Holiday Play School" during the school holidays. About 180 children were catered for. The possible siting of a third London Airport at nearby Willingale has caused great stir and opposition. Also there has been a change at the Post Office. The Paul Family, mother, father and three school age sons came some seventeen years ago and proved a most helpful part of our community. Service with a smile sums them up. The boys grew and are now married and Ernest and Betty have sold out and retired. They have gone for the winter to their eldest son and his family in Australia. David and Pauline Rackham who have lived in Blackmore for some years have taken over the Post Office and are carrying on the good work.

Over the end of June and beginning of July I took a holiday on the Continent. The first five days were spent in Bordeaux with David and Annette Whisker who left Blackmore last year to take up work for the Lord in France They proved kind hosts and gave me a happy and spiritually profitable stay. I found Bordeaux interesting and am looking forward to another visit. Next I went to Paris for another five days. I last saw Paris in 1925, as a young commercial traveller, visiting my employers there. The principal places of interest appeared unchanged although the city has grown tremendously. During the day I saw the sights and in the evenings, a young friend who works at the British Embassy, Alistair Kerr, was my kind and informative host. From Paris I went to Cognalee near Namur in Belgium to stay with Guy Delvigne and his sister Jacqueline, in the Presbytery. I have known Guy for twenty years. He is a priest with the care of two churches and loves the Lord. Scouting is a great interest of his and he does a fine work among Scouts. Namur is an interesting town, pleasantly situated at the confluence of two rivers. I saw a little of Brussels and would like to spend more time there on another occasion. This first visit left me grateful for an experience of warm Christian fellowship and, perhaps, something of surprise that we found common ground in so many areas of faith and worship.

I find that I have recorded the news that I believe will interest my friends new and old, far and wide, so I bring to a close my twenty third Christmas Letter from Blackmore Vicarage. In numbering the years I recall that I was in my fiftieth year when I was ordained into the Ministry and on Trinity Sunday next year I shall reach the 25th anniversary of my ordination. Such recollections make me freshly aware of God's leading in my life and of his wonderful sufficiency in every situation. The words of the Psalmist spring to mind –
"Bless the Lord, 0 my soul; and all that is within me bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." Psalm 103, 1-5

Grateful for your interest and your friendship I send you my affectionate greetings and best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Montague H. Knott 

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