Essex CM4 0RN
19 Christmas 82
A special interest attaches to this year's letter for more than one reason. It is not only the 26th from Blackmore Vicarage but it marks the year when I came to my 25th anniversary as Vicar of Blackmore Also it heralds a year when I hope to take an extended holiday in Canada and the U.S.A. In the late 40's and early 50's I visited North America a number of times and made friendships with a number of people. Friendships sustained through the post. Inevitably the passing years have seen the passing of a number of these erstwhile friends but some remain and I shall do my best to see them. Then, some of those I have married have crossed the Atlantic and settled and I hope to see them also.
On the 16th July, a little ahead of my 25th Anniversary date, the 25th, the Parish marked the occasion in a way that took me by surprise. They arranged a "This is your life" event in our fine Village Hall. The Rev. John Fleetwood, retired and living in Blackmore, took the part of Eamon Andrews and uncovered my life from birth and baptism to the present. People who had shared experiences in life with me over some fifty years were back stage to present themselves on cue. I was in an emotional whirl for days after and goodness knows what my parishioners thought as they learned what I'd been up to during my fifty two years before coming to Blackmore. The icing on the cake, so to speak, was the arrangement of a two months sabbatical holiday in August and September 1983 with a gift of £700 towards my travel.
One reason for this letter is to let you know that 1982 has been a year of grace for me. Our Lord Jesus has made himself increasingly precious. He has seen to it that I've had no idle moments and has blessed me with health to cope with parish and pastoral responsibilities. I suppose my years would mark me as in the autumn of life, although to me it feels like high summer, but my contemporaries are fewer and the year has brought the loss of quite a few parishioners I counted as my friends. Among the menfolk too many succumb to coronaries. I suppose that in our competitive world men are stressed in a way that women are not and so we have a number of widows with teenage children. These bereavements leave me with a real sense of personal loss. On the other hand there are newcomers who seem to settle in quickly and happily. I can understand this for ours is a happy community.
The Parish of Stondon Massey has been part of my spiritual charge for three years now and a rewarding experience it has been. The parish church of St. Peter & St. Paul is only half the size of the Priory Church of St. Laurence but has its own distinctive charm and the local interest seems to be growing. I feel myself loyally and ably supported by the congregation. As regards the Church of St. Laurence we miss the support we had previously from a number who have been touched by the charismatic movement and are attached to house groups. They come occasionally to services but we are denied their skills and regular support. We have accepted to the Alternative Services Book at Blackmore and are having each Sunday one service in the new rite and the other according to the Bcok of Common Prayer. Stondon Massey sticks to the Prayer Book.
In Youth Work numbers have declined somewhat and we have staffing problems. I speak of Blackmore. In Stondon we are considering how we might start a children's work. Accommodation and availability of time are the current obstacles. Some of those confirmed earlier in the year are coming more or less regularly to Holy Communion. A number were helped at a Down to Earth mission led by Eric Delve, in Brentwood, our district town. Now we are taking an interest in a mission to be held some twelve miles away, in Harlow, next Spring. This will be led by the Rev. Canon David Watson. Three of our young men have formed a group and are coming along very nicely. Some of the more conservative among our number would say noisily. A good many of our young people attended. holiday camps, the Aqua-Sports Camp at Marlow attracting the largest number. The Young Families Group is going well. We look on this as a seed bed for the Mothers' Union which, with the Women's Fellowship, grows slowly. Joint church prayer meetings are poorly attended but there is more support for the Bible Studies.
A memorable occasion was the Brentwood District Civic Service. Mrs. Jean Hobbs one of our parishioners is Chairmen of the Council and the custom is for the annual Civic Service to take place in the Chairman's own parish church. Joan and I lost our respective partners within a week of each other nearly thirteen years ago. I have been able to assist her during her during her year of office, as Official Escort. I have found the experience most interesting. It has added to our pleasure as a community that this year we have won the Essex Best Kept Village (Larger Villages) Trophy. Brentwood District is twinned with the Landkreis Roth in Bavaria. Joan led an official delegation to Roth last July and we go again in February to the Spalt Festival, The foregoing rather grew out of church activities and services. If I may touch again on our two churches both have need of repair. Things are further forward at St. Peter & St. Paul but at St. Laurence we are starting a new cycle of work following the architect's quinquennial inspection. For the first time in 800 years Blackmore church has a standpipe supplying mains water for flower arrangers and cleaning.
Turning to other parish interests, the County Primary School at Blackmore and the P.N.E.U. School at Stondon Massey are producing good results and I am happy for the entree I have to each. Our two clubs for senior citizens continue to flourish as do the Women's Institutes in both parishes. Our dramatic group, the Blackmore Players, are well supported. It is a continuing problem to find leaders for youth activities. The Brownies flourish but the Girl Guides have folded up. I hear there are moves to start a Cub-Scout Pack.
I cannot conclude that part of my Christmas Letter which is designed to report our "goings on" in the two parishes without paying tribute to my four churchwardens and two parochial church councils. They give me consistent support, especially Peter. Hunt my Lay Reader. Other individuals also give me great help. The Rev, John Fleetwood, already mentioned, is a gracious and helpful friend. Every week brings fresh evidence that I am lovingly and prayerfully supported by my parishioners. They put me greatly in their debt. Interaction, our bi-monthly newsletter, is a continuing link between parishioners and me.
Last year I picked out the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales as the most notable event of public interest. This year I think it must be the Falklands. The Government reacted to the occupation by the Argentines in a manner which expressed the general sentiment of the country. There was very real heroism and on both sides a regrettable loss of life. One feels the problem will not go away and the ambivalence of successive governments, irrespective of party, for the past quarter of a century undoubtedly led to this year's war.
This is being written on the day we commemorate the Saints of Essex. The Epistle at Holy Communion is taken from St. Paul's letter to Titus. Titus was exhorted to amend what was defective in the church, and the reason for so doing was that "The grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great Gad and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds!! I find we live in a subtle and insidious world system and only a day by day exposure of one's mind and life to the teaching and authority of the Holy Bible protects one against lowered standards and a remoteness from the presence of the Lord Jesus. The Apostle speaks of "Our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God & Saviour Jesus Christ". This blessed hope is viewed as of the future and it has sustained the Church for two thousand years but there is a sense in which our gracious Lord & Saviour will reveal his glory and came with his power into our personal experience day by day. When the Lord said the Kingdom of God is within you I believe he was referring to that area of our being where his rule remains supreme. We Christians have eternal life now. As St. John declares in his 1st Epistle "He that has the Son has life and he that has not the Son of God has not life. When we lay down our Christian service on earth we will be set free from those elements our unregenerate nature which hinder our full enjoyment of the life Christ gives. Our Lord's gift at the Holy Spirit to his Church was to enable individual Christians to enjoy the benefits of the Kingdom of God here and now and that in increasing measure. As the years go by I like to think of myself as in the ante chamber to the Throne Room of Heaven. We who call ourselves Christians ought to walk life's way in company with the Lard Jesus so that our transition from the earthly to the heavenly state does not seem a crossing of a great divide.
In sending my greetings and good wishes for Christmas and the New Year I would express the hope that news from you will tell me that 1982 has been a good year for you.
Montague H. Knott