The Vicarage Blackmore Essex CM4 0RN
19 Christmas 83
Starting this 27th Christmas Letter from Blackmore Vicarage with last year's letter before me, the expression "Promise & Fulfilment" comes to mind. The promise of two months sabbatical leave for a visit to North America in 1983 had a wonderful fulfilment in August and September. Beginning in Ottawa on 2nd August I moved by car, plane, train and ferry all the way across Canada to Vancouver. Except in Ottawa, I passed from home to home and carry treasured memories of Bernie and Ruth Aldridge, Bill and Rosemary Rognvaldson, Herb and Hilda Wheally, Liz Miles and Rick Wilson, Tony and Joan Griffiths, and lastly, Logan and Lily Miles. All treated me with kind hospitality, each stay was memorable. A month in Canada was followed by a month in the States which ended with a stay on Long Island, New York as guest of Adrian and Christine Alley.
It proved no handicap not to have friends to contact in the States. My clerical collar brought many contacts. People were friendly and easy to talk to. A meeting of eyes and a smile led to a lovely meal with two charming ladies and a night tour of Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. A New Yorker met on a five day tour proved an engaging companion. We met again in New York before my flight home.
There is insufficient space in this letter even to outline the scenic wonders that met my eyes but the Rockies in Canada and the Grand Canyon in the States stand out as the most impressive. You can imagine my sense of gratitude to my parish for making this holiday possible and for raising £900 to cover the round trip air fare. Also for the way church officers and others cared for the parish during my absence. The major responsibility fell upon my good friend the Rev. John Fleetwood aided by Joan, his wife. In both Stondon Massey and Blackmore the congregations appreciated the ministry and pastoral care of this retired colleague who lives in Blackmore. Everything was in apple-pie order when I returned.
The Anglicans and Baptists continue to work together with young people. Staffing is a perennial problem. Our Baptist friends are putting a new floor into their church and meanwhile are holding their services in Blackmore Parish Church. A theological student is serving as a trainee pastor to the Baptists for a year before going to theological college. He is a welcome addition to the Baptist Team. The jointly held fortnightly prayer meeting is growing. The fortnightly bible study has become three house groups, which we hope will increase in number. The Mothers' Union is a small group but the Young Families Group is flourishing and now supports a monthly morning communion. Blackmore Wives has revived with an expressed desire to be church related. The Family Service each month is attended by the newly formed Scout Cub Troop as well as by the Brownies and Covenanters.
In May, my duties as official escort to Mrs Joan Hobbs while she was Chairman of Brentwood District Council, came to an end. I found it an interesting, instructive and rewarding experience and in some ways I miss it.
Because of my absence in North America I was not able to organise Gift Days in our two parishes but whilst I was away Blackmore held a Flower Festival featuring September Saints which was well attended and much appreciated. Days later Stondon Massey held its annual See Stondon Church Exhibition. Despite rainy periods the exhibition was well attended and the stalls well patronised. We are fortunate in having two such lovely 12th century churches as the Priory Church of St. Laurence and St. Peter & St. Paul in which to feature the occasions I have described. Mention of the three Christian communities in our united benefice is a reminder that distinctive traditions and firmly held convictions in respect of doctrine do not hinder a loving and mutually supportive relationship in the Church's outreach to the community.
That last word brings me naturally to speak of our two senior citizens clubs. One meeting at the Ex Servicemen's Club seems to be in danger of closing whilst the Jericho 60+ Club is a growing and going concern. Our Blackmore Primary School and the P.N.E.U. School at Stondon are going well. The Deputy Head at Blackmore is leaving to take up a Headship at Broxbourne so we shall need a replacement. The Blackmore Players continue-to entertain with three productions a year. The stage setting and acting seem to me of a high order. The Stondon Singers who specialise in the music of William Byrd have had an encouraging year. They were asked to sing Evensong in Ely Cathedral not long ago and their music was appreciated. The usual village events took place, the Village Fayre Weekend and the Bonfire & Fireworks Display on Guy Fawkes Day.
As I write these lines we are in the Autumn of the year. Trees are beginning to look threadbare and they picture to me the autumn of life. In two years time I shall move from being a septuagenarian to becoming an octogenarian. A number of people who were meaningful friends have surrendered their mortal lives during this year past and I feel the poorer and lonelier for their going. It has to be that way or it would signify that those friendships were not what friendship should be. One wonders whether our world is not itself in an autumn experience. There is so much that suggests decay, breakdown and a summer passed. At a human level and in the realm of the spirit our world is a battlefield. The cry on every hand is for peace. The Bible itself echoes the cry. Jeremiah accused the rulers of his people saying, "They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace, when there is no peace'." It is wonderful for the Christian who hears the voice of God when he reads the Bible and hears too, Jesus saying "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." World peace begins in heaven, in the heart of Jesus and on earth it begins in your heart and mine when Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, lives there.
I began with the expression "Promise and Fulfilment". In the closing message of the Bible, the Revelation, the Lord Jesus makes a promise. "I will make a new heaven and a new earth." Patching up will not do. The old must be completely done away with. Something altogether new and free from the self-destructive elements of the old. It has begun already for those in whose experience the Christ has already established the "Kingdom of God within you". The promise is in process of being fulfilled but we look for a complete and unending fulfilment in a time still future, for our long-suffering Creator God is giving men time for a change of mind and an amendment of life. This letter will go to those who are dear to me by the ties of nature and friendship. Some may need to use the time given by God in his patience for such a change of mind, for such an amendment of life.
I send my affectionate regards and good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
Montague H. Knott