Sunday, 25 December 2016

Blackmore: Christmas Letters from Revd. Montague Hardwick Knott (1985)

1 Wadham Close, Ingatestone, Essex. CM4 0DL

Dear Friend(s)

19  Christmas  85

The address above will be the first signification to many of the change in my situation.  For the last twenty-eight years my Christmas letter to relatives and friends has been written in the study in Blackmore Vicarage.  This comes to tell you that what I anticipated in last year’s letter has come about in a way that reveals to me God’s gracious provision and leads me to exclaim, as did the Psalmist, “The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Psalm 16:6.  I resigned my incumbency of the United Benefice of Blackmore and Stondon Massey at midnight on the 2nd June and moved from the Vicarage into the pleasing bungalow in which I now live on 18th July.

The Churchwardens of the two parishes, who are responsible officers during an interregnum, and others, have done an excellent job in keeping things going well until the Rev. Martin Sellix, the newly appointed incumbent, is installed on the 17th January 1986.  I have met my successor on two occasions for a chat and feel that he will prove the right man for Blackmore and Stondon Massey.  My prayer has been and will continue to be, that Christ our Saviour will be glorified through priest and people of the United Benefice.

Moving out of Blackmore was a rather traumatic experience after twenty-eight years during which I saw the population grow from 1,500 to well over 4,000 and the character of its people change from rural to a largely commuter-belt type.  Stondon Massey has some 600 population but I have always felt close to Stondon and caring for its people over the last five years has been a special joy.  When a person surrenders his charge he is expected to keep out of his former parish while the new incumbent gets settled in, which is why I sought a home in Ingatestone where I’d be near enough for my Blackmore and Stondon friends to visit me without any real inconvenience. Especially as the four mile drive is a very pretty one.

Ingatestone calls itself a village.  It must be one of the largest in Essex.  It has excellent shopping facilities in a single high street. The neighbouring ecclesiastical parish of Fryerning is joined to make the civil parish of Ingatestone and Fryerning, with a population of 4423.  The surrounding countryside is unduloting and very pleasing to the eye. There are a good many largish houses around. We have the Anglo-European School and a primary school, also a church school. The first is a comprehensive school which came into being when we joined the Common Market. It has a very good name. Ingatestone Parish Church of St. Mary and Edmund, in the care of Canon Edward Hudson, is linked with the adjoining Parish Church of St. Mary, Buttsbury. Fryerning’s Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, in the care of the .Rev. John Gravelle is else linked with an adjoining parish, St. Margaret, Margaretting. It seems likely that I shall be asked to take services in all four churches. I have already done so at Ingatestone and Fryerning.

I live in a cul-de-sac of well-designed bungalows for pensioners. The neighbours I've met are charming. Each bungalow has a small turfed lawn in front with a centre path, to the front door. This opens into a passage with a good sized kitchen on the left. I have a nice outlook from the large window. A small but adequate bathroom opens on the right. At the end of the passage on the right is my bedroom-com-study with a largish window looking onto the garden. On the left of the bedroom in the lounge which again is roomy. Beside other gifts on my retirement, the two parishes presented me with cheques amounting to more than £1,300. I have spent the whole of it on equipping and beautifying my home so that wherever I look I have evidence of the love and care of my former parishioners. In many ways my life-style has not changed. I still rise at 5 a.m. or just: after, with half an hour at exercises and another in half hour at my devotions before bathing and breakfast.  Most days I get an hour’s walking around the pretty lanes; which spread in all directions. I have had the privilege of taking quite a number of services. This keeps me, metaphorically, on my knees and on my toes at the same time. I have also taken nine weddings but I am free from the stress of administration and the "Always available" commitment. I felt the time had come to retire before it became evident that the job was beyond me.  

By the time this letter comes into the hands of most of its readers I shall have passed into my 81st year and ninth decade. Even as I write, my mind is full of gratitude to God for my present well-being and the opportunity to serve him and my saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. During the weeks preceding my day of retirement different sections of the two communities marked the event with parties and presentations. I had a tremendous surprise at the Village Fayre Weekend in Blackmore to see my much loved, long-time friends, Bernie and Ruth Aldridge from Peterborough in Ontario, Canada, present. Bernie, as ever, busy with his camera. It was he who opened the way for me to introduce the work of the Gideons into this country.

Each year more and more friends of long standing are leaving this earthly life. A loss I feel keenly is that of Bishop A.W. Goodwin Hudson, who died in September. A godly and gifted man of many Christian interests to all of which he brought insight and sound judgement. As often as not he and his wife and I would meet for an over-night stay in Town.  We were born in the same year.

The succession of farewell occasions consequent upon my retirement have involved me in little speeches of appreciation and thanks for kindness shown, suitably apposite I hope. I do not know, whether or not this will be the last of my Christmas letters but I feel it is the point at which I should record my appreciation for the constant friendship, understanding support and helpful counsel received over many years from relatives and friends. I am grateful to you all, so may I indulge in another "little speech" with which to draw my letter to a close.

Reverting to my opening paragraph and the Psalmist's declaration 'Yea, I have a goodly heritage" what gladdened my heart during the period following my conversion in 1922 was the belief that, beside being a truly forgiven sinner, my Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, had secured in addition to God's pardon, a rich heritage that would suffice for all eternity. Though my joy in that heritage has waxed and waned at times, my certainty of it never. The written testimony of the Holy Bible, the inner witness of the Holy Spirit and personal involvement in the service of Christ and his Church have built into my experience for 63 years a certainty that God, our Maker, can be known, in the Lord Jesus Christ, on a personal basis.  Clouds of fear and uncertainty are overshadowed so much of our world today that we do well to consider what the future holds when our physical bodies have served their turn and are laid aside and the spirit returns to our God who gave it being.  It is easy in a world that so engages our senses and to lose sight of the personal responsibility we have towards God.  Jesus said, “I tell you everyone will have to give account on the day of judgement”.  The Apostle Peter confirms this in a letter to the early Church when he writes of those who exclude God from their lives, saying, “They will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead”.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome and declared, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.  The restitution Christ made for our sins fully met the Father’s righteous claims against the sinner.  Moving into my 81st year I see my part as living with a sensitivity as regards sin that will keep me ready to repent of what is wrong in thought, word or deed and just as ready to receive the forgiveness that will enable me to enjoy my heavenly Father’s approval.  This is my prayer for all I know.

With my news I send you my affectionate regards and the wish that your Christmas will be a happy one and your New Year rich with blessings from our loving heavenly Father.

Montague H. Knott

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