The Vicarage Blackmore Essex CM4 0RN
19 Christmas 80
It is with a sense of gratitude to God for his many mercies that I address myself to my Christmas Letter 1980. Much has happened that could have been foreseen and again much that was not. Under the latter heading is my taking over the care of the adjoining parish of Stondon Massey in January last following the retirement of the previous incumbent. The parish church dates from 1115AD, is dedicated to St. Peter & St. Paul and is lovely to look at inside or out. It seats about ninety persons but since the village has developed one and a half miles away we rarely fill all the seats. William Byrd, the sixteenth century composer of church and other music is buried in the churchyard. Each year the Stondon Singers, drawn largely from our two parishes, gives a recital of Byrd music which is always greatly appreciated.
Interaction, the bi-monthly parish newsletter, has completed its second year and I believe serves a useful purpose in disseminating parish news as well as being a means of presenting a Christian message. It was not difficult to incorporate items of special interest to Stondon Massey and increase production to take in the larger readership. Blackmore and Stondon Massey are to become a united benefice. I feel a little like Noah who had two of everything for his ark, I have two Parochial Church Councils, two annual meetings, two harvest suppers, two parish gift days and so on. I also have wonderful helpers so that one is able to cope. Looking back, over the six issues for 1980 I have furnished myself with material for this letter.
The Anglican and Baptist Congregations continue to worship together on the third and fourth Sunday evenings of each month and work jointly in caring for our youth and in Christian out-reach. A number of the believers have been touched by the Charismatic Movement and seem to find the Baptist services less inhibiting than those taking place in the parish church. One prays that love for our Saviour will prove a ground out of which will grow love of the brethren in a way that will preserve the life and liberty of the Church in Blackmore. The human body has its growing pains and doubtless growth in the Church, the Body of Christ, will also produce its pains. There are those in both churches who enjoy the fellowship we share and at the same time find the doctrines and form of worship to which they are accustomed meaningful and do not want to lose an identity within the universal church. I once found myself speaking to a fellow Christian who told me he was an "Exclusive". I asked what the term signified and he replied "I want to be exclusive of all that God would exclude and inclusive of all that God would include." I think that expresses how I feel.
Turning to the community and its interests, things continue in an established pattern. The Social Club, Football Club, Blackmore Players, Squash and other activities centred on the Village Hall continue. Each November the Guy Fawkes bonfire and fireworks display take place on a field adjoining. We have a toddler and three pre-school groups. I am a governor of our Blackmore County Primary School and Stondon has a fee-paying P.N.E.U. school. The economic situation and passing of the educational bulge has led to reduced intakes but otherwise the instruction of our young goes well. Our old school building, modified, proves a well used Community Centre to which has been added our local library. All these amenities are staffed by parishioners who find outlet for service to the community by these means. Each parish has a branch of the W.I. and there are three clubs for senior citizens, Both the Village Hall and Community Centre serve as bases for Church and other youth movements.
Two village events remain as worthy of mention. First, the Village Fayre and Street market. This is becoming an annual event. The Street Market with its stalls and attendants was all medieval. Fine weather helped make the three day event a time of great fun with games, contests, races and dancing on Horsefair Green. On Sunday we had outdoor community hymn singing and community services in the two churches. Second, was the building of Duck Island in the village pond. By making the effort a village enterprise, the cost to the Parish Council was no more in hundreds than it would have been in thousands of pounds if outside contractors had been employed. Early one summer Sunday morning people were out of doors damming the inflow of water. As soon as the water had drained into the moat the pond bed was cleared of refuse and busy hands filled bags with sand and cement. These were built into a retaining wall and the centre filled with soil. A duck path led from water level onto the island and the pond margin was also reinforced with sandbags. From early morning to early evening men and women, boys and girls in suitable garb toiled to finish the task as the cement mixer ground away and housewives brought coffee, tea and sandwiches. In the evening the dam was removed to the pleasure of our duck population. How, nicely grassed over, with a weeping willow for shade, Duck Island is a feature of our pond.
I made my annual five day excursion into East Anglia in the Spring and enjoyed seeing and staying with relatives and friends. The possible trip to Germany mentioned in last year's letter materialised. Fifteen of us went to Rohr in the District of Roth in Bavaria. The hospitality was impressive. Two words come to mind - cleanliness and hard work. I stayed in the home of Gerd and Gerdi Sanders. He is the Lutheran Pastor of Rohr and its neighbouring villages. They did everything possible to make the eight day stay enjoyable. In August the Sanders family came to England and chased around seeing the sights. Part of the time they spent in Blackmore staying at the Craft Centre. I also took three days to stay at Marlow where the Covenanters have their Aqua-Sports Camp. Water skiing, wind surfing, sailing and canoeing were the order of the day. It was for campers a time of physical and spiritual renewal. Spiritually the camp was of a high order.
As this 24th Christmas Letter from Blackmore comes to its close one is aware of the uncertainty that obtains in human affairs. The Russians and their Allies seem to have become so strong militarily that they consider they need not fear the reactions of the capitalist world when pursuing their political and empirical aims. The two heavyweights USSR and USA aware of the potential for destruction in their hands are allowing lesser fry to wage war whilst watchful that the out-come is not prejudicial to themselves. Certainly the situation in the Middle East seems full of portent in the light of prophetical passages found in the Bible. Through the centuries other generations have made a similar assessment, and the crisis has passed but never before has there been such facility in communication, such potential in technology, as obtains today.
This year has seen the coming and going of the 25th Anniversary of my Ordination and of my 75th birthday. I testify that to me the Holy Bible has greater relevance than ever before. The Lord Jesus Christ has become a greater reality in my life than ever before. I yearn to lead my people into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ our Saviour. It was he who said:- "I have come in order that you might have life - life in all its fullness". (Good News Bible)
My letter began with an expression of gratitude to God for mercies received and the means of the majority of those mercies is the company of those who are my friends and colleagues in the Lord's work. For any measure of your interest, care, prayers and practical help I thank you.
With affection and Seasonal Greetings,
Montague H. Knott