The earliest reference to Knaphill dates back to 1225, but little of historical note seems to have disturbed the village for the next 500 years. The 18th century saw the establishment of the first garden nurseries and, at about the same time, the foundation of the Knaphill Brickworks. The village developed further with the construction of the Basingstoke Canal in the 1790s and the London & South Western Railway in the 1830s. In Victorian times, the local area gained the reputation as ‘the home of the mad, the bad and the sad’. The ‘mad’ could be found in Brookwood Hospital, the second County Asylum, in Knaphill. The ‘bad’ were held in the Woking Invalid and Women’s Prisons, built on the outskirts of Knaphill. And the ‘sad’ were the mourners at Brookwood Cemetery and the nearby Crematorium in St Johns, the first custom-built crematorium in the country. Most of these are ‘long gone’ now. The Invalid Prison was converted into the Inkerman Barracks at the end of the 19th century, but the prisons, barracks and hospital have now all closed. Knaphill itself has been assumed into the sprawl of ‘Greater Woking’ although it still somehow manages to retain something of its independence and charm as an ‘urban village.
Despite moving to Knaphill … this ‘home of the mad, the bad, and the sad‘ … Julia and I are really glad to be here! We have been here for a month and a half now, and we really, really like it. For a start we now have a home of our own again. Now don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed living in Rodden in rural West Dorset and really appreciated Julia’s mother’s generosity and kindness in opening her home up for us to stay with her (although I’m not sure any of us expected it to turn out to be for five years) … but it was not our home, it was hers. As a result we always felt a bit ‘uncomfortable’ about having people call round to see us, or having friends come and stay for a few days. The problem was that although Chipps Barton was a beautiful home … a large detached thatched cottage set in its own grounds … it was not ‘a home of our own’. Now we are in Knaphill we have our ‘own home’ again. Well, it is a ‘Manse’ of course, and actually belongs to the church, but to all effect and purpose it is ‘ours’, so to speak, and we can invite round whoever we want, and have friends ‘come and stay’ (when we have finally extended the downstairs study and therefore released one of the upstairs bedrooms as a ‘guest room’, that is). ‘Practising hospitality’ is something the New Testament commends. Both the Apostles Paul (Romans 12:13) and Peter (1 Peter 4:9) suggest that it is something all of us who ‘name the Name’ of Christ should practice (if we possibly can), and the Writer to the Hebrews even goes as far as to suggest that by ‘not neglecting to show hospitality to strangers … some have even entertained angels without knowing it’ (Hebrews 13:2). We have always loved to use our home not only as a place to ‘host meetings’ or a ‘home group’ but as a place where people can drop in for a coffee, share anything on their hearts, and find counsel, friendship and prayer if needed. We also love to have people come and stay … for a couple of days or even longer when necessary.
We are also glad to be in Knaphill because it means that Julia has been able to return to the Baptist Ministry and resume the very effective teaching and pastoral ministry God has gifted her with. She really is extremely gifted. She is an excellent Preacher, a caring and compassionate Pastor, a very Prayerful Person and a sensitive Worship Leader, who somehow manages to maintain a good balance between preserving that which is good within the local church and enabling the church to move on into the ‘new things’ God has for us. Now, every Christian, whether ‘ordained’ or not has a ‘ministry’ of some description. God ‘gifts’ every Christian with at least one particular gift that they can use for the glory of God and the benefit of others. There are several places in the New Testament where ‘sample lists’ of typical giftings are given. Thus the Apostle Paul writes to the Roman Church and tells them: ‘We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully’ (Romans 12:6-8). This is not an exclusive list, but simply several examples of what God’s giftings may look like. We may want to add all sorts of modern equivalents for today, to go alongside the prophetic preaching, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, and compassionate caring listed here. When I was at Slough, W T H Richards (the Senior Pastor) used to say that ‘The job of the church is not to ‘appoint’ people (to leadership or other positions in the church) but to ‘recognise’ those whom God is clearly raising up!’ Part of the job of Pastors in particular (and the church meeting in general) is to ‘enable’ the various members of our church and congregation to discover their particular ‘gifting’ and then ‘grow and function’ in that gifting. As the old hymn goes: ‘There’s a work for Jesus, ready at your hand, ’tis a work the Master, just for you has planned!’ Julia’s ‘gifting’ is to be a Pastor-Teacher and Knaphill Baptist Church have recognised this. They are still in the process of trying to ‘work out’ what to do with me, by the way (answers on a postcard to the Church Secretary)? Let me conclude this paragraph, however, by asking you what your God-given ‘gifting’ is … and if you are using it for God’s glory and the benefit of others?
We are also glad to be in Knaphill because of the church and the people. Knaphill Baptist Church may be numerically small (at the moment) but it is a very warm, welcoming and enthusiastic bunch of people of all ages. Since we started to seriously think and pray about Julia returning to the Baptist Ministry she has had a number of possibilities come to the fore, including one or two quite large churches numerically, but we were really looking for the ‘right’ situation – the one God had already chosen for us. For a number of reasons we wanted to go to a ‘small church’ … although a small church with potential … where we could give something back and really make a difference. The ‘Knaphill Baptist Church Story’ is a fascinating one (you can read some of it on the church webpage at http://www.knaphillbaptist.org.uk) and they were looking for someone who could help them ‘move forward’ to the next stage in their journey. They are such a warm, supportive, appreciative bunch of people and deserve the kind of primary ‘leadership’ that will help them to achieve their Christ-centred goals and ambitions, which hopefully Julia (with myself and others in support) can provide. Everyone is so friendly. Whether it is at church on a Sunday, or at the Parents and Toddlers Group on a Tuesday, or just walking round the village during the week … everybody is so cheery and chatty. I ‘popped in’ to the Parents and Toddlers Group earlier this week (Julia goes every week) and the parents (mostly non-church people) were all coming up and introducing themselves to me and seemed genuinely pleased that we had moved to Knaphill. It is the same in the shops … we now know ‘Steve’ in the electrical shop, ‘Amber’ in the hairdressers, ‘Pam’ in Homebase, and ‘Emmy’ in Argos … which is great when (like us) you are into genuine ‘Friendship Evangelism’ and ‘Relational Church’. We are not really into what has been called ‘Primitive Church’ – the obsession with getting back to the ‘methodology’ of the so called ‘New Testament Church’ – but do believe that there are certain ‘principles’ that can be found there which we certainly could learn a lot from. One of these principles … and one we would like to see extended in Knaphill … is the radical nature of the early church in Jerusalem. Luke tells us that this church ‘devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved’ (Acts 2:42-47).
So for these reasons (and lots of other reasons as well) Julia and I are really glad to be now living, and ministering, in ‘mad, bad, sad Knaphill’. Please continue to pray for us. Do feel free to come and pay us a visit any Sunday morning (we meet at 11.00 a.m.) and support us from time to time if you can (we are very short of musicians, for example). And … if you feel that you are ‘marking time’ as far as your life and ministry goes, and God puts it into your heart, why not come and join us and share in the exciting adventure that we believe God is enabling us to embark on here in Knaphill? We can assure you that you will receive as warm a welcome from the ‘Knaphillians’ as we have ourselves!