My biggest problem with Donald Trump…

One of the few gifts I feel that I have is that I read people well. Donald Trump frightened me from very early on. I sensed a narcissist, a man who likes his own voice, a man who yearned for power. I didn’t sense a man with much empathy or compassion. 

Of course as well as those haunches I was concerned to see a man becoming a leader of a world power who was racist and misogynist. He had a love for putting others down. His belittling of others swaggered. He was also careless with the truth and almost poetic in his hyperbole. I was fearful of that as a role model. What would a society look like after a few years of that kind of behaviour in vogue and, even more frighteningly, respected.

Please notice that none of the above has anything to do with politics or policies or whether Trump is Republican or Democrat. It is about a human being who looked in all intents and purposes to be a dictator with little concern for anyone but himself. Just one week into his Presidency I had seen enough to be concerned that it would be hard to get him out of office, that he might encourage violence to keep himself in office.

I find most of what Donald Trump says and does and the patronising way that he says and does it to be reprehensible. 

Tonight, though, that is not my problem with Donald Trump.

As a follower of Jesus my biggest problem with Donald Trump is that I am called to love him. The theology that drives my life is that Donald Trump is made in the image of God which makes him precious and fascinating. I also believe that Jesus was prepared to lay down his life for Donald Trump - “For God so loved the world…” 

As my fried Ken often says, “Darn it Steve, being a follower of Jesus can be a real pain in the proverbial” (my paraphrase). It is not likely that I will ever have to love Donald Trump in a personal way. Donald is not likely to move to Belfast and join Fitzroy. More likely a colleague from the Church of Scotland maybe.

Yet, tonight as I am aware that it is his last night in the White House I find myself praying for him. A post White House Trump will be fascinating, and perhaps equally exasperating, for all of us. It might even most fascinating for the man himself. I believe that he has many needs in his head, heart and soul and I am praying that God meets his needs. I am praying that he finds wholeness, peace and redemption. I think that if it comes it will arrive with a great deal of repentance and change but I pray that he is blessed, not in selfish outward ways but in his soul.

I do not find that an easy prayer. Yet I am aware that I am flawed human with many needs. I am aware of the wonder that God’s grace is in my life. I am aware that God calls me to love everybody… even Donald Trump. 



Breathe, at least for me, is the theme song for this year's 4 Corners Festival.

It was written a number of years ago. There was one of those too regular tense moments in Belfast. At a meeting to discuss the crisis someone said that we needed a breath of hope. 

A few months earlier in a tense moment at a 4 Corners Festival event David Campton stepped up to the podium and to bring a moments calm said, "Breathe in... breathe out..."

On the telephone one evening when I was feeling down about the impact of all of our peacemaking efforts Fr Martin Magill encouraged me with words of St. Ignatius, "Run towards your doubts!"

The talented Jonny Fitch made the lyric song and then during Coronavirus we tweaked the lyrics to include the idea that God is always hovering over dark places, creating, just as he did in Genesis 1.

The question is will we be the dark... or the light... the kiss... the breath. Which?

Delighted to add that as we blog the song this week Jonny is Number 1 on Youtube with the Sidemen! 


Book for 4 Corners Festival 2021 here

JONI MITCHELL: ARCHIVES - VOLUME 1; The Early Years (1963-1967)

Mitchell Archives 1

What a box of goodies this is!

First of all it is 5 CDs of unreleased Joni. At least officially! It is also of a very good quality indeed.

For me Joni Mitchell is ever ensconced in Laurel Canyon. It is 1970, somewhere between Ladies Of The Canyon and Blue. She is writing the best songs in a songwriting genre that she founded. She’s the queen of the scene. Songs about her romances with rock star boyfriends and the contemporary zeitgeist like Woodstock. 

Well, Archives - Volume 1 sets Joni Mitchell in a whole other world. It is Pre-Canyon. 

Oh I knew she was from Saskatoon. I loved the fact. I lean way more towards Canada than America. I have family in Toronto and had sabbatical in Vancouver. Yet I had missed the fact that it was here in the Canadian prairie where the Joni Mitchell gift was born. 

These five CDs are filled with the development of Joni Mitchell’s muse, from being brilliant to even more brilliant. This is a feast of radio shows and early demos. From old folk songs as early as 1963, I got a particular kick out of Molly Malone, to her early songs to live versions of songs that would litter albums for a few years to come.

That was the other revelation. Or maybe mystery. All of these recordings are before David Crosby took into recording studio and set that amazing recording career moving with Song To A Seagull. Glancing across this track listing and I wondered why that record was not the best debut album ever made - It could have had Circle Game, Both Sides Now, Chelsea Morning, Morning Morgantown and even Little Green that didn’t come out until Blue. 

Even more incredibly is Urge For Going. Now I know this song. Yet why Mary Black and Crosby Stills and Nash’s versions were known to me before Joni’s finally came out on the Hits compilation in the 90s is another great mystery of life. Hearing it here just opened up the wonder of her poetry and writing and utter genius.


I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town

It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down

When the sun turns traitor cold

And all trees are shivering in a naked row

I get the urge for going but I never seem to go


Now I know Tom Rush and Judy Collins has made some of Mitchell’s songs famous and maybe that caused her wanting to get other songs out but STILL!!

When I heard about this first instalment of this box set series I was a little unenthused. 1960s demos. How good could they be? Well it turns out that they are extraordinary in a whole plethora of ways.



Running Festivals eh?! Not easy at the best of times but… in Coronavirus Times…

Now for the most part we have conquered the actual putting on of the Festival. Take a look at the programme. It is strong -

Some of our planning committee were shrewd back in March. They were sure that we would still be in some restrictions and needed to be flexible in our planning. As a result, in the strictest of lockdowns we are ready to roll out a festival. It is online… it is virtual… BUT it is rocked up!

Where it gets tricky is letting people know that a Festival is on. There are many things that I believe we will discover over the years about our time in lockdown. One of them is that we lost the power of gossip.

Now I hear you. Gossip is bad. Well it is when it is hearsay, rumour and judgemental. I wonder if a blessing of lockdown has been a whole lot less of that sort of gossip. That is not the gossip I mean.

I mean that every day chitter chat through which we communicate so many things that none of us read or watch on TV or studied at school. Little nuggets of information that pass across tables in cafes, desks in work, counters in shops, pews in churches. 

Every year when we do our surveys about the 4 Corners Festival and ask how people heard about it the majority answer “word of mouth”. Now you can see why I am grieving the loss of gossip. The most powerful way to communicate events or news or truth is in potency of conversation. Jesus liked it better than preaching!

Of course there is another way that people find out about 4 Corners Festival. The programme. There it is on vestibule tables, all over church coffee areas, even in shops and librarys and cafes. There are thousands of them. You cannot stay away from them.

Except… in 2021 if you are ever in the vicinity of places where we would have had programmes you are probably breaking the law! 

What about Billboards I hear you say. They are probably cheap at the moment. They are. Less traffic! 

So… you can see our problem. Could you help? We will need the lockdown alternative gossip - or maybe we should call it, the more respectable, chit chat - share/retweet/message/text… We do believe that the Festival will be a breath of fresh air across the city, giving us all an opportunity to breathe in some grace and then breathe out some imagination. Spread the word! 



Long before I ever heard they released anything my students ( I was a University Chaplain at the time) were raving about Mumford & Sons. Their live act is perhaps what they are actually about. It is about the happening and the joyous or time lamenting vibe created within a community. That some of the band started out doing worship music makes more sense of the experiential in the DNA.

It is also perhaps why they have been releasing live DVDs and CDs throughout their career.

This is a most delightful souvenir of their Delta Tour in 2019. In just six songs they have documented that trademark organic energy as well as their love for the communal; Gang Of Youths, Milk Carton Kids and Dermot Kennedy guesting.

As well as three guests, there are three covers. The last one With A Little Help From My Friends has the mighty Irish voice of Dermot Kennedy joining in and it is a perfect sign long for that community aspect of a Mumford gig.

Most intriguing is their attempt at Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt. Hurt became iconic as the last testament of Johnny Cash. They Mumfords do a. Great job at belting those two versions together starting out stark and then lifting to the loudest of raged out crescendos. 

The third cover is originally by Australian band The Middle East and the guests are another Australian band Gang Of Youths who were the support act on the Delta Tour. Blood is a mysterious lyric, poetic and meandering. There is a lot of death and it is that cathartic side of Mumford, blending lament and hope:


And you’ll find somebody you can blame

And you’ll follow the creek that runs out into the sea

And you’ll find the peace of the Lord


The other collaboration is on a vintage Mumford original. The Milk Carton Kids. Their lo-fi feel makes Awake My Soul into this meditative near liturgical piece. I want to play it in my daily devotions and seek the Spirit’s grace and imagination to live its proverbial wisdom:


“In these bodies we will live

And in these bodies we will die

Where you invest your love

You invest your life


Awake my soul”


Delta Tour EP is an utter treat. Side 2 with Hurt, Awake My Soul and With A Little Help From My Friends is one of the tastiest sides of a live EP you’ll hear in a long while.