NEWS OF JANICE'S FATHER'S DEATH

Bryan and Steve

It is with deep heart break and an awful lot of shock that I share the news that I share the news that Janice's lovely dad, Bryan Gordon, passed away this morning. He was just a couple of weeks away from his 88th birthday.

Sunday night, a week ago, he shared the final night of the 4 Corners Festival. He had enjoyed the Festival, some nights at home on line and some nights live at the events. He had so enjoyed Doug's sermon and so many conversations.

The day after, he went to his monthly SIM prayer meeting and, with Janice and I in Ballycastle, took his nephew Tim for dinner at the Bowery.

The next day he took a turn and ended up in hospital but even then we had hoped he would be back home with us soon. This week we saw another turn and he left us this morning. 

Bryan will be missed. He was a real gentleman, humble man of strong faith in God, always keen to help whoever he could. 

He was a great sports fan. First Rugby where be played through school for BRA and then for their old boys Academy in the Ulster Senior League. He loved watching Ulster and Ireland and indeed it would be the most stressed you would find a mildly mannered man.

He also enjoyed sporting success in Sailing racing Scorpions and once being placed in the European Championships.

Later in life, golf took his attention and he was straight down the middle. He never playing off a low handicap but he won a good few trophies, hustling off too high a handicap!

He was an elder in Old Park Presbyterian Church before his wife Ann and he moved to First Holywood in the 90s. Ann and he were Directors for AEF (Africa Evangelical Fellowship) for decades and he visited Africa twice.

During Covid he moved over from Holywood to live with us and he settled so quickly into Fitzroy, walking, drinking coffee and befriending so many of the older men. Thank you to so many for making him so welcome. 

For those who are interested we have Tuesday penciled in for a funeral but nothing can be confirmed until tomorrow. I am going to break all my rules and do Bryan's funeral. I always ask that people make this minister's job easy at their funeral. No one made it easier than Bryan. He was Godly, Gracious and the perfect incarnation of a Gentleman. 

Farewell Bryan. The seeds of good things that your life scattered across the world will go on reaping harvest. We will miss you every day.


FEEL THE LOVE

Valentines

(This is my script for Pause For Thought on BBC Radio 2, Owain Wyn Evans' show, on February 15, 2024. The theme for the week was Feel The Love)

 

Many a card was sent. Many a flower was shipped. Many a meal was booked in the romantic little corners of restaurants. Many a champagne bottle popped. And all for extortionate prices. 

But you know, I wouldn’t fall for all the sentimental gush easily. I will bet you after all of the commercial Valentine shenanigans those who received the stuff might still not have felt the love.

Springsteen tipped me off on this. He sang, “I don't understand how you can hold me so tight and love me so darn loose…” Dylan kept the question alive, though you might have heard it via Adele - 

 

“When the rain is blowing in your face

And the whole world is on your case

I could offer you a warm embrace

To make you feel my love

 

I used to work and actually live with 88 University students. We got to hear about romances, break ups, changes of courses, favourite bands, new jobs, spiritual conundrums. We were involved in all of those young lives.

A student came to me once and told me that he didn’t feel that God loved him. Now I knew the student. I knew his family. They would have told him that God loved him. I knew the Church he went to. They would have told him God loved him. I knew that he actually taught Sunday School and told people that God loved them. So why did he not feel God loved him?

He said that Church talked about God’s love but he always felt judged by what he wore, where he went, who his friends were.

I realised that love is not about words or gestures or romantic things or Bible verses. We want and need to feel love. To be loved. As we are. As a husband, as a father, as a friend, I need to not love with gifts or words loosely. I need to love in committed and compassionate ways where all those around me FEEL my love. Love needs to be experienced. May we all feel it and indeed give it today.

 

 

 


POST FESTIVAL BLUES - THE DAY AFTER...

Janice and Martin 24 laugh

The day after the 4 Corners Festival 2024.

There is the almighty relief. It is over. We made it through the exhaustion. Eight days of - When do we need to eat? What time do we need to be there? Where can we park near the venue? Who is hosting tonight? Is this hoodie smelling yet?!

It is finished. In the can.

So the day after is a crash. Adrenalin tap switches off. Sleep. Sleep a lot. An empty evening. Just Janice and I in our favourite restaurant with all the time in the world. Bliss.

BUT… we miss each other. The committee. The Board. Megan, our amazing admin. The hoodie crew. The stewards. The sound crew. The streaming crew. The press team. The guests. 

AND… we are looking back. How did it go? All of it as one big sum. Each individual part. What were the highlights? What were the depth charges. What do we need to watch again? Whose script do we need to read? There will be blogs. David Campton’s first is up already.

It was very good. It went well. Was it great? Was it not just a good festival but a festival that was good for something. Good for our city. Good for Jesus’s peacemaking mission that we are called to. Good for every individual who came? Was God in it. Every bit of it. The bits that lazy theologians might call secular as well as the obviously sacred.

There are also lessons. Sometimes things we have learned but didn’t learn. The same wee tiny mistakes in the running of events. We will note them again hoping we really learn this time. 

There is a Post Festival Blues. The more you give, the more you’ll feel it. It’s a mix of exhaustion, loss of camaraderie and the feeling of belonging, the now lack of amazing events. It takes time to wring out those blues.

AND THEN… very soon… we will gather again. Oh we will reflect back, gaze across the pie charts that the online surveys (FILL ONE IN!!!!) help us with. We will look at weaknesses. Strengths. Audiences ages, locations, opinions. 

BUT… very soon… we will begin again. The fourth Friday in every month the planning group will come together, enjoy each other’s company and laugh a lot. 

We will throw the seeds of ideas into a fertile fields of dreams and watch as together, with the imagination that God gives us through one another, and watch for a harvest that is always a surprise beyond our abilities and wildest dreams - 4 Corners Festival 2025. #13.

I always ask, how do we top that and God always whispers, “Watch me!”

I love this Festival. Thank you Lord. 


"I SEE MYSELF..." SAID BABY CAITLIN, LOOKING RIGHT AT ME

Stocki & daughters babies

This is the script of my Pause For Thought on BBC Radio 2 with Owain Wyn Evans on February 8, 2024. The theme was What Kids Can Teach Us)

 

It was a Saturday morning. Many of you will resonate with me when I say that we were a couple of knackered parents seeking every minute of shut eye we could squeeze out of the weekend. 

We only had one daughter at the time. Caitlin, our eldest, was lying between us. Then as we dozed off and on I could hear her chattering. I came to and she was staring directly into my face saying “I see myself, I see myself…” 

It took me a moment but then I worked it out. I was wearing my glasses and she could see her reflection in the glass… “ I see myself…” Ah. Very good Caitlin. Very good. Out of the mouths of babes…

After Janice and I laughed at the naïve profundity of it, I started to ponder. Truth is I have been pondering the phrase ever since. What did she see? What of me has Caitlin inherited? What will she have to overcome or live with, bless her. Quite scary.

An example. Our nose runs in our family. My Granny, my dad, me, now Caitlin all hooked to a hanky and nasal inhalers. Caitlin sadly sees herself in that one. 

Caitlin’s phrase “I see myself” actually sent me off on a deep critique of my parents DNA. An old history teacher always said that the great people in history were the ones who knew their weaknesses. As someone who attempts every day to live the life and all its fulness that Jesus offered, I am always keen to seek out my weaknesses. So what did I pick up from my mum and dad.

It’s always easy to see all the bad habits we get from our parents. So often I hear Janice repeat the words I remember my mother say in my childhood. You are in the wrong lane. The last thing I say before leaving the house is exactly the same as my mum said, “Where are my keys”. 

I am sure there are good things I have inherited as well and I am praying hard that both my daughters get more good than bad.  “I see myself…”


CLARE HAYNS AT 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL - WOMEN IN THE BIBLE

Clare

Rev. Clare Hayns book Unveiled about women who have somehow got lost in the depths of the Old Testament caught my attention immediately. What an idea? How necessary to hear? 

I have watched Clare on line and among the many women that Clare has made me sit up and take notice of are Abishag The Shummunite, who she reckons has the funniest name and whose job it was to lie beside King David in his aging years to keep him warm at night! 

Also Huldah who when sacred text was discovered in the Temple, she was asked to exegete it. Wow, the role of women is never easily pinned down.

So, Clare is quite the authority on female characters. There are 40 in the book. She describes them well. Unveiled is an insightful book, both about women and also about lessons we can learn from them.

To top it all off, Clare’s book becomes a work of art in itself as her son Micah unveils the women in illustrations that are captivating and brilliant.

Clare and indeed Micah are with us for our opening event of 4 Corners Festival 2024. Clare will be our keynote speaker and Micah will teach a little sketching with chalk at Unveiled - Stories in Scripture which is at Fitzroy at 7pm on Sunday February 4th. They will also be speaking at our University Students lunch - Unveiling Stories Together on Monday 5th at 12.30 in the Hub, Elmwood Avenue.

This year’s Festival theme is stories and the stories of Scripture are dear to us. Indeed, many of us of other faiths and none will have been brought up in these stories. 

We are seeking stories that will bring hope and thought of no better way to set out for the week of the festival than Clare unpacking a few of these stories of women of faith who brought hope into the challenges of life, political and personal. Clare will have you mesmerised by who you have missed and how they can inspire you.

Way back in the early 90s a young woman arrived in Dublin to work for a year as an intern in Adelaide Road Presbyterian Church. She was gifted, able and feisty. I was the Youth Development Officer and Clare Benyon, as she was then, was a lot of fun to work alongside.

Initially Greenbelt and then social media have kept us in touch. Clare married magician John and had a family, got ordained into the Anglican Church and has been working as a University Chaplain at Christchurch Oxford. She is about to move on.

How thrilled am I that she will be with us in Fitzroy on Sunday night! Join us...

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