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June 2016


Thiepval Fields

This morning, like so many of my fellow Northern Irish citizens, I am reflecting on The Battle of The Somme where so many young Ulstermen lost their lives. I am remembering particularly those from Fitzroy, where I am minister, and the two congregations that were amalgamated with us during the 1970s; The Crescent and Donegal Pass.

Nigel Henderson’s amazing research, that can be found on our Fitzroy website, tells us that 366 from the three congregations served in World War 1. Of those 76 died and 88 were injured. 

Seven died at the Battle of the Somme between July 1st and 5th. These were young men, lost to their families and nation. 

Every Remembrance Day, I am struck that I am remembering those in their late teens who sat in the same building and pews that I now minister in. They went off to war and never came back. 

I always gaze across the late teens who sit in those pews now, think of the pastor's love I have for them, and imagine what it would be like if I had to pray them off to war, or hear the news they had died at the Somme or had to pray at some funeral service for them. 

With all this in my head and heart and soul I wrote the lyrics below, last year, and asked one of our teens, Jonny Fitch, to make them into a song. He did it so wonderfully and I felt that it gave voice to the Fitzroy youth of 1916, seven of whom woke up on July 1st 1916 in the trenches of the Somme and wouldn’t make it until the end of the week.

My heart remembers them especially this morning, 100 years on.


I went for the adventure

I went to be brave

I went to see the world 

I went to try and save

Our way of life

Our being free

Our little church

And you’re love for me


The war is over

Did we win

Oh what new world

Did we begin.


I said we’d be back soon

I said we’d be alright

I said don’t you worry

I said that every night

That I would write

That I would pray

That I’d thank God

For his blessed day.


The war is over

Did we win

Oh what new world

Did we begin.


No one ever imagined

And you can’t imagine now

The pain, the screams, the smell

Blood sweating on my brow

Like Jesus in that garden

Father take this cup somehow

The pain, the screams the smell

Blood sweating on his brow.


The war is over

Did we win

Oh what new world

Did we begin.



Istanbul Bomb

It is a little disconcerting when three bombs go off in an airport just two hours before you leave for a night and day’s flying. Janice was offered to go to Kampala with Turkish Air and didn’t take up the offer for safety reasons. Twelve hours after the Istanbul Attacks we were walking through Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

I was reflective and somber as I walked the distance from our Arrival gate to our Departure Gate. I was aware that people were doing this very thing just the night before and were blown out of this life. I said quiet prayers for the devastated families of the dead, the injured, Istanbul and Turkey as they deal with this horrendous event and all of us as we live in the face of this kind of threat, even walking through an airport!

Tomorrow we remember 100 years to the day from the beginning of The Battle of The Somme. We saw many Northern Irish in Dublin Airport making their journey to remember at Memorial Services in Frnace. War then was fought in fields. It was bloody and horrible. Many young lives were lost to families and nations. BUT the war raged in war zones, not in airports, or restaurants or music halls. 

This is a new kind of war and we need to be more alert, not that actually we any longer can be alert enough. We also need to wage peace and find those ways that are becoming my mantra, to be imaginative, creative and compassionate.

Two immediate ways that I thought of to wage peace: -

Firstly, let us take Istanbul as seriously as Paris. We all changed our Facebook profile pictures to the French flag. We stood with Paris with our Eiffel Towers and peace signs. We need to be careful that we do not see this murderous act as any less important because the victims have names like Muhammed and Yusef. The IS terrorism is an act against humanity and we need to stand with victims whether they are in Turkey, Nigeria, Kenya or wherever.

Secondly, it was not lost on me that on the same day that the Istanbul bombing was in the news, the same news was filled with a fresh increase in racism being reported across Northern Ireland and the UK. This is the same root sin that causes extremists to blow themselves up and kill innocent people. Whether it is abuse shouted at foreign medical staff in our hospitals or swastikas dubbed on people’s houses, we need to stand against such ignorant racism in our society. We need to wage peace!

As I reflected on this increase in racism at home, I am praying that the Brexit vote is not for some sections in our country a mandate to be racist. I am praying that some don’t think that the Leave victory is a mandate to oust all foreign nationals from our nation or even those who have been British for generations even if they have different coloured skin, race or religion. I am fearful that this is another effect of the Brexit vote. 

So, let us gird our hearts and souls and wage peace - with imagination, creativity and compassion!

Stockman is Surmising from the appropriately named Shalom Guest House in Kampala, Uganda.


Stocki Preaching Surmise

I remember the day Lady Diana died, having to put together my radio show to respond. The same the day after the Omagh Bomb. Those were hard emotional shows. I felt that same strain on Sunday morning as I had to preach a few days after the Uk voted to leave the EU. I would love to have ignored it BUT Fitzroy never ignores it. The preacher's role is to bring the Biblical text to the context of the times and I had to somehow make sense of the events still unfolding as I preached.

My own emotions could not be kept unchecked but I had to try as hard as I could to rein them in. I was speaking to a divided UK, a divided Northern Ireland, a divided Fitzroy, divided families and even people divided within themselves. In the state of shock and with so much sadness it was time to be pastoral as well as attempting to be prophetic.

I had in the 24 hours beforehand spoke to members of the congregation whose jobs were now not the line, teens whose study dreams were not in tatters, twenty somethings talking about moving to Canada, many concerned that the EU funding that had built our peace might be lost before that peace is finished. 

The context was somber. I asked that we were sensitive with one another. 

The Lectionary text was Luke 9: 51-62. The first part if perfect. Damning those who do things against you was not Jesus way! The second part is about the challenge, commission and warnings to three people keen to follow Jesus. Jesus was at a pivotal moment in his ministry. We are in a pivotal moment in our history. How to bring this text and our context together was a tricky one...

If you follow this link Fitzroy Sermons and then press on "2016 06 26 am: Discipleship… Hand to the Plough… No Distractions."


Civic Leadership Award

First of all, we are grateful to the Community Relations Council for presenting us with this year's Civic Leadership Award.  

We are also grateful for the many messages of congratulation and support we have had from right across the community and beyond.
We find inspiration for what we do from our  Christian faith and the words of Jesus: "Blessed are the Peacemakers". Living, studying and working during the conflict here we feel compelled to work to build a society where violence has no place and where people are free and safe to live, work, socialise or go to school without fear. 

We both love our city of Belfast and are delighted to be working on 4 Corners Festival 2017 with the theme of "Belfast: our wounded and wonderful city".   
We seek to encourage others to become active peacemakers and to take even small steps to build a better society for all of us. 

We applaud the efforts of our politicians in the noble vocation of politics to find political agreement and we acknowledge their courage in finding compromises as a way to overcome differences.  

We appeal to young people to reject any influences which would  lead them into the ways of violence. We encourage  young people to take up opportunities to build relationships with other young people who are different from themselves. 
Inspired by the 100 Days of Prayer for 100 Years of History project, we urge all our fellow citizens to work together to heal the divisions of the past, to honour one another in the present and to have hope for the future. 

WHY I AM VOTING REMAIN... A Naive Surmise...

I'm IN

Whatever happens on Thursday, whether we are IN or OUT, at least it will be over. Goodness have I had enough. I am not sure that I have ever heard politicians talking so much rubbish, contradicting each other and themselves so many times. If you are looking for a clear list of pros and cons then this wasn’t the campaign to help you find any clarity.

My disclaimer on this blog is that I am no expert in economics, political science or European Union legislation. However, I have listened and I have read and I thought I would use the blog to surmise my own thoughts.

I have been uneasy about the very idea of Brexit. Is it really so bad to be in a network that allows free movement of science, art, sport, education, culture etc etc? Is it so bad to be in peaceful union with most of your geographical neighbours?

I like to think that all my surmising comes from a head, heart and soul marinated in the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. When that pondering is brought to the European Union debate a few thoughts rise to the surface of my intuition! One of them is NOT my own selfish material wealth. The confusion from politicians as to whether we would be better off in or out is frustrating at worst and at best absolutely hilarious as “experts” blatantly contradict each other.

For me whether I am better or worse off financially has absolutely no bearing on my decision making. Financial wealth has always been an idol but today it is the one great idol. It seems to me to be the main argument in this debate. Jesus treated wealth with some suspicion; particularly the selfish accumulation of it. He was more interested in how we shared our wealth with those less well off than how much we had in our own barns.

So the argument that we are supporting other countries and not getting out of the European Union what we deserve, or even as much as we put in, are actually reasons why I would stay, not leave. Should we be involved with the EU to help with the worst refugee crisis in history. Absolutely we should. “Do unto other as you would have them do unto you” and “When you do this to the least of these you do it to me” are Jesus phrases that seep through my marination and shout STAY!

It is also hard for Northern Ireland people to not see the benefit of the EU. The European Peace Funding has helped build the very peace process that we continue to benefit from on a daily basis. Not only should we thankfully acknowledge how we have benefited, we should begrudge giving back.

Personally I am convinced that a Leave vote on Thursday will not be a help to that continuing peace project. What happens to our borders, and indeed where they will be, will have a very unsettling effect on our wee country. There is absolutely no question about that in my mind.

Isolationism is not something I find emanating from the Jesus way. I watch Jesus and the early Church move away from one nation’s isolationism. At Pentecost, boundaries are broken down and everyone hears the Good News in their own language. In the book of Revelation the apostle John sees a vision of what God is ultimately working towards and we see a community made up of every race and language. When Jesus prayed for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven then he wasn’t praying for isolationism.

These are all just naive innocent surmises from someone who just cannot understand why we are even thinking of getting out. None of the ambitions that are being argued in the Leave campaign seem to reflect my following of Jesus that seeks a peaceful, communal world of social justice.

CROSSING THE THRESHOLD OF MERCY - Clonard Novena Script 20.6.16

Stocki at Novena

Scripture Readings Acts 10 and John 10

I think it was 1990 and I was assistant minister in First Antrim. I used to always vary my route into the city. One night I took a wrong turn over the mountain and arrived into a part of west Belfast that was like an alien planet. The green, white and orange… the graffiti… It was almost claustrophobic for a Culchie from Ballymena. 

Now I wasn’t sectarian. I was a Horslips fan and loved a bit of Moving Hearts. I painted my face Green, White and Orange for the 1990 World Cup games. David O’Leary’s penalty against Romania and Packy Bonner… oh Packy Bonner! I had an Irish flag in the house… 

BUT boy was this uncomfortable. There was an uneasy fearfulness…  a knot in my stomach… almost an out of control panic …until the colours went neutral.

I imagine it must be how Peter was feeling when he was heading into Cornelius’s house in the reading we read earlier. 

Peter had had a disturbing dream. God was telling him something and changing some of what he most held dear. He has a dream where he argues with God about what he shouldn’t eat. 

Surely not Lord… I am a good Jew and I know I shouldn’t eat this… this is wrong… He questions God’s judgement and leading… He has the dreams THREE times.

While he is wrestling with the dreams and what God is saying to him he gets a knot churning invitation.

Cornelius a Roman Centurion. Now remember who they were and what they did. The bullying occupiers who put Jews on crosses around the country. Violent oppressors and murderers!

As Peter himself said to Cornelius and his family “You are well aware that it is against the law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I shouldn’t call any man impure or unclean.”

I wonder if Peter was drawn back in his mind to our Gospel Reading. Peter was there when Jesus explained that he was the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep. Images there of “Behold The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”

Jesus hinted in John 10 that they would have to cross thresholds of mercy… outside their own sheep pens to reach other sheep.

Here it happening in Peter’s life. Cornelius wasn’t of his sheep pen… could he be one of God’s sheep.

So, Peter goes to Cornelius and leads this Gentile into an understand of God’s mercy… BUT if we think this story is about Christian Peter crossing the threshold of mercy into the pagan Cornelius’s house to convert him we are not understanding the point.

Luke, who is writing this story down, has told us that Cornelius already believe in God, acted on his belief and prayed. And that God had told him to invite Peter to explain the Gospel to him.

The real conversion here, is that once Peter crosses that threshold it is the Christian Peter who gets his Christian life smashed up and reworked.

What happens here is against all Peter’s preconceptions and prejudices. The Gentiles are lost, unclean, confused. He was not even supposed to be among such people. And when he crosses that threshold he discovers God is already there. All that Peter thought was right was made wrong and all he thought was wrong was suddenly right. 

The Christian Church changes right here. This is a big story that opens the Church up to the entire world. God was up for sharing his mercy way beyond Jewish prejudices and pre conceptions… and thresholds!

I have had those Peter moments…

Growing up, the Catholic Church was beyond the threshold. 

So I remember sitting on my own in a Catholic Cathedral in Shanghai and praying, “God are you here? Surely you are!” God was dealing with my preconceptions and prejudices.

One day, years later, in Fitzroy, and long before I became minister, I saw Fr Gerry Reynolds in the distance. Should I cross the threshold of mercy and shake hands with a priest. My prejudices were holding me back but there was a nudge of the Holy Spirit… so I did… and mercy surged back through Fr Gerry to me. We became friends who argued theology and loved each other in Jesus. I miss him almost everyday... and especially tonight.

I remember turning left at Kennedy Way to head up towards Lenadoon to meet Fr Martin Magill. A Ballymena Culchie in Lenadoon! I discovered a whole new city with schools and Churches and Parks and Fuscos Ice Cream! It might even have been those roads I was frightened on in 1990. Friendship with Fr Martin Magill opened up ministry and mission that I had never ever dreamed of. 

I, like Peter, found that when I crossed the threshold of Mercy… I found mercy…

God crossed thresholds of mercy.

God made himself vulnerable in a manger of straw. 

God, the Good Shepherd, laid down his life for the sheep on a cross of wood.

God burst through the tomb with new hope and life in resurrection.

If that mercy nourishes us in the bread of the eucharist. If that mercy cleanses us in the wine. If, as we remember the redemption of Christ's cross, we through God’s grace are lavished with his love and mercy… then lean in and listen… because God might call us who receive his mercy to take that mercy across the thresholds to the traditional other… those we thought were beyond the pale.

And when we cross the thresholds don’t be surprised when we find God already there… and that his mercy flows back to us from places and people we didn’t think his mercy should be in. 

When I crossed the threshold into Lenadoon to visit Fr Martin Magill at Oliver Plunkett’s in 2011 I could have believed what mercy I would become involved in. Over a coffee, a bit like Cornelius and Peter, the Holy Spirit interrupted and we started the 4 Corners Festival that has led lots of people across their corners of Belfast to meet their Cornelius, to give and receive mercy… to bring themselves and the city and wider society that which we hear Jesus coming to bring us in John 10:10: - 

Jesus says…”The thief comes to steal and destroy. I have come that you might have life and life in all it’s fulness.” That is why the shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. 

So… can I ask us all… to walk through The Door of Mercy at the back of Clonard. It is not a magic door that dispenses mercy… it is a symbolic door… when you have found God’s transformational mercy and grace… walk through it as a commitment to God that you are prepared to be like Peter… that you are up for crossing thresholds of mercy in our wonderful but wounded city… to prove that the mercy of Jesus life, death and resurrection can be the powerful force that heals our hearts, our city, our country and our world. 

Let’s do it… let’s cross the threshold of mercy!




Rev Steve Stockman and Fr Martin Magill presented with joint CRC Civic Leadership Award

Steve and Martin Holding up the CLA

Two largely unsung heroes of cross-community work in Northern Ireland today jointly received a high-profile award to recognise their dedication.

The Community Relations Council (CRC) this afternoon presented the CRC Annual Award for Civic Leadership to Fr Martin Magill and Rev Steve Stockman in front of their respective congregations at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in North Belfast, and Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in South Belfast.

The two clergymen then came together later in the afternoon with their trophies.

Rev Stockman and Fr Magill are perhaps best known for their highly-regarded 4 Corners Festival in Belfast, which brings people from across the city together through cultural and arts activity.

The two clergymen accepted an invitation to speak together at the opening session of the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis last year. And Rev Stockman is set to speak at the Clonard Novena this week.

Both clergymen regularly write and broadcast on the theme of reconciliation and a shared future.

This is the third year of the CRC Civic Leadership Award, which seeks to recognise exceptional contribution to civic leadership in Northern Ireland and the demonstration of sustained leadership that has helped promote community relations, peacebuilding or intercultural work.

Previous winners were Lord William Hay and Máirtin O Muilleoir, and Linda Ervine in 2015, who is helping to change perceptions of the Irish language in unionist communities.

CRC Chairman, Peter Osborne, said that the award was fitting recognition for Rev Stockman and Fr Magill.

“Fr Magill and Rev Stockman’s enthusiasm for promoting reconciliation is utterly impressive and unrelenting. They epitomise what this award is all about, being very public in their togetherness, being highly creative in building understanding, and involving so many other people in working towards a more inclusive and integrated society. CRC is absolutely delighted and honoured to jointly present them with this year’s award,” he says.

Rev Stockman said: "I am surprised and humbled by this award. Fr Martin and I don’t do what we do with any intention of being given awards. I am particularly delighted that it comes from outside of the Church. I have always believed that my following of Jesus should benefit everyone and if it doesn’t contribute to society as a whole then it is useless and bears no resemblance to what we read about Jesus in the Gospels. I think that there will be moments when I will take a look across my office at this award to give myself encouragement to continue to do what we are trying to do.”

Fr Magill added: “I am pleased that the Community Relations Council has recognised the contribution that people of faith can and should make to civic society. I have been blessed by my friendship with Rev Steve Stockman which has given us both many different opportunities we would not have had as individuals. I would like to use this award as a platform to encourage more people, especially from the churches, to be involved in healing the wounds of our society and ensuring we never again return to the violence of the past.”



CRC Award for Civic Leadership

The Community Relations Council presented the inaugural award in 2014 to two individuals to mark their contribution to Civic Leadership. The individuals receiving the award were Lord William Hay, who was Speaker of the NI Assembly, and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who had just completed a year as Lord Mayor of Belfast. Linda Ervine was presented with the award in 2015.

The award took the form of a hand-crafted sculpture designed from bronze and limestone by the artist Kate Oram.

Nominations are by Members of the Community Relations Council and members of the public. The following criteria act as guidance in the consideration of nominations:

  • Evidence of the exceptional contribution to civic leadership across Northern Ireland, particularly in recent times, in one or more fields of activity in civic life.
  • Evidence that the nominee has demonstrated sustained leadership that has helped promote community relations, peacebuilding or intercultural work
  • Evidence of influence in shaping positive attitudes towards peace-building and community relations issues.

About Fr Magill and Rev Stockman

Fr Martin J Magill was born in Aldergrove in 1961.  He was educated in St James’ PS, Aldergrove, St Malachy’s College, Belfast, Queen’s University, Belfast, Gregorian University, Rome, Angelicum University, Rome and St Mary’s University College, Belfast.  He was ordained a priest in 1988 and has served in the following Belfast parishes: Holy Family Parish, Nativity Parish, St Oliver Plunkett Parish.  He is presently the parish priest of Sacred Heart Parish.

He has been a member of several inter church clergy fellowships, as well as a member of the Inter Church Addictions Project.  Along with Rev Steve Stockman he is a founding member of 4 Corners Festival Belfast which is presently planning the 5th annual festival for February 2017.  

Steve Stockman was born in 1961 in Ballymena. He was ordained in First Antrim Presbyterian Church in 1988 and after 5 years in Antrim moved to Dublin to be The Presbyterian Church’s Youth Development Officer for the Republic of Ireland. He moved back to Belfast in 1994 and was Presbyterian Chaplain at Queens until he became minister of Fitzroy in 2009.

Steve has been interested and involved in rock music, hosting his own radio show, writing books including Walk On; The Spiritual Journey of U2 and speaking about music and theology across the world. He blogs daily on his blog Soul Surmise about Jesus, Art and Social Justice.

He believes his interest in social justice and reconciliation comes from a blending of his interest in music and his commitment to following Jesus. As minister in Fitzroy he inherited involvement in the Pax Christi Peace Award winning Clonard Fitzroy Fellowship and along with Fr Martin Magill founded the 4 Corners Festival.

He is married to Janice and has two daughters Caitlin and Jasmine.


Civic Leadership Award

(this is something close to the speech I made after receiving the Community Relations Council Award for Civic Leadership that I was awarded with my mate Fr Martin Magill!)

Thank you so much to Peter Osborne, Chair of the Community Relations Council, for presenting Fr Martin Magill and I with this year’s Civic Leadership Award. It was a surprise. I was honoured enough when Peter attended a 4 Corners’ Festival event. I was thrilled when he encouraged us that we were doing something positive. To receive an award is something beyond my dreams.

The last award I won was the Ballymena & District Under-18 Tolland Cup for goodness sake. And that day I ran like a demented whippet up and down the left wing in order to win that Cup. Fr Martin and I don’t do what we do to win awards. But I will take it because in what we do this kind of recognition doesn't come often!

After the sense of surprise my next thought was gratitude and utter delight that what we do has gotten noticed. When you do what we do it is hard to know what impact you are really making and so to be recognised in this way is such an encouragement.

What is particularly pleasing to me is that it is not a Religious Award. I have always believed that following Jesus should benefit everyone I come across and the whole society that a Church worships within. If it doesn’t I wonder if it is worth anything at all. In one of our first cups off coffee, chatting about 4 Corners Festival we wanted to take belief in Jesus out of the walls of Churches and imaginatively make a contribution to peace and reconciliation on the streets of Belfast. This award suggests we maybe have!

There are many people to thank:

Janice and my girls who take the brunt of my vocation. They are the ones who put up with my mind drifting and being distracted with ideas and schemes. Particularly during the 4 Corners Festival, Janice thinks I talk to Fr Martin more than to her! 

When Martin and I spoke at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis, we got the speech up on the web when we arrived home. Janice took that opportunity to let the dog out for a wee! I asked her did she not want to see the speech? She said that she had heard it in the front room, the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom and was actually there when I did it live. She didn’t need to hear it AGAIN! My girls take a lot! Thank you!

Fitzroy. This was not happening without you. You are the congregation who changed me from a passive peacemaker to an active one. Your history and your reconciliation ministry is legendary and you have given me the opportunity to do this work.

Session. When I apologised for taking too much time over our Ard Fheis speech you told me you needed to help me find time to do it. I hope this award goes some way to making you feel that is worth it.

Clonard/Fitzroy Fellowship. You have made a big contribution to this. Over thirty years of fellowship has been a wonderful inspiration. Clonard. It is lovely to have some of you here today. Ed and Audrey Peterson thank you for coming to share this moment.

4 Corners Festival Committee. This award has 4 Corners written all over it. Your time and gifts and commitment. Thank you guys. The Festival has opened so many doors for Martin and I. We are indebted to you all. 

Then there are the mentors. Trevor Morrow was a massive influence on my theology and praxis when he moved to Lucan in the early 80s. He taught me to think differently about relationships with Catholics.

Ken Newell and Fr Gerry Reynolds. You are the shoulders of giants that I, and Martin, stand on. It was lovely to have Ken and Val with us today. I have said much about his influence on my life and ministry at his book launches recently. His example in the wider society and his wisdom into my own life have made a huge impact. 

I have missed Fr Gerry at Ken’s book launch and now today. I remember walking across the Alexander Hall here in Fitzroy, years before I was minister. I wondered if I should shake hands with a Catholic priest. I did and his spirituality washed right through me. I am so sad that he is not here. He was so pleased when Martin and I formed a friendship. I know he would be proud today.

And of course… Fr Martin obviously. Without him I would not be here. A few years ago we had a coffee very near Fitzroy. When we came out of the coffee shop, I turned left and he turned right. We discovered later that both of us were taken by that meeting. I remember thinking that something had just started and I actually remembering wondering where it might end up. Well this award is one destination!

Fr Martin and I always say that peace and reconciliation is not rocket science. It is all about friendship. When we cross the divisions to make friends, our friendships ripple out to others. I become friends with people around Sacred Heart and Martin becomes friends with people in Fitzroy… and then beyond to Cliftonville soccer matches or festivals and rock concerts. 

We took a decision early on not to contrive anything. We decided that if we built a friendship then we would be in a good position if we got opportunities to do something. From that came 4 Corners Festival, a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis, various international peace talks and all kinds of things. 

Can I end by saying that we are all leaders. Someone led me into supporting Manchester City, someone led me into being a Beatles’ fan. Someone led me to faith in Jesus. All the time we are influencers of others in our conversations and passions. If we become intentional with those friendships, in who we befriend and what we do within friendships, then we can be leaders who impact our society. Let’s all do it!

So can I thank CRC once again. I think it is an award that I will gaze across a room at for encouragement and energy when I am maybe discouraged or weary.

Now I would like to ask Chris Wilson to come and sing The 4 Corners Song. I wrote a poem and sent it to Chris. He ripped it up and wrote something else but what he wrote captured the vision of my poem. It sums up all that Fr Martin and I want to do… and what the 4 Corners festival is all about…



Fitzroy Rugby Door

Tomorrow morning (11am) in Fitzroy there will be a lovely wee thing going down that I cannot share with you now... BUT would love to share with you then! If you are a regular Fitzer or a friend of the Stockies in any way it would be lovely to have you with us... mysterious intrigue I know and nothing as seismic as Bono appearing but it would mean a lot to us if you could be there.

As well as the mystery, I will be giving a dry run to my Clonard Novena sermon for Monday. The theme is Crossing The Threshold Of Mercy and the passage where Peter has to get cleansed of his prejudices to bring Cornelius into the Christian fold. It is fascinating stuff. 

We will also be commissioning our young people for summer mission. Michael Dolaghan and Shannon Clements will lead us in worship.

BEFORE we even start our service there is a FITZROY SOWING SALE  in aid of our school in Onialeku on the edge of Arua in north west Uganda. Arua is centre of a thriving fabric industry and last summer we brought lots of Arua fabric home and Fitzroy sowers have been making into cushions, bags, headbands, book marks, towels and works of art. Come along and check it out, have a pre service coffee and buy something!



SURMISING ORLANDO & JO COX... with the help of a guitar pedal and amp...


It has been one of those weeks where the world has been revealed as hate filled and deadly. The week began with the horrendous shootings in a Gay Night Club in Orlando and ended with the brutal killing of MP Jo Cox.

At such times I look for songs. Songs that might untangle the knots in my soul. News of such hatred, and the bloody consequences that follow, leave me with a sickening feeling. The fact that those lives are cut short and there is no way to fix the consequences of the evil that came down upon them. Innocent lives cut off. The thought that parents, husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, children and friends are hurled into such grief. Even that some of my own friends from the LGBT community feel a little more vulnerable and fearful.

Over the past seven days I have played Neil Young’s Love and Only Love. Young happened to play the song in Belfast just days before the Orlando massacre and I had discovered it as a song for the first time, 26 years after its release.

After Orlando its guttural guitar riffs dealt with the deep dissonance within me. I turned it up and let this sound of the Psalms and the Blues blended through rock guitar pedals and amps do its works.

With that sound helping empathise with my heavy emotions Young then lays lyrics on top of them that are tender, instructive and hopeful.

On the night of the Belfast concert I was picking up his references to the Bible and how this was somehow what the song built upon that: -


Long ago in the book of old,

Before the chapter

where dreams unfold

A battle raged

on the open page,

Love was a winner there

overcoming hate

Like a little girl

who couldn't wait.


He then takes us into the battle that rages in the Scriptures between love and hate. 


Love and only love

will endure

Hate is everything

you think it is

Love and only love

will break it down

Love and only love,

will break it down

Break it down, break it down.


There is hope here that something can do more than make sense of the world’s badness. There is an antidote to the vehement hatred stirred up by xenophobia or homophobia or sectarianism or whatever else. Love will break it down

That’s at the heart of Jesus life. I was very much aware that last Sunday I preached about the vortex of division in Luke 7. Simon a Pharisee, the Religious police excluding people from God, finds a sinner woman gatecrashing his dinner party with Jesus. Love breaks down the hate in this confrontation. 

Neil Young calls us to such a love and such a hope. 


Tomorrow is a long long time

if you're a memory

Trying to find peace of mind

Spirit come back to me,

Give me strength and set me free

Let me hear the magic in my heart.


Love and only love

will endure

Hate is everything

you think it is

Love and only love

will break it down...


In a fascinating musical coincidence, or maybe not, Love and Only Love on the Ragged Glory record is followed by the tune When I Survey the Wondrous Cross before Young then uses it as a hymn to environment care. That’s a powerful juxtaposition. 

Another week when music has soothed my soul.