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April 2019


McManus Deeds


launch their new book

DEEPER INTO THE MESS; Praying Through Tough Times

FITZROY, 77 University Street, Belfast

SUNDAY MAY 19th, 2019 @ 7pm

more info HERE








WEDNESDAY MAY 22nd, 2019 @ 7.15pm







from her book


SUNDAY JUNE 2nd 2019 @ 7pm

FITZROY WELCOME AREA, 77 University Street

more info HERE



Corrymeela Presents



in conversation with Pádraig Ó Tuama

Sunday 26th May @ 7pm

Fitzroy Church. 

 FREE... donation accepted; books also available.

more info HERE


Stocki Pop



When the most torturous darkest darkness dawns

In the most soothing healing light

And the mind so rattled settles

In slow aftershock realignment of perspective

When the eyes refocus

To peer through the hours of looking away

To be envisioned with the revelation

Of more than a gardener

And the soul stops tossing, turning, churning up

From its sickly desperation

And hopeless heartache

To waken up

To take it in

As the earth re-knits after tremoring

And on this firmer under, standing

We reach for shimmers, like dust caught in sunrise

To catch the splinters flying

And piece the fragments of debris

Into everything new

Never the same again

The dreams dead, revived

The hope buried, reborn

The vision of a future, redeemed 

It is the peace after the warzone

It is a resurrection dance after the wake

It is a whole new Kingdom come

The new life starts here.


The new life starts here. I stole that from Mike Scott, the main man in The Waterboys. Somebody pointed that out this week on Twitter. Scott himself joined the conversation. I was concerned for a moment and then he said that he stole it from Dante!

Whoever it was in the long long line before I stole it, it describes for me post Resurrection life. 

I remember a Saturday night when I was 17. I was sitting in the back of a mini bus on the way back from a Youth Club night out in Portrush. We went up to visit the GB Weekend but let’s move on! I spent the whole 30 miles back to Ballymena, gazing at the stars, asking if God existed or not. 

If there was no God I’d look elsewhere for the meaning of life but if God did exist then surely that was the best source to scoop life in all its fulness. When I wrote these words I didn’t see their close connection to Nick Cave’s There Is A Kingdom that Dave sang earlier:


The starry heavens above me

The moral law within

So the world appears

So the world appears


My world appeared that night. At least it was reconfigured, realigned, redeemed, resurrected if you like! Wherever my life was heading life before that May evening 40 years ago it was completely redirected after it. 

So, with Thomas. The last three years has already been a life he had never expected. If he thought that these 3 years was something then he’d seen nothing yet. After this meeting with the risen Jesus, a whole new world appeared. The New Life Starts here.

If we scour our eyes across the Gospel According To John, John writes a lot about this word  life. Life appears 47 times in John’s account of Jesus life. It is there at the very beginning:


1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.


Then, as we near the end of the Gospel, in the passage Jane read today, John’s declaring that the whole point of this whole thing is about LIFE… 


30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


If we look right bang in the middle of this Gospel we find Fitzroy’s motto verse:


10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.


John was trying to say something about this word life. It can easily be translated eternal life but also abundant life. I am no Greek scholar, indeed any one at College with me listening on the radio are having a good laugh right now, but I have come to believe as I look at contexts of its use that John is talking about a life full in quantity and quality. There is an eternal life dimension but Jesus is never about a life that doesn’t begin until we’re dead.

The new life starts here. 

Jesus came among us to show us this life, to give us this life and then send us on our way to live that life,

It was a life based in Jesus - who said in another part of John’s Gospel he was “the way, the truth and the life” - 

It was the life of the original design. The life we humans were supposed to live but somehow in our own arrogance lost.

That story in Genesis puts it well. In an idyllic garden humans were tempted to be God. We reached to be more than we were supposed to be and ended up less than the humans we were created to be. In trying to be God, we became God-less. I don’t mean Godless in some life of debauchery and sin though that often came with it. I mean life minus God’s input, minus God’s infusion. 

We had lost God. We has lost meaning. We lost life in all its fulness. 

Jesus incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension are all about putting that to rights. When Thomas cries “My Lord and my God!” he’s no longer without God. The God-life, the new life, the resurrected life starts here.

So, let us ask ourselves what that life looks like.

And let us not look at how it looks in some ethereal place.

How does it look after the Easter we have had. Sri Lanka and Lyra McKee but two contemporary events that seem to fly in the face of all this resurrection talk.

Jesus never said that everything would be neat and tidy and clean with lots of Shloer and Battenburg cake post resurrection. The Resurrection life was vital to be able to live in a world that would have wars and rumours of wars, famines and earthquakes. 

It is into such a world that the resurrection life needs to kick in. As Peter Greig put it in his book God on Mute, Whenever life gets tough and we cry out to God for help, our desire is always to be airlifted out of the theatre of war.  But more often than not, instead of airlifting us to safety, God parachutes down to join us in the muck and chaos of our situation.” 

It is in kinds of these places that the new life needs to start!

14 years ago this week I was interviewing songwriter Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue for the Rhythm and Soul show I hosted at the time. He had his brand new record Pale Rider with him and told me I would like the track Calvary and that it was about Christmas! 

Ricky went on to explain that when he was growing up he noticed in his Church that as soon as Jesus was born they had him on the cross. 

Immediately I was thinking of the difference between a road a route. Novelist Milan Kundera says of roads and routes:


“A route differs from a road not only because it is solely intended for vehicles, but also because it is merely a line that connects one point with another. A route has no meaning in itself; its meaning derives entirely from the two points that it connects. A road is a tribute to space. Every stretch of road has meaning in itself and invites us to stop.”


I realised that if we have Jesus on a route to the cross then we miss the road of his teaching and life. The destination therefore becomes meaningless as we have no idea what to do when we arrive there!

My take on it is that we need to follow Jesus as he invited his disciples to do. As we follow him down the roads of Galilee, Samaria and Jerusalem we can pick up all his insights. Like fruit off a tree we should put them in the baskets of our souls

What goes in the basket? All those lessons…

  • The last will be first
  • give up your life to find your life
  • store up treasure in heaven, not on earth
  • wash each other’s feet
  • touch lepers
  • eat with tax collectors
  • befriend prostitutes
  • sitting down with Samaritan women
  • Love God
  • Love neighbour
  • Love even Your Enemies

Baskets full, we then follow Jesus through the cross… through the resurrection… to live the fruit of his ministry on the other side of that. 

The new life starts here… The Resurrection life.    

How then should we live?

There are marks, values, energies of this new life.

The new life…




“on earth as it is in in heaven” Jesus put it in his prayer. That takes some imagining!




“when you do it to the least of these you do it to me” he told them of service. Serving those least deserving. Unmerited favour. God like love.




Empty tombs, resurrections and rumours of a glory to come…

Let me finish with a story of one man who reimagined, grace interrupted and breathed hope into our own Northern Irish Troubles.

In March 1988, tensions in Belfast were higher than maybe ever before. In the midst of the darkness, one man was not prepared to let the killing go on. He re-imagined, grace interrupted and breathed hope onto the streets. That man was Fr Alec Reid, a Redemptorist Brother based in Clonard Monastery just off the Falls Road.

When Michael Stone opened fire and threw grenades into a crowd of mourners at an IRA Funeral, Fr Reid was standing there, wanting to get between Stone and the crowd intent in murdering him. The new life can lead us into some dangerous places.

A few days later he was back in the funeral cortege of those whom Stone had murdered. During this funeral, two members of the British army found themselves in the midst of a tense crowd and when a gun appeared the crowd thought that another Stone incident was about to go down and dragged the soldiers from the car. 

Fr Alec tried to get between the angry crowd and the soldiers, at one point on his knees with his arms around them. He was threatened with his own life if he didn’t move. A short time later, Fr Alec ended up in a back alley giving one of the dying men the kiss of life and last rites. 

In the dark despair Fr Reid’s imagination was working out how to interrupt all this senseless bloodshed. Though he failed to give a soldier the kiss of life he was kissing life into our country. 

He was at the funerals to receive a letter. It was now covered in the blood of British soldiers BUT it was the conditions by which Sinn Fein would go into talks with John Hume to begin the peace process that we benefit from today. 

Fr Alec went back to Clonard, changed the envelope and drove the letter up to Derry and handed it to John Hume. The rest is history. A history re-imagined, grace interrupted and hope breathed by a man living the resurrected life of Jesus, bringing in the Kingdom, God’s will on earth as it is in heaven!

All of us need to live that new God infused, Resurrected life. The darkness is crying out for us to particles of Jesus light across our land. In a country divided by how we see the past and trapped in the open wounds of what we have done to one another we all need to conduits of God’s love in the troubled placed.

At this landmark that I call the Lyra McKee Crossroads we need to live life in all its fulness.

Jesus has risen.

Thomas believes it.

"My Lord and my God."

The New Life Starts Here.



READING: Isaiah 33:7-9 (NIV)

Look, their brave men cry aloud in the streets;

    the envoys of peace weep bitterly.


The highways are deserted,

    no travelers are on the roads.

The treaty is broken,

    its witnesses are despised,

    no one is respected.


The land dries up and wastes away,

    Lebanon is ashamed and withers;

Sharon is like the Arabah,

    and Bashan and Carmel drop their leaves.




Sovereign LORD!


You handcrafted our beloved Ireland - the land we walk and breathe in.

You sculpted its mountains, cliffs and drumlins.

You carved the courses of its springs and rivers.

You clothed the land in its flora and fauna.

You were here in Ireland when your Son walked to the Cross.

Your face was upon us…your attentiveness never waning.

A Mother Hen gathering us under your outstretched wings,

Determined to save us all!


Praise God Almighty!






Women clothed in mourning;

Tough men weep openly,

Peace-making diplomats in bitter tears,

Belfast’s a ghost town,

Not a soul in its entries or doorways.


Lord have mercy!


The peace treaty is broken.

Its conditions violated.

Its signers reviled.


Christ have mercy!


The very ground under our feet mourns;

The Belfast Hills hang their heads,

The Western Bog Meadows polluted and clogged,

The Eastern Greenways weed-choked,

The Belvoir Forest bare-branched.


Lord have mercy!


Heal our brokenness,

Cure our blindness,

Open our minds and hearts to you Lord!


Christ have mercy!


Create a readiness in our hearts,

So that our ears may hear and understand,

So that our eyes may see and perceive,

The resounding presence of Christ’s Kingdom of Shalom in our land!


Shalom walked into every alleyway and street.

Shalom declared in the corners and courtyards.

Shalom played in the parks and parklands.

Shalom stepped over thresholds into homes.

Shalom danced on the hilltops.


May it be so! It will be so!

It is so now!

Praise the Lord!





My mate Doug Gay pointed this one out to me. As well as a theologian, author and songwriter Doug is a liturgist and has always his eye on mainstream songs that might cross over into Church services. I then think that he reckons that Fitzroy are the most likely Church to play out his imaginings! We are more than happy to try.

I had missed Trusty and True. I guess I lost a little interest in Damien Rice because of his lack of output. I loved O, then spent less time on 9 and by the time of My Favourite Faded Fantasy I was lost. Hence it took a few years before Doug pointed this gem out to me. It was the YouTube version at the top of this blog.

It is stunningly beautiful and utterly spiritual. I obviously scoured the internet seeking out Rice’s spiritual credentials. I found quite a lewd story that, though threaded with wisdom, was not for congregational consumption. I also discovered Rice talking about the hold that his Catholic childhood had upon him and how though he has attempted to throw it off the need for confession and dealing with guilt isn’t just a religious thing.

The opening is almost like the apostle Paul’s “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15). It is about the propensity to yield to temptation and do what we know to be wrong. Christians would describe it as the mark of our fallen nature.


We've wanted to be trusty and true

But feathers fell from our wings

And we've wanted to be worthy of you

But weather rained on our dreams

And we can't take back


What is done, what is past

So fellas, lay down your fears

'Cause we can't take back

What is done, what is past

So let us start from here


There comes a time when we realise the damage our actions cause and our guilt needs a place to go. Again, the Christian sees this as the job of Jesus described by John The Baptist as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. For most practising Christians a sacrament brings us to the Lord’s Table where we eat the bread and drink the wine, as Jesus asked his disciples to do. This represents his body and blood. This is about the forgiveness of sin. 

In Fitzroy, we used Trusty and True (thank you Dave Thompson with the help of Chris Blake and George Sproule) in one of these sacraments and it was beautiful lead in: -


Come, come alone

Come with fear, come with love

Come however you are

Just come, come alone

Come with friends, come with foes

Come however you are

Just come, come alone

Come with me, then let go

Come however you are

Just come, come alone

Come so carefully closed

Come however you are

Just come




Fitzroy Board

On Sunday morning (10.15am - note that CHANGE OF TIME) Fitzroy will be the BBC Radio Ulster Sunday Service. You can tune in BUT why not come and join us instead!!!

We will be looking back at the events around Lyra McKee's funeral and asking if her death and the Sri Lanka massacres fly in the face of Resurrection! We will be asking what the post Resurrection life looks like for the follower of Jesus, scouring the entire Gospel of John to see what Thomas would have been taught by Jesus about the meaning of life in all is fulness and then finding application in our Northern Irish context.

There will be poetic prayer from Barbara Dass, a cover of Nick Cave by Dave Thompson and guitar edged, grace filled worship under the careful eye of John Trinder and band.

So, tune in But why not join us. Please be in your seat for 9.45 for a sound check and short rehearsal. Live on the radio is always fun!


Fr M Lyra

I changed yesterday's blog this morning. On reflection, the response to Fr Martin's words to the politicians was not applause. Funerals are not places where people find applause easy, though perhaps Lady Diana's funeral changed a lot of things. No, when I watch it again (and again... and again) I have come to describe it as "Amens with hand claps" and "a standing ovation of "preach it!".

Fr Martin has told me a few times that he didn't see it coming. Nobody did. That is the power of it. I read Martin's sermon the night before and those words were locked into a paragraph. They were good and strong and needed said but they were not the kairos moment that they became. It was when, with a preacher's skill and a prophet's passion and compassion, Martin lifted them out of the paragraph and with poise and pause and perfect timing gently laid them down that congregation suddenly realised that this is what they all wanted to say and reacted accordingly. 

It was the spontaneous emotion of a people in grief at the loss of Lyra but also frustrated with the inertia of political leadership all spewing out in a near heavenly sound of gratitude that it had been spoken for them in the presence of those they wanted it spoken to.

Martin and I have a mantra. We repeat it often. We believe that peace will not drip down from Stormont hill but needs to flow up Stormont hill, from the people to the leaders. The applause yesterday in St. Anne's Cathedral was the sound of the peace flowing up the hill. The leaders at the top of the hill heard it loud and clear. God forgive them if they do not respond.

Yet, as we look at the remarkable day yesterday was, let us not forget all of what Fr Martin said in the one most prophetic line. It was a well crafted sermon. It was tender and pastoral to Lyra's partner Sara, Lyra's mother and family. It was beautiful in tribute to Lyra, personal in the friendship Martin had with her. It was humorous but reverent. It was Gospel in the comparison with Christ's Easter weekend cross and resurrection. It was hopeful in what the legacy of a life can do.

Courageously Martin broke all the old rules of a violent culture, encouraging people of the Creggan to go to the police with information about Lyra's killing. It challenged the journalists, Lyra's colleagues, to report honestly and all of the news in all of the areas of Belfast.

Then the politicians. As Martin spoke, they were all in the face of the cameras. They were unaware of the "Amens" and "Preach its" welling up behind them. They were suddenly the only ones sitting and unsure whether to clap along to the Amens! It is not easy being a politician in such moments. Just as Fr Martin was aware that the audience of his homily would be wider than those sitting in St. Anne's so these political figures. What do I do? These words are aimed at me? Do I clap? What about the voters watching live or on the news? You can be sure this section will be on the news? What do I do?

Whatever, it has been said publicly. The public not only heard it but responded. Please God the politicians now see this as an opportunity to save face and come down off their high red lined horses and get the Executive up and running again. As Lyra's friend said, via Fr Martin, our youth do not need guns but jobs and education and a future. Come on Arlene (sound like Dexy's!!) and Michelle. Martin opened a door. You will be more than forgiven for walking through it.

The day however was about Lyra McKee. What a young woman she was. We could have done without losing her. As I listened to the Tributes, especially Martin's, I admired most her inclusivity, seeming love for even enemies and the dogged determination for truth and love.

We could all do with that. My image is of a dog with a bone but with the gentlest mouth. Dogged but gracious. Where everyone is welcome, like yesterday. Every one was there. All the neighbours. And the enemies. Martin's words got the Amens, Lyra's life showed us it was possible to live it.  



Lyra 2

The sky went black

On Good Friday morning

When the news headlines

Told us you were murdered

Shot dead, doing your deepest gladness

One of the Ceasefire children

Shot by one of the Ceasefire children

One looking forward

The other looking back

One bringing us together

The other tearing us apart

It was not a Good Friday. 


In your case

It didn’t take until Sunday

For resurrection

We couldn’t wait, for fear of the worst

And your life couldn’t wait, so full of the best

In the same sentences that told your death

Your life bloomed and bulldozed through

The darkness hit your flesh

But it missed your light

A star that shines on

Brighter than ever


You were our hope

But though they tried to make you past tense

You are still our hope

People are now being inspired

To make judgements without being judgemental

To revere the past without worshiping it

To doggedly hold a bone of truth

In the gentlest of a grace soft mouth


Politicians, years without speaking

Standing side by side

With whispers

Suspiciously grace impregnated

A palpable hope of new life

The potent power of a new seed



And in your craftiest trick of all

You got the Churches out of their cold war

At peace in the same building

Sharing your city with a better future

With all your friends and all their opinions

For you it was always about everyone

And everyone was there

Even those enemies


And your friend, Fr Martin Magill

Learning about Hufflepuff

And The Lost Boys

Drawing comparisons with Jesus blood shed

And Resurrection

He commends the politicians, 

Who stood together in the Creggan

Then, preacher perfect… pauses… to ask a question

“Why in God’s name did it take the death of a 29 year old woman

With her whole life in front of her…”

The congregation finish the sentence

Like a jury’s condemnation 


Yet not applause

More like Amens with hand claps

Rippling across the pews 

Then a standing ovation of "preach it"

It goes on

Like the sound of peace 

Flowing up the hill to Stormont Buildings



The sound rings around Lyra McKee Crossroads

A landmark

Where a young woman’s gifted legacy

And a Kairos moment collide

Into Beatitudes

Of Transformation

We can see why you loved those words of Jesus


Hungry for Justice



Like the future you lived

An alternative Ulster indeed!



Easter Sunday (11am) and Fitzroy,  like the historical Church, will be looking for women to declare the risen Jesus!

Oh it is so easy looking back at Resurrection Sunday.  It is much more difficult to be Mary, Peter or Thomas. They have walked through the previous week, the darkness getting darker as it has gone. Friday was as awful as it could get and for an entire day Jesus is dead. In a tomb. In that upper room The disciples weren't singing, "It's Friday but Sunday's coming."

So, let us look at what resurrection means to those who were there and then let us look at our own resurrection moments... I'll be sharing my conversion, all tied up with Thomas, his doubts and belief. 

All wrapped up in resurrection praise!




Easter Saturday






Easter Saturday

The Saturday of Easter weekend has always intrigued me. Jesus is dead. The Kingdom defeated. The disciples are in denial. Interesting day!

We can find ourselves in such places in our lives. I used Easter Saturday to pastor some friends through dark places. Call it, my Easter lament!


The great idea is buried

We talk on the day between

What we watched on Friday

And a Sunday no one’s seen

The world switched off the light

And cracked the thin veneer

It all started very good

How did we end up here?


Now where is perseverance

The secret of slow burn

Should I focus on the not yet come

And be vowing not to turn

Should I be bedding in

I’m not going to go away

Yes I am hanging on

No matter how thin this frays


When did I go wrong

Where did I get lost

And all these things I gained

Were they worth this cost

For it wasn’t crazy living

Just an ordinary mistake

All it takes is one tiny slip

For a domino effect.


The great idea is buried

We talk on the day between

What we watched on Friday

And a Sunday no one’s seen.










































Peter denies

Oh my head

Frazzled with fear


So quickly

The week

The donkey, palm branches and songs

The Temple, the tables, the doves fluttering in the shock

The basin, the towel, my feet, him washing

Me avoiding, arguing, surrendering to him 

Cleanse all of me then Lord

His disconcerting talk of betrayal, 

By one of us

The dipping of the bread

This is my body

This is my blood

What do you mean Lord

I’ll defend you

I’ll be there to the end

Denial? what do you mean denial?


No way

I’ll never leave your side


Falling asleep

The soldiers, brutal

And Judas’s kiss

The confusion

The sword

The ear

The blood

The healing

The dispersing

The running

The hiding

My head 

Frazzled with fear

Uncertainty, unclear

Chaos, questions, denials

And then I hear

A cock crow. once, twice, thrice in my ear

Suddenly I stop

Everything utterly clear

He knew

He knew what was up ahead

he knew me better than I do

I turn

And there he is

Our eyes catch

Mine horrified

Rent with guilt

Squinting in shame

Hoping not to see

But I do see

His eyes



Flint and focused

But still with his eyes crammed with all of that

Filled with grace

For them

For me

For everyone

My head is frazzled!