Previous month:
June 2019
Next month:
August 2019

July 2019



The opening song on Joshua Tree is about culture shock.

In 1985 Bono and his wife Ali visited Ethiopia after Live Aid, spending five weeks in a refugee camp. Like all of us who have had that experience Bono has spoken about being more culture shocked on re-entry. Going to somewhere like Ethiopia is one thing. Returning home having soaked up that different way of life is more disconcerting.

So, actually Where The Streets Have No Name begins in Dublin, with Bono feeling the spiritual barrenness of the city. In this desert of the soul, that is probably a result of the culture shock of coming home, he thinks back to that real geographical desert place. Again a familiar experience for those who travel to Africa is the sense of joy and love in the hearts and smiles of the poor. Bono is drawn back here from the impoverishment of soul that he finds in Dublin.

Finally, Belfast is in there too. Belfast is a place where your name, the school you went to or the name of the street you grew up on will give away whether you are are a Catholic or Protestant. Bono is imagining… hoping… and even praying… for a place and time where that division has disappeared; peace and shalom.

As Bono comes home to Ireland, after his time in Africa, his spiritual senses are sharper to the poverty of soul going on around him. He longs to go back to that place where he found a deeper sense of the spiritual, in the midst of materialist poverty.

He now sees the world around him as one that is “building and burning down love… building and burning down love.”



West Nile huts

Sun shines across hillocked green

West Nile beauty uniquely pervading

Signal pocked masts blight the horizon

Alien rhythm and unwelcomed invading 

Women lining the road to Nebbi

Cassava baskets filled with nourishment

When Jesus said, “Worry not about tomorrow”

Is this the perfect balance he meant.


The western rhythms 

They hypnotise us

Customise us

Conform our feet

Yes our rhythms

They can seduce us

Even reduce us

To an off beat.


Then between Arua and Nebbi

We climb over another rise

See the land laid out forever

Under mesmerising African skies

It seems like everything is possible

No need for a crammed up schedule

Maybe the more empty are the days

The more chance of a life that’s full.


These African rhythms

Can untangle the knots

To soothe our thoughts

And sense the Spirit move

Yes their rhythms

They come and find us

And realign us

To a soul chilled groove.


When I cross the bridge at Pakwach

There is always a tear in my eye

Joy in the coming

Sorrow in the going

The hello or goodbye!


Stockies With Emo

Forgive the more personal nature of this blog but tonight was a special evening for the Stockies in Kampala. It was a night when our lives came full circle and we ended up in a space that was geographically and spiritually significant.  

Back in the early noughties we took Alain Emerson and then, his future wife, Lindsay Anderson to South Africa. They had both been to Africa before but our Queen’s University Chaplaincy trip gave them the idea of doing something similar with their Church, Emmanuel in Lurgan.

We had gone with Habitat For Humanity and when a Habitat trip didn’t work out for Alain and Lindsay they went with Fields Of Life to Uganda.

Sadly, Lindsay died of a brain tumour less than a year after their trip. In response Alain’s family raised money to build a secondary school, Light For All, in the same place as the Primary School, Source of Light, that they had visited. 

One evening in Fitzroy I heard Alain tell the story. I knew the story but when Alain said that Light For All cost £75,000 I realised that that was a tithe of what we were paying for a new Church hall and a light went off in my soul.

A few years later a team from Fitzroy were at the opening of a school in Arua, north west Uganda that we had funded through Fields of Life.

I like to think that the Stockies led Alain and Lindsay to Africa but then, in a lovely twist of God’s providence, humour and graciousness, they led the Stockies to Uganda.

Tonight we gathered in the Fields of Life guesthouse, Emmaus and spent some time with this year’s Emmanuel team. It was a beautiful moment being in the same space as Alain, his mum and his daughter Annie from his second marriage to Rachel. 

Actually, it is almost ridiculous that 17 years after Alain came to Cape Town with us that we were all in Muyenga, Kampala at the same moment. As the good book says, “our heart burned within us” (Luke 24:32). Even more bizarre that that quote is from the story of the Emmaus road that gives guesthouse its name.

In the worship session we had tonight, I thanked God for Emmanuel who God used to bring us to Uganda and for tonight being with Emmanuel in Uganda!

In moments when my faith goes agnostic such crazy happenings renew my faith.

“Coincidence,” I hear the doubter whisper. It could be.

In 2015 in my speech when we opened Onialeku Primary School, in Arua, I mentioned Trevor Stevenson, the founder of Fields of Life. I said that because of the step of faith of an ordinary man, from County Wicklow, here I was being blessed in Uganda. “I’d love to read his story,” I concluded.

The reason I am in Kampala, to be able to meet up with Alain and Emmanuel, is that I am helping Trevor write his story. You couldn’t make it up.

"Coincidence," I hear the doubter whisper.

It could all be coincidence of course but, eventually, there are too many coincidences. When you add coincidence after coincidence the criminal usually gets convicted. 

Thank you God for Trevor Stevenson, Fields of Life, Alain Emerson, Emmanuel, Fitzroy, Onialeku Primary School and Shalom where I write this from.

The Stockies are Blessed!


Elephant Mountian

I always love reading novels set in the places that I am living. I love books about Belfast. However, when I am in Belfast I do not have the luxury of reading novels. When I am in Africa I am even more careful to have a novel as a companion, describing the roads that I am travelling.

In 2016 I asked David Torrens proprietor of No Alibis Bookshop on Botanic Avenue what I should read on my Ugandan trip. He posed zen like for a second, delved into a box and reached me Ishmael Beah’s Radiance of Tomorrow which hit the spot beautifully. 

I pushed David by asking again in 2017 and he came up trumps again with Northern Irish writers David Park’s Stone Kingdoms. Amazing. 

Last year, I tested myself and discovered perhaps my favourite book of all time, Jenny D Williams’ The Atlas Of Forgotten Places! It was a wow and literally followed me into north west Uganda and beyond!

This year I tried Elephant Mountain by Linda Johnston Muhlhausen. It was another beautiful companion. Set in Kisoro, as far south in Uganda as I was north in Arua, that didn’t detract from the sense of being on the same roads. Being set in the very early 70s didn’t detract either.

Elephant Mountain is the story of a young woman who leaves her groom at the altar and runs away with the US Peace Corp to Uganda as a volunteer teacher, looking for adventure. She finds more than she bargained for as she falls in love not only with Uganda but a Ugandan, sees her Peace Corp partners sent home for drug abuse, crosses the border into Rwanda to meet Ellen who is living with Gorillas and in the end has to face the violence of Idi Amin’s bloody dictatorship.

It is a lyrical read. Laurel our main character is a musician and there are lots of musical references from Brahms to Jefferson Airplane! 

For around half the book the political context means little. Laurel could be at our school in Arua in 2019 but then it hits with all Amin’s might and the book in the end is about the hippy dreams of 60s America and the start of the Amin years in Uganda.

It is about freedoms and where freedoms free you but add other problems. How free can we be if we attempt to take the rhythms of our western lives and beat them out in the midst of another rhythm in another place. Can we shift rhythms and how can we pick up our old rhythms when we return to their relentless groove!

Those are the questions that I have been asking on this current trip to Uganda. The book has helped me ponder that challenge and friction. 

The author was herself a Peace Corp volunteer in Uganda before Amin threw them all out in 1972. I imagine the spiritual centre of the plot is taking us into very personal experience. The details might not be as true but I would be fascinated to find out. 

It was another book that ended a little too soon for me!


Jazz Parachute

So why would I even think about being in Uganda on the week that my dreams were fulfilled of a British Open at Royal Portrush?!

Well, it is the VIPs! VIPs in a British Open sense are all those famous rich people that everyone on Facebook got a selfie with. For me the VIPS in my life are the children on a school play ground on the edge of Arua, west Nile, Uganda. 

In the eyes of the world, even the rest of Uganda, Onialeku is no important place. These children are the least important people. Unless of course we read Matthew 25. Among the least important in the world’s eyes is where Jesus is. Who Jesus is, in fact.

Around 2012 when we were deciding to extend our Church Halls at a cost of £750,000 I heard how my friend Alain had built a school in Uganda for £75,000. The accountant’s son in me worked out the tithe thing and before long Fitzroy were in partnership with Fields of Life to fund a building for Onialeku Primary School.

The cold blooded financial deal turns into the warmest hearted of relationships. Since 2015 when we sent a Youth Team to open the school we have been there every July. 

It has been a real learning curve for me, reading theology about mission, which has changed vastly over these last twenty years, to understanding Uganda and attempting to find the rhythms of another context so that by somehow syncopating our rhythm into that rhythm that there might be mutual sharing and learning. Five years in and we are still attempting to blend those rhythms better.

Every team is different, with different gifts to contribute. Last year we had a few teachers who partnered in the classrooms. This year was the first year we had a handyman who built four classroom shelves and fixed a few dangerous plugs among other things. Someone else took on a painting project that painted the outside of the school and freshened it up beautifully. Both projects involved teachers and locals in the work.

The rest of the team continued the general schedule of the last two years. We again rolled out the very informative I Am Girl programme. This is a Sex and Hygiene education programme. We also took the P7s who had done the course last year to share about some extra identity issues.

Sport and games filled the playground. The sound of children having so much fun playing with a parachute and ball or learning skittles for the first time. It was joyous! Afternoons were spent playing puzzles and lego and more games. Knitting has been a staple part of the programme since we first arrived. Classes full as always! 

This was all wrapped around some Bible teaching. The mornings were spent doing a Kids Bible Club, with puppet shows and songs, three times - for nursery, P1-P4 and then P5-7. This year we did a short discipleship course, the fruit of Jesus teaching. On the last morning we then did a craft of five fruit with the lessons written on, that they could wear in a fruit basket on their heads. They wore that basket all day long!

In the afternoons we did the same discipleship course with the teachers, unpacking the lessons with wider biblical teaching. This proved a wonderful avenue for fellowship and some questions were fascinating and tricky to answer. The teachers got real fruit rather than a basket of cardboard cut outs!

This is obviously only the programme. It ran smoothly. However, that is not the point of the trip. We have been very influenced by English missional theologian Sam Wells who points out that Jesus spent only a few days of his life “fixing” us but 90% just “being with” us before he did anything at all. 

It is in the “being with” that the incarnational grace of God begins to flow. In those moments we share our lives, our faith, our struggles and our hopes. In those moments we exchange dignity, hope and empowerment, the three word motto at the new cafe Borderlands that we discovered and enjoyed.

We are heading home now (Team gone - Stockies still in Kampala for a few days) to ponder and surmise what we learned. How the very different rhythms of West Nile might interrupt our western infected rhythms? What their faith teaches us? 

For me best of all is marvelling at the image of God stamped humanity that we had the privilege of loving and being loved by. I see Jacqueline smile as I find her face in the crowd, Rachel go all shy and Jonathan and I point at each other across that playground. 

The wonder of these children. It is why I would rather be taking selfies with them than Rory or Tiger, Tommy or Shane. 

God was on to something when he invited us to love who the world define as the least. Right there we encounter God and “the least of these” don’t so much benefit from our condescension as smash to pieces our misplaced arrogance! Thank you VIPS of Onialeku Nursery and Primary School!


Shane Lowry

I waited about 45 years for the British Open to be played at Portrush. I went to my first Open at Muirfield in 1972. Trevino stole it from Tony Jacklin on the 17th. I started playing seriously the very next week. 

I was aware that Royal Portrush was as good a course as any by the age of 16. I had played Carnoustie and St. Andrews, where I had been for the 1975 and 1978 Opens. Portrush should have the Open back. Of course The Troubles were in the way for twenty years but as the millennium turned my dad, now a member at Portrush and my mother dreamed. 

Sadly, my mother never lived to see it, and my dad’s dementia means that he will never know. Me, I was in Uganda! Oh, it is recorded for when I get home, and I will watch it over and over, but this morning I am grabbing a glance at whatever I can find on YouTube!

I was on a school playground in north west Uganda when the Open started and I told the school that, though all the world’s so called VIPs were in our place, these school children were my VIPs. I wouldn’t have been anywhere else, not even Portrush. That probably says something about how my life has changed since my golf obsessed teens.

However, it was painful following it with very sporadic wifi! My friend Pearse had a free roaming app and was keeping me up to date. We were at a sensational African Dance evening as Lowry and Fleetwood hit the back nine on Sunday. During intricate dances I was shouting across the table, “still six shots? How many holes?” 

Though a Tommy Fleetwood fan, Shane Lowry was my man from the moment I heard that Rory’s fragile head had thrown the tournament at the very first hole. Since he won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009, I have always reckoned on Lowry winning a Major. So close to a US Open in 2016 his form took a dive, until an 8th in this year’s USPGA suggested better things. When Rory succumbed to his psychological fragility I saw Lowry first round score and thought maybe!

On Thursday evening I read a Facebook status that had already closed off the possibility of a local winner. Maybe sectarianism! I am more likely to think a lack of knowledge of Lowry’s decade as a professional. When everyone was touting Koepka because his caddy Ricky Elliott, grew up playing Portrush, they again forgot that Lowry’s caddy was from just sixty miles away. Bo Martin had the local knowledge without being confused by the club he played to the ninth green being so different than the one he’d have to recommend to a serial Major winner!

In the end I was as thrilled at Lowry’s win as I was with all our other Irish Major winners since 2007! There were no Irish Major winners for 60 years after Fred Daly won the Open. Now that is 10 in 12 years! Wow! Let us stop and savour!

I again feel blessed by milking the Venn Diagram Affect of being Northern Irish. Those six little counties, still constitutionally British but geographically on the island of Ireland. If your soul is open and you can stay free of the bigotry such a squeezed space can grow then you can benefit by being a bit of both!

Golf has always, like Rugby, been an island wide sport. Amateur golfers play under the Golfing Union of Ireland. It seemed right, in every sense, that as Lowry marched to victory, and particularly when he walked up the 72nd hole with about seven putts for it, that the Portrush crowd played the Venn Diagram Affect raucously! 

“Ole Ole Ole” ringing out across North Antrim’s coastline is not only the sound of a “home” winner, for the first British Open in Northern Ireland since 1951, but maybe also a sig of how far we have come as a people in these last twenty years!

I cannot wait to get home and watch it all. There will be tears!




Murchison Oil Road

(A rather rushed poem of anger... watching bulldozers cut roads into Murchison Falls National Park... we still reach for tempting forbidden fruit... and still end up damaging our humanity... and the garden)


No animals at the gate

They all have run for cover

Sensitive to the dangers

That we have made our lover

Bulldozing elephants off the savannah

Ripping giraffes from silhouette horizons

Tearing the coloured birds from sky

And extinguishing the lions


Power lines

Industrial enzymes

Stocks and share crimes

Beauty thieving

Reach for progress

We all become less

That is our fallenness

Wonder grieving


Dashing Mother Nature's dance

Crashing God's Creation jive

Here come the killers of earth

And we are watching it live!







Fitch Africa Waving





46664 (Part 2 - Long Walk To Freedom)



(from the single)



(from Quirk)



(from 46664 (Part 2 - Long Walk To Freedom)



(from Circling Hour)



(from Songs Of Mass Destruction)



(from Johannesburg EP)



(from OYO)



(from The Star and The Wisemen)



(from On Bantu Biko Street)


TIMSHEL (feat Mumford & Sons) - RHYTHMS DEL MUNDO

(from Rhythms Del Mundo Africa)



(from In The Name Of Love: Africa Celebrates U2)



(from Live at The Nelson Mandela Theatre)



(from The Concert In Hyde Park)



(from 46664 (Part 2 - Long Walk To Freedom)



(from In The Name Of Love: Africa Celebrates U2)



(from Spirit Rising)


Flight Diverted

We have many little hiccups leading up to our 2019 Fitzroy team to Uganda. When we boarded in Dublin for Addis Ababa and the connecting flight to Entebbe, I uttered the famous last words, "Nothing to think about now for 10 hours..." The flight was to touch down briefly in Madrid but a storm sent us off to spend a few very dull hours on the runway in Barcelona before flying back to Madrid. We were now 8 hours overdue and missing our Entebbe connection. This is my sobering meditation on such a day...


You can have your destination planned

And know exactly how you are getting there

Dates and times all on your ticket

“Nothing more to think about until you arrive”

Famous last words

Like certainty, 

Or ‘nothing can go wrong’

And “we have it under control”.


“Sometimes a wind comes out of nowhere

And knocks you off your feet”

As Bruce Cockburn sings it

It can send you off course

Divert you to somewhere off your map

Towards worry



And weariness.


That wind and where it blows you

Cannot be eradicated

Or erased

God will not shift the weather patterns of the world

For your own self indulgence

Life is not the wind that blows

But how we respond when it does.


“Worry,” said the Master

“Adds nothing to your circumstances but worry”

“Surmise,” he went on,

“The Uganda Cranes as the fly

Or the sunflowers as the decorate a field

No toiling or spinning

But utterly beautiful.”

“Trust,” he teaches

“Brings a peace beyond understanding”


The breeze of the Spirit

Where it blows, no one knows

And so it is with all of those born of the Spirit of God 

Certainty gives way

To faith

And faith was the lesson of today.