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September 2021


Onialeku Kids

(My Pause For Thought on Vanessa, BBC Radio 2 on September 30th 2021. The theme was Favourite Tourist Destination)


Favourite tourist destinations. The Stockmans have been blessed. In 2005 got to spend 3 months in Vancouver and between 2002 and 2008 we had four big chunks of time in Cape Town. 

We do this blending of vacation with vocation in our lives. Vancouver was a sabbatical while I was Writer In Residence at Regent College. Cape Town was leading teams of University students to help build houses with Habitat For Humanity.

A few years ago we were looking at another sabbatical and Janice and I thought Vancouver again. I set up a house swap with another minister. He described a house by the Pacific Ocean and a church that would only want to know if I would sail or play golf! When I said I’d just like to walk around and hope I’d bump into novelist Douglas Coupland he replied that he lived down the street!

So Janice started cleaning the house for the house swap. We go excited. Stanley Park, Granville Island, Grouse Mountain, Kitsilano. 

Then… well then the daughters rebelled. 

“We’re not going daddy…”

“What?!?! You loved Vancouver”

“You and mum can go but we are going to Onialeku”

Where’s Onialeku I hear you say. It’s in Arua on the north west edge of Uganda. Our Church had funded a school that we had visited the year before this hoped for sabbatical! 

“How are you going to change the world on Kitsilano beach”, my 16 year old preached back at her parents!

So… Ross, Laura and their family lived in our house the summer of 2016 but we weren’t anywhere near the Pacific Ocean.

We were on a playground on the edge of Uganda. We’ve been back again and again since then and whenever this pandemic clears in East Africa that is the very first tourist destination on our list. 

300 children who seem to have nothing to offer a holiday brochure but who have given us more deep down joy than we’ve found on beaches, up mountains, in swimming pools!

Changing the world Jasmine supposed. I don’t know about how we have changed Onialeku but I know for very sure that it has changed us… I do wonder if that is one of Jesus main aims when he asks us to serve others. It is about Changing us. Even as to how teenagers choose their tourist destinations. 



If I had a chance to write a chapter to add on to CS Lewis’s Screwtape Letters it would be about how The Devil sending his evil minions to mess up my driving.

And there they are at every junction. I look left and there is a trail of cars. There is nothing coming to the right. BUT… just when the line on the left is passed and nothing more is coming a demon presses GO and the cars start arriving from the right… and on it goes.

Or at traffic lights. I can drive the two miles to Fitzroy and have every red light, even the ones for pedestrians. And if the demon is on form then the light changes just as I might get through it. When you are light for a meeting… oh my. The rage!

A little while ago I was particularly bothered and enraged, shouting at demons and angels and God. I needed a last light to be red in order to make a meeting on time and a demon pressed red. Aggghhhh!

As I sat there watching all the traffic that could move I started asking how they were more important than me… and that was when I had a spiritual eureka moment.

They were at least as important to me. They had meetings to be at too. They had schedules. They might be even later than me.

The car is a wonderful symbol of our ego-centred bubble. In the car we are the only ones. It is all about where we are going and we have no connection or sensitivity to the others on the road. We are centre. We are the only ones that matter. Our destination is priority.

Stopped at those traffic lights I suddenly realised that other people needed me to stop at the lights so that they could get to their destination. Others needed me to give way. Everybody else has the right tone on time at their meeting. 

Suddenly the other cars were not demonic minions simply to get in my way and annoy my day. Those in other cars were equally precious human beings. 

When Jesus asked me to deny myself and take up my cross daily to follow him it was for times like these. It was practical humble service for others. It was to rid me of my selfishness and make me more Jesus-like.

It is the fruit of the Spirit in my car. It is love and kindness and gentleness and forbearance and goodness and indeed self control. 

Not so much Screwtape Letters as How Then Should We Live!



Thumbnail_Embrace NI 2449

photo: Bernie Brown


So, a wee recap. Fr Martin Magill was 60 on September 13th. I have no idea what it must be like to be his age but on October 10th I will. 

We decided to exploit the currency of big birthdays to raise some currency for Embrace NI. We set a target of £1000 which we had reached almost before Martin had finished his cake.

We doubled our target to £2000 and last week had to double it again. We are still 12 days from my birthday and we are delighted to say that we have broken through £4000. 

We need to thank everybody who has donated for your generosity. We are thrilled that our birthday's could do such good. 

We have chosen Embrace NI because it is interdenominational and helps us fulfil a clear Biblical mandate to take care of the refugee. Watching the news footage from Afghanistan reminds us that all over the world people are fleeing terrible wars, oppression and poverty to find a better, safer life for their family. We are of course aware that Jesus was a refugee too. 

We see the work Embrace does, not only in its emergency response to refugees but also their role of educating and resourcing the church as being so crucial. 

We set our target again to £5000 and encourage you, if you know Martin or myself, if you have benefitted in any way from our individual ministries or our work together to help us reach that target.




Fab Gear

Less than six months after I reviewed a free Bob Dylan covers’ CD from Uncut magazine I am raving about another. This time it is The Beatles who get covered. It is called Fab Gear and says “Mojo presents 15 customised Beatles covers”(available with Mojo, November 2021). 

Customised is the word. This is a CD packed with reinventions of the familiar, filled with a plethora of the most pleasant of surprises.

From the opening She Said, She Said rocked up by The Black Keys to the closing Let It Be reimagined in jazz, Joshua Redman’s saxophone giving that beautiful familiar tune soaring gospel and a good deal of improvisation too, we get new ways to see these songs.

Don’t Let Me Down gets dub treatment, She & Him go near calypso with I Should Have Known Better, Damon and Naomi give us an airy almost religiously meditative While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Jim James doing the same to another Harrison Long Long Long and The Melvins go grunge on I Want To Hold Your Hand. 

Personally I have been a long time fan of African American shadings of Beatles’ songs. I love the two volumes of Black America Sings… And so here Swamp Dogg’s Lady Madonna is outrageously good, all positive funked up rush with brass and hammond organ. 

PP Arnold brings a Gospel feel to Eleanor Rigby surely one of McCartney’s greatest moments. With Macca I imagine that priests, church and people getting saved are all incidental to his story line. Not so with PP. She reaches soul that white Liverpool boys might never even have seen in their psychedelic trips!

Best of all in its customising is Bettye LaVette’s The Word. Funked up it gives some spiritual clout to some Beatles, probably mainly Lennon, preaching. This is the song at the fulcrum of The Beatles style and content, where Rubber Soul shifts the choruses from boy/girl to universal when it comes to love.

As Steve Turner points out in his book The Gospel According To The Beatles, Lennon was the only Beatle to be confirmed in the church and by his own choice. When Lennon starts to head down Dylan’s avenue with message songs then it might be obvious that he would. Here words like light and free and word and spreading the word could all be sung in Church.

Off piste and my own thoughts mingling The Bible says that Jesus is the Word and God is love. 

Back To Fab Gear. The gear here are the songs from the greatest songwriting canon in music. They get fab re-customisations that eek out even more wonder than we thought they add. It’s a blast.  


Stocki CSSM hippy

(As I arrive at my 60th Birthday... here is part 2 of a 6... as I try to express each decade in a few a words as possible...)


In my teens

There was always music

From cousin Sharon introducing me to

Donny Osmond and David Cassidy

To finding my own in T.Rex and Slade

Pop music

From 7’ to 12”

Always music.


Moving to Shandon Park

With Reids and Surpals and Smalls

Francis Kelly til he took off to Dublin

Rab McConaghy

Janet Reid

Harryville Youth Club

And always music


Ballymena Academy

Learning lessons

Finding my place

Not so much in class

As out of class

In the golf team

The Debating Society

The sound desk

Being DJ at all the school parties

There was always music


Summers on the golf course

Handicap dropping

First hole-in-one

East Antrim League

Team captain

British Opens


Winning the afternoon sweep

To buy Fleetwood Mac

Always music


Swap shop

Among friends

A few old singles

For 4 early Beatles LPs

Life changing

Thou Shalt Have no Other Bands...

"All you Need Is Love"

"Give Peace A Chance"

"Imagine all the people..."

Always music



As a guy called Larry Norman sings

"The Beatles said All You Need is Love

And then they broke up"

They were asking the right questions

But I sought answers

How to change the world?


And then

Back a decade

No God?

What if?

Let’s pray that if you’re not there

You won’t tell me that you are

But if you are

That Jesus will give a more robust love

Than The Beatles

And so

Looking at the Bible

Looking at Jesus

Looking at my life


Not only there

But interested in me

Offering life in all its fulness

Yes please

As Larry Norman also sang

“I've searched all around the world 

To find a grain of truth

I've opened the mouth of love 

And found a wisdom tooth”

Let’s follow...


I will be 60 on October 10, 2021 and along with my good friend Fr Martin Magill (60 on Sept 13th) we are having a 60th Big Birthday Fundraise for

Please consider donating at -


Fitzroy TV


We seem to have drifted into yet another unprecedented time.

We are out of lockdown... but not back to old normal.

There is a certain leaning towards old normal... but more people we know are getting Covid.

Some of us are still cautious.

Some of us have some fear.

Others are not looking back.

Some are going to Church... some are happy at home with a big mug of coffee.

How does God want his people to live in such an unprecedented time?

What is Jesus calling us to do in our homes, wider family circles, work places, city and church?

Tomorrow morning I will ask that question in a pastoral way before giving a clue as to how we can be God's conduits in this uncertain season. 


Fitzroy Gathering in Fitzroy at 11

Fitzroy on Fitzroy TV from 11 - Fitzroy TV





On These Steps

It seemed to me that it was the press getting it wrong, not for the first time. 

As I welcomed people at the door of the Presbyterian Church’s On These Steps event marking 100 Years of Northern Ireland I watched the TV cameras as journalists interviewed political leaders about President Higgins decision not to attend a church service in Armagh to mark the same 100th Anniversary.

With all that fuss about church and 100th Anniversary events you might have thought that the press would be interested in what was going on in the actual building that they were interviewing outside of… but no.

If I say so as one of the organisers, On These Steps was a cutting edge contribution to the discussion around the founding of Northern Ireland. It recognised that as some celebrated the existence of Northern Ireland others deeply resented partition. 

We were on the steps of Union College 100 years to the day that the first Northern Ireland parliament met. We heard Jim Allen perform the King’s speech from that very day:

I speak from a full heart when I pray that My coming to Ireland to-day may prove to be the first step towards an end of strife amongst her people, whatever their race or creed.

In that hope, I appeal to all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the hand of forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and to forget, and to join in making for the land which they love a new era of peace, contentment, and goodwill.

On These Steps flowed from these words.

Local songwriter Ferna sang a newly commissioned song imagining Northern Ireland as a person reflecting on his/her birthday. Ferna is deep of thought with a poetic dexterity and musical daring. We got it all. It was imaginative, poignant and I hope we could all see ourselves, individually and communally, “I am never not afraid/So I’m always getting saved.” 

There was a fascinating address by historian Ian McBride about the world of 1921 where Europe was being cut up with borders and Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances that caused our border. He said, “My hope is that, in this centenary year, we can collectively interrogate some of these self-serving reflexes…The challenge for historians, among others, is to ensure that the complex realities of the Irish situation a century ago are not ironed out for political, ideological or therapeutic reasons.”

Presbyterian Moderator David Bruce led us to look forward. With personal, literary and Biblical images he called our politicians to see our institutions as precious and for us all to sit down at the crossroads and talk about our stories and how we can live together. He spoke of how Jesus brings the love and justice together in his incarnation and cross and therefore hope is possible. David concluded:

“A multi-cultural Ireland, north and south is a blessing to us, and we need not be fearful of it. The stories of those who have left everything behind in their homelands to be part of our story in this, their new homeland, need to be heard, and they will enrich us, just as we will bless them…Whatever a new Ireland resembles, it will not be because someone was victorious, while another was defeated. If it looks like that, it won’t be a new Ireland…”

The press, obsessed with short catchy headlines missed such helpful content. They also missed a panel that doesn’t meet publicly too often in Ireland - Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Paul Givan MLA and Junior Minister, Declan Kearney MLA, representing the deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, who was unable to attend. Newly appointed Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Rt Hon Conor Burns MP, also took part along with Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD. Jude Hill interviewed. Now there’s a press story. Missed!

The atmosphere was one of respect and listening. I might have liked a little more honesty and forthrightness from panellists but it was a real contribution. We need more of such events as we move forward to whatever the next 100 years looks like. Maybe the press will share headlines of some of the good things too!


Stocki in Beeb

(My Pause For Thought on Vanessa Feltz, BBC Radio 2 on September 23rd 2021... The theme as "What am I grateful for"....)


What am I thankful for.

Oh my. Where do I begin. My wife Janice, my daughters Caitlin and Jasmine. Living in the beauty of Ireland. Trips to Africa. Faith. Vocation.

BUT… it is Organ Donation Week so there are people I want to take an opportunity to thank on national radio. 

I am so thankful to all organ donor and their families and particularly four families… who agreed to give the liver of their loved ones… that kept our young friend Lucia Quinney Mee alive for 12 years until she passed away in May 2020 after attempting to overcome a fourth transplant.

Lucia was a soul mate to our daughters. She was like one of the family. She got her first liver at just 8 years old in Birmingham Children’s Hospital in 2007 and her fourth liver in King’s Hospital, London the day before New Year’s Eve 2019. 

In the twelve years between with the help of those donated livers Lucia lived the most incredible, inspirational life. 

She became a swimming star at British and World Transplant Games. Gold medals were plentiful. She carried the Olympic torch in 2012.

She set up a campaign called Live Loudly, Donate Proudly that encourages people to donate organs. She wrote great blogs. In 2016 she organised a Gala Dinner for Transplant charities and her speech was so mature and articulate. 

In 2017 she was one of the youngest ever in the Queens New Year’s Honour’s List, receiving a British Empire Medal. She also got to have lunch with the Queen herself.

There were also parties and pop concerts and all the stuff a young woman does. In spite of all she had to go through Lucia lived loudly… and more than that selflessly. 

In the pool she swam for her donors whom she never knew but never forgot. She wanted others to have the gift of life she was given. She was a world changer. 

Today I want to thank, though I don't know who they are, the donors' families that allowed Lucia to become so precious to us. More days to smile. More days to love. What a gift!

To give life through your death. It has almost a Jesus’ Gospel massiveness to it. 

And so… I am so grateful to everyone who has donated organs but particularly Lucia’s unknown four. Thank you so much.


Peace day 21


The first time I heard Over The Rhine sing Another Christmas... 

“I hope that we can still believe

The Christ child holds a gift for us

Are we able to receive

Peace on earth this Christmas”

… something went off deep within me. It is not a new line. I have been living with this line most of my life. I cannot remember a time in my childhood when I didn’t hear it at Christmas time. I heard it for years before I even believed that what it was talking about was any kind of reality. For the last thirty years I have worked the phrase annually. One of my other favourite bands U2 even had a song called Peace On Earth and I have written about that song.

However, it was during one of Stormont’s far too many crises and I was surmising that peace was not high on some of our politicians’ agendas that that near over familiar line, “Peace on earth this Christmas”, struck a chord as loud as any Jimmy Page strum and as spiritually powerful as an Old Testament prophet or actually a New Testament angel on the night God came to earth! 

“Peace, Steve, Peace” is what my soul kept repeating. It is not about justice or vengeance, it is not about proving who was right or wrong. It is not about us and them and us winning. The point of this mission that God had in coming to earth was peace. That peace was not just for my soul. It was about peace on earth. Anyone following this Jesus whose birth is heralded in this angel’s song should be all about peace. 

This of course is not an out of the blue declaration of a God reaching for some Plan B or C. The Old Testament was all about this peace; shalom is how the Jewish people said it. Shalom was God’s intention in the law given, for the King’s to achieve and for the prophets to critique the lack of. A favourite verse on the subject that I have blogged often is Jeremiah 29:7 “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” (NKJV)

Those who claim to follow the baby born when the angels sang need to find that priority of peace. That God’s people would seek shalom wherever they were was a way of being God’s holy nation, a people set apart, different, in all the right ways, from the other nations. We need to not blend in to the world’s intuitive response to seek to be proven right, in control and avenging all who would come against us. We need to be about that ministry of reconciliation that God told us we would be about just as we are connected to God himself through that same ministry of his peace making.

On this International Day Of Peace, I am wearing my John Lennon War Is Over t-shirt. The strap line is “if we want it”.  The love, the reaching out across our divides, the scandalous forgiveness, the imagination to find ways to compromise. We need to want it.

God demands that we want it. Peace is high on God's agenda. He declares it. He commands it. He seeks that we would be committed to it. We need to see afresh this Gospel priority and commit to it with renewed courage, hope and all that grace that is intrinsic to the baby laid in the manger.

Ephesians 2 - 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.



Lindsey Buckingham

It seems to me that Lindsey Buckingham’s eponymously named seventh album is as much about the drama of Fleetwood Mac as it is about the music. Three years after getting sacked from Fleetwood Mac, Buckingham lays down his most Fleetwood Mac sounding solo record and kind of says, “See what you missed?”.

Let’s look back at the drama…

The 1973 album called Buckingham Nicks set it all rolling. Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, very much a couple, had made a record of harmonious songs but were already fighting over the naked cover photograph.

All that the two artists would become is right there on the tracks - Lindsey Buckingham’s instrumental invention and Stevie Nicks mystical voiced sugar coating. Crystal even found itself onto the couple’s first Fleetwood Mac record after Mick Fleetwood hears Frozen Love over the speakers of a studio he was testing and head hunts Buckingham immediately. He won’t jump without Nicks. I wonder how many times he looked back at that decision!

Rumours is the new amalgam’s iconic piece but as it is well documented the seeming harmonious west coast sound is coming out of love stories of utter disharmony. Go Your Own Way or Never Going Back Again. The message was clearly heartache even if the sound was almost joyous! 

Fleetwood Mac’s career since has attempted to out do the interpersonal dramas of Crosby, Stills Nash & Young. Original members Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, who Peter Green named his band after have kept the back beat while one minute Nicks, for 16 years Christine McVie and for a time Buckingham have huffed, stayed away, gone to rehab or got sacked!

The 2017 Buckingham McVie record that should have been Fleetwood Mac, had Nicks not boycotted, was followed by Buckingham getting sacked. That was the last move. Fleetwood Mac touring with Heartbreaker Mike Campbell and Crowded House’s Neil Finn instead of their prime sonic consultant, arranger, producer.

So, Buckingham who has always called his own work “esoteric and a little left field’ brings ten songs right into the centre and makes them utterly Fleetwood Mac accessible. So accessible that Time is almost Pat Boone croon and Dancing is more fragile than anything he has ever done, ending the whole thing with a hushed whisper.

I Don’t Mind and Blue Light have the rhythmic signature finger picking while On The Wrong Side has the shiny guitar solo fade out. You can almost hear Nicks and McVie harmonies on Santa Rosa.

That last comment might sum it all up. This is a fabulous record. Yet, you feel that it could have been even more brilliant. As Buckingham screams “look what you missed by sacking me” there is a kind of echo that says “How good this could have been if they’d all been getting on in this particular year”. 

Oh the drama.