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January 2024



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Mask 24

I was preaching on Mark 1:21-28… Preaching about Jesus confrontation with the man with an impure spirit, I touched on what evil looks like to me. As I preached, I was reminded about a similar incident in Fitzroy ten years earlier.  

That morning in 2013 I had a strange engagement with God as I drove to church. The two miles from the Manse to the Church is often prayer filled, many times urgently!

That morning I remember suggesting that no one would get in the way of the morning service. Evil wasn’t going to distract me. I remember asking for focus and strength. Little did I know what was ahead of me.

As I was about to begin the sermon I become aware of a stranger being led into a pew by the welcome team. It is a strange time to arrive. My immediate thought is that he might be drunk and thus disruptive. I carry on preaching. 

Very quickly I glance back and see that he has put a mask on. Though that heightens my awareness of him, for some reason it eases my fears about drunken disruption. 

I knew though that disruption was his aim. He was wanting to spook me. I felt in a battle and was determined to win. That engagement with God on the way down fired up again.

I wasn’t going to be spooked. My mind at that point divided into three different compartments. 

In one, there is just me and God talking. “Ok Lord this is interesting. Whoever this guy is he is not on our side. Help me to remain calm and strong, continue with the sermon.”

In another I am eye-balling a man in a mask. I sense that he knows that not only is he not spooking me out but that I am up for him. He seems to get more and more agitated.

The third compartment just carries on preaching without skipping a beat. 

Indeed, there was nothing in my demeanour or voice that alerted anybody to the presence of the man in the mask. For quite a few minutes the rest of the congregation have not a clue what is going down!

When I saw him getting out of the pew and into the aisle compartments two and three seem to shut down but the preaching one remained resolute. I was in the midst of an illustration so actually it was perfect timing. 

He shouted something but I was resolute in neither stopping or responding. Within seconds he was gone and I was back to absolute normal. I just carried on preaching… 




Stockman at Lucan

In a field of dreams

I watched a wise man sow

The seeds of change, he could not see

Then watched them grow

Joy became a harvest

From tears of heaven's rain

A narrow road that leads to life

At the end of Primrose Lane.


In a field of dreams

I watched a young man laugh

As love broke in to take away

The bitterness he used to have

Never thought he'd come here

Now can't wait to come again

A narrow road that leads to life

At the end of Primrose Lane.


In a field of dreams 

I chatted with a man

Who opened up the mysteries

To help me understand

Things that time could wither

To things that forever remain

A narrow road that leads to life

At the end of Primrose Lane.


In a field of dreams

My spirit wanders free

In the midst of how it is

Here is how it could be

The moment by moment impact

Of a love that's not in vain

A narrow road that leads to life

They call it Primrose Lane.


In the late 80s and early 90s my spiritual life had a place of formation. The Lucan Youth Centre was then on the edge of Lucan and was a place that so many of us went for weekends, retreats, cross community events, missions, conferences, music weekends. 

It was a space removed from the sectarianism and Phariseeism in Northern Ireland. I watched minds open, hearts heal and souls get set free. It was a glorious time and a special sacred space.

I wrote this on December 16th 1992 and I think we had a 24 hour prayer time and I wrote this during an hour of praying, listening and giving thanks. It is dedicated to Trevor Morrow, David Montgomery and Dave Baldock.

I heard that there was another Prayer Day as people asked what the Presbyterian Church should do with this space now. I pray for clear answers. 






Paul's Ordination

This is my prayer at Paul Lutton's ordination and installation in St John's, Newtownbreda on January 26th 2024... Many of you kindly said how helpful it was so I thought I'd post


Loving God

We pray for your church tonight

Your Church across the world

Your Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Your Newtownbreda (St John’s) 


We pray for ministers

For passion in their preaching

Wisdom in their teaching

For cultural discernment

For tender compassion

For clarity of vision

For the Holy Spirit’s inspiration

For the humility of Jesus 

Who was the God of the manger, the donkey, the towel and the cross


We pray for elders

To play their role

With shepherd hearts

That they will watch over the flock with sensitivity and care

That Christlike service will be their prayerful longing and testimony

To the church and the world


Tonight Lord

We pray for Paul and Emma and Esther and Daniel particularly

Bind them tighter together as Paul’s vocation shifts and starts afresh


May Paul find his place here in Newtownbreda

Working and honing the wonderful gifts that you have given him

May he not be forced up blind alleys for traditions sake

But be set free to lead imaginatively and courageously in the NOW

Leading this community of faith into the future

Lord may this congregation let Lutton be Lutton

We pray for Emma and Esther and Daniel

They are not called, or installed tonight

Yet they will be crucial to Paul’s ministry

May they be allowed to find their place in this body of believers

Finding and using their own special gifts and personalities

But never being forced to find gifts they haven’t been given

Or do things that would corner or burden their own particular discipleship


God, bind this little family in your tenderest care

Wrap them in resilience and courage and love

That from that core they would be a blessing to this church

And neighbourhood and city.


Lord tonight is a wonderful, 

A celebratory night for this congregation

But tomorrow and the years down the road 

Are where Paul will need that smile, 

That clap on the back 

And that sense of being cherished, valued and supported

May the elders and congregation of Newtownbreda actively continue to do that from this night forward.


And Lord, may all of us remember our calling to follow you and to do that in the community of Church.

Send us humbly to follow you wherever we worship and serve…

In Jesus name



Doug 3

He strode out across a muddy Greenbelt field. Janice’s friend new him from old youth fellowship days and went over and chatted. He was Doug Gay and he was the singer in Candy Says. He was so cool.

No less cool when he played MainStage a couple of years later in the new Calvin’s Dream, the dark shades, the wind blowing back his hair. Did I say cool.

Calvin’s Dream were on the Sticky Music record label and I got to know those guys and therefore Doug again. There was lots going on under the cool. He seemed a sharp fella, theologically astute.

In 1992 he arrived at a festival we were organising in County Wicklow. Arklight. Over the next few years I got to know Doug as a very fine human being, even more theologically astute than I thought and a fine communicator. 

I loved every seminar he led at Greenbelt even when the subject didn’t seem to be my thing. There was always a thought or line to take away and process.

That is all 20 years ago, some of it 30, and every chance I have gotten I try to spend some time with Doug. Janice and I value his counsel and how he widens our reading and thoughts and the way he nurtures us.

He’s a Church of Scotland minister, he is a Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies at Glasgow University. He has made two albums in recent years, both reviewed on this blog, and authored various books on theology and culture. 

I am delighted to say that Doug is speaking at the 4 Corners Festival this year. How did it take so long!? 

As well as the Radio Ulster morning service (11th), he will be our key note speaker on February 11th@7pm in the wonderful renovation that is St. Comgall’s on Davis Street, Doug will speak under the title Towards a Culture of Hope. I have heard Doug in private and publicly speak of hope and imagination for decades and he is the man for such a night as this. 

Come on over. As well as Doug there will be songs from Eilidh Patterson, an exhibition about the story of Presbyterianism In West Belfast and I am sure a short look back at the entire festival before Doug inspires us out into the rest of the year.




Tru 5


Trú add their almost Crosby, Stills & Nash harmonies as their very own fresh tributary to the traditional river of trad. New songs, old songs in Irish as well as English take us back through Irish stories from ancient to recent times. 

The In Conversation series across 4 Corners Festivals have been exciting evenings of insights of life as well as art and lots of humour and the unexpected thrown in. 

For Trú Steve Stockman will talk to the band about their own story, of finding each other and their muse and then Miley Brennan will seek to find out more about their work and the Irish stories that fill the songs from their two albums to date - No Fixed Abode and Eternity Near.

Performing at: An Evening In Conversation With Trú; February [email protected] In Orangefield Presbyterian Church




American husband and wife duo, Beki and Randy, have played more Festivals than most. Their Forgiveness Waltz was once vital to our closing nights. With Beki's rock voice and Randy's guitar skills they sing songs of holding to faith through tough times and how to recognise and celebrate the good times. After one 4 Corners Festival, Board member David Campton suggested that if there was such a thing as "good ear worm" then it applied to Beki and Randy. So good, they are performing twice!

Performing at: Unveiled - Stories In Scripture; February 4th@7pm in Fitzroy, 77 University Street


ALSO Performing at: Discovering Jesus In the Other; Challenging The Myth Of Otherness; February [email protected] in Agape Centre, 256-66 Lisburn Road



Somehow, this is Eilidh's debut at 4 Corners festival. It is hard to understand why when you hear her pure voice, accurate guitar technique and accessible songs that are filled with the spiritual. She has profitably used her songwriting to deal with her own personal anxieties and that story might come out as she sings on our closing night.

Performing at: Towards A Future Of Hope; February 11th@7pm in St Comgall's, Davis Street




For almost 15 years a collective of singers and players from Fitzroy have been performing The Gospel According To... series. They have covered U2, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen and many more... including Christy Moore at our very first Festival. They have recently done Sinead O'Connor and will perform a few of those songs at the evening with Elma Walsh.

Performing at: DONAL WALSH: A STORY OF HOPE on February [email protected] at. Forthspring Community Centre, 373-375 Springfield Rd



Worship at the RTE TV service and the BBC Radio Ulster radio Service will be led by a 4 Corners Festival Collective. We need a little congregation for the Radio Ulster one on February [email protected] at 120 Cliftonville Road





MJ What I Want To Say

Martyn Joseph songs are like dominoes falling. They are just thoughtful couplet after thoughtful couplet bombarding us with depth charges for the head, the heart and the soul.

And so with This Is What I Want To Say. Folding is a song about the unfolding of life and a perfect opener:


I am folding like a kit that has lost the wind

I am holding to the remnant of these sins

To a vast goodbye and a lost hello

I am folding, folding slow


That vast goodbye is his father Brian Edward Joseph leaving the planet. The small hello is his son Jack Brian Joseph’s arrival. Joseph’s previous record 1960 was a reflection on his entire life. This one is about now.

So, from those openers the dominoes fall, bombarding us in the most melodic of ways with wrestling, vulnerability, anger, proverb, thanksgiving and the prophetic.

Pacific Northwest, a geographical area familiar in Joseph’s writings, is a man seeking hope in the heart of humanity; I’d Take You Out is a man prepared to lose his soul to take out those who oppress and violently scatter injustice; Waiting For The Rain is the opposite, a very much Welsh welcome and hopefully heal asylum seekers; Don’t Need No Cathedral is about finding life transcendent outside of the structures of religion; and Gratitude a near hymn of thanksgiving.

There’s a lot of love in the make of these dominoes. There’s Joseph’s own love in the closing You’re Still Here and Without You, the piano and the latter played by his wife Justine. Take Me To Love, the simplest lyric here is like a prayer for love and the ability to be that love.

In Albert’s Place, written on commission by the BBC 21st Folk series, Joseph nails it in the prophetic:


And the measure of a country’s prosperity

Is not the wealth it holds

But in the absence of poverty and equal opportunities for all


The song expresses all of the album’s hope for love in a simple but profound image:


Albert’s Place has seen it all

The meat and coal when the big ships called

But maybe now its greatest day of all

Brings tea and a cup of love

Tea in a cup of love


Tea in a cup of love. I can’t tell you how much a I love that.

Everything Martyn Joseph does is top quality songwriting, with deft guitar skills and a whole lot of life experience well discerned. 

1960 was in my opinion Joseph’s finest work. This Is What I Want To Say is a very fine companion piece. It’s strength of content is revealed by a more stripped down production. As the years go by this man gets it closer and closer to perfect. 

First review of the year and I can say with utter confidence that by year’s end it’ll be up there as an album of 2024.


Erin Quinn

(This is a Guest Blog by Karen Jardine, posted with permission)


Around a year ago I was invited to take part in the 4 Corners Festival on the theme of 'Grief of Dreams Unrealised'. This morning I had a wee read of what I shared last year and it still seems relevant. The finale of Derry Girls was the starting point and after a few meanders I ended up with this:

"Sure it’s only a television programme, but I wonder if it gave a generation, or generations, the validity and permission to share a story that they didn’t realise was theirs to tell – to grieve a future promised that has yet to be realised. 

Joel is one of the prophets in the Bible. His contribution comes in the midst of a swarm of locusts which has overrun the land of Judah and eaten everything in sight. Devastation and destruction are everywhere. Through Joel God calls his people back - ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning’. 

Grieve for that which is lost.  

Mourn and weep. 

But that is not the end of the story. 

There is a promise of restoration – that the years that the locusts have eaten will be restored.

Not only that – but that the Spirit of the Lord will be poured out on his people.

Sons and daughters will prophesy. 

Old men will dream dreams, young men will see visions. 

In the midst of communal trauma and political stalemate each generation has its own unfulfilled dreams to grieve. 

But let’s not make that the end of the story. 

Let’s refuel our imagination.

We have bolder dreams to dream and give voice to. 

We have more visions to see and put our words to.

Or to quote Erin Quinn:

“We have to be brave… and if our dreams get broken along the way, we have to make new ones from the pieces”.'


John Barry News

You can become no more of a public figure than being the headline photograph on the BBC News page.

So, with one of their faces right there today on that News page, it is a good time to announce our public figures who will be sharing with us at The Stories That Shape Us at the 4 Corners Festival on January 10th at 7.30pm. 

The idea is that our public figures, five of them, will share a book that has somehow affected their lives. We will also have actors on hand to read sections from those books.

This is the last new news announcement before the Festival and we are delighted to tell you that our five public figures, in alphabetical order, are:

JOHN BARRY (Academic/Environmental activist/Union man)

BISHOP ANDREW FORSTER (Religious leader)

NUALA MCKEEVER (actress/writer)

TARA MILLS (News Presenter)

and one other... how exciting.





Stormont NI No Entry


Tonight is not a good night in our wee country. Tomorrow we await strikes across the land, strikes that will impact us all but at this stage we might all be up for finding a picket line to stand in solidarity. 

We are all fed up. No government is causing us a collapsing health service, our school system stretched, lack of housing and so much more. 

For political principles the population suffers on and on.

Today we all feel that it might be over. Our institutions seem beyond repair. We shout in anger. We scream in frustration. We sigh in resignation. 

I rewrote this...



Pragmatic and imaginative

Visions of our future

Flourishing together

Not crushing the petals



We know now

Almost finally know

It will not trickle down

It is dammed up, 

High on the hill

By lock keepers, 

Captive to Ulster thran

Impoverished of give and take

Of listening, understanding and empathy.

Dammed up 

By the gouged out rotten trees of history 

Churned up by trauma and blame

Dammed up

By the rusty armalites and armoured tanks

Dammed up 

By the stagnancy of fear 

That strategically refuses to erode the old banks

To create new directions 

For the carrying of fresh water



It will not trickle down

Dammed up

It will damn us at the bottom

Leave us in hopelessness 

Begging the question

When will we flood peace up the hill

Power hosing down the mess of who we were

Pumping fresh springs of who we can be

Bursting through all that is dammed up?


Peace flows up.