4 CORNERS FESTIVAL

DAMIAN GORMAN'S IDEA OF STORIES BEING LIKE THE EUCHARIST

Damian Launch

photo: Bernie Brown

 

I imagine you will be reading a good few surmises about the 2020 4 Corners Festival over the next while. This year’s Festival was 10 days filled with amazing content. I am not joking when I say that it might be that there wasn’t one sentence spoken or line recited, sung or acted out that hadn’t a gem of insight. Really!

Let me give an overview of the Festival through the prism of one of those sentences. Damian Gorman was a more than gracious contributor to the Festival. As well as his own gig in conversation with Jude Hill, with Anthony Toner singing, Damian turned up at the hidden extra track gig at the end of the Wonderful Wander when we launched our poetry book - Building A City Of Grace. 

At the launch Damian gave even more of his time sharing a few poems, encouraging the Six Form students with poems in the book and giving us a mini seminar in writing poetry.

Anyway, it was a sentence Damian shared with Jude Hill that caught my attention and came to mind almost every single night.

Damian spoke about stories being like the Eucharist. Someone’s story is broken up and used to feed others. As someone who presides over Communion the second Sunday of every month and attempts to creatively not only break the bread but also Jesus story. I even used another 4 Corners Festival artist Gary Lightbody’s song this very Sunday.

Half way through the Festival event in St. John’s Parish on the Falls Road I realised that what Damian said about the Eucharist was exactly what was happening in the stories of Presbyterian ministers, victims and nurses being read from Gladys Ganiel and Jamie Yohanis’s book Considering Grace. Stories were being broken and given to us in a near sacred way.

Then I realised that Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody had allowed us to break up his story in conversation with me, at the first public event of the Festival, when he shared about his struggles with depression and alcohol.

We had broken Beano Niblock’s story of getting caught up in tartan gangs and paramilitaries before ending up in prison.

We had broken Linda Molloy’s story of how she had lost her son to a brutal murder in 1996.

We had broken up Bishop Alan Abernethy’s story of watching a riot at St. Anthony’s Parish Church and how it changed his attitude to reconciliation.

We had broken up the stories of four Football club chairmen as they shared the difficulties of the task they have.

We had broken up Stephen Travers story of his being blown up and shot in the Miami Showband massacre.

We had broken up Ken Haddock’s story as he shared with us how growing up on the Shankill Road he hadn’t met a Catholic until he was 16.

We had broken up Fr. Peter McVerry’s story about how he had been taught so many things about God through the homeless people has spent almost fifty years working with.

That was not all the events of the Festival but as you can see it was ten days packed with fascinating stories of real people caught up in a divided society and willing to have their stories broken up to feed a better world. 

It will take much more time to go into those stories broken and eke out all the spiritual nourishment within. Thank you to all those who were willing to break up their stories. You all did it with such vulnerability, courage and authenticity and also with great clarity.


POUR OUT THE CUP (JESUS BREAKING FOR THE BROKEN)

Communion wine


(I wrote this poem about then years ago to get across the potency of the lifeblood of Jesus and why wine and not grape juice (The Presbyterian heresy) is the best symbol as of course Jesus told us. I believe that the power of the blood of the sacrament needs to seep into the fabric of the city. The last 4 lines are new, inspired by something Damian Gorman shared at the 4 Corners Festival 2020 about stories being like the Eucharist, where stories are broken and given to others...)

 

We’ve got pour out the cup

Permit the precious drops to drip

Taste the grace full bodied fortitude

With every extravagant sip

We’ve got to pour out the cup

Let the potent mixture steep

The selfish stains of soily souls

And let the wild abandon of love seep

We’ve got to pour out the cup

Let the fresh flow fluid flood

Through the cracks in pavements

Transfuse the city with holy blood

We’ve got to pour out the cup

Be transformed by intoxication

Let it marinate the market place

To free the incarcerated heart of the nation.

 

Jesus breaking for the broken

Spending his lifeblood for all of us

That we might break our stories too

To build a city of grace and love and justice.

 

 


PRAYER FOR THE 4 FOOTBALL CLUBS IN BELFAST

4C-WINDSOR-PANEL--scaled

(At the 4 Corners Festival 2020 we listened to the 4 Chairmen of the Belfast Football Clubs. It was quite an evening. I promised at the end of the night that I would pray for the 4 Chairmen on Sunday. This is the prayer I prayed in Fitzroy morning worship... I dedicate it to all who volunteer in sports clubs...)

 

Lord

We pray for our city

We thank you for the love, mercy, grace and compassion 

In every street 

Lord we thank you for those who give their lives

To build a city of grace

And do not even need a definition of grace to do it

As we look back over 4 Corners

We thank you for the singers

The poets

The storytellers

The preachers

The helpers

We thank you for their contributions to building a city of grace

 

Lord, this morning we pray for the 4 Chairmen

Of our 4 main football Clubs

Cliftonville

Crusaders

Glentoran

Linfield

 

Lord we thank you for their sharing on Wednesday night

For they honesty

Personal and in their roles

Lord we thank you for their authenticity and compassion

Lord as they look after the players pastorally

The mental health as well as the physical fitness

As they seek to curb society’s ills that are cast upon them

As fans or hangers on use their stadiums for sectarian abuse

As they seek to build bridges across the city

In the relationships between their clubs

With their influence on their local communities

As they even seek to be involved in turning around educational underachievement

And as they develop players, girls and boys

Through all their youth teams

As they discipline players and supporters

As they make decisions at a national league level

About anthems and flags and security and care.

Lord as they do this quiet, unheadlined work

Guide them

Give them wisdom

Be their resilience

May they never feel alone

And may we be supporters of all these Clubs

And everything they do

To build a city of grace.

 

In Jesus name we pray

AMEN


BUILDING A CITY OF GRACE POETRY BOOK LAUNCH

Grace-cover-e1580383990761

4 Corners Festival are excited to be launching our very first publication - Building A City of Grace; Poems From 4 Corners Festival - February 2020.

On the first morning of the 2020 Festival, Six Form students from all over Belfast were part of a poetry workshop, trying to envision a better Belfast. 

The poems the Sixth Formers wrote last week will be published this week alongside poems by John Hewitt, Damian Gorman, Linda Molloy and Beano Niblock who contributed a lot to this year's Festival.

Also included will be the poems by members of the Committee, David Campton and Jim Deeds read at the Broadcast Service on Sunday morning on BBC Radio Ulster as well as my own poem that I quoted in the prayer during that Service. 

There are a few others too.

The Launch of the book will be on Saturday afternoon (Feb 8th 2020) at 3pm in St Batholomew's Church on the Stranmillis Road. This is at the end of the Wonderful Wander which starts at the Dock Cafe in Titanic Quarter at 1pm. You do not need to be at the Wander to be at the launch! https://4cornersfestival.com

The book is also available at Shanway Press - https://shanway.com/product/building-a-city-of-grace/

 


BUILDING A CITY OF GRACE PRAYER

Philip Belfast hoola

photo: Philip McCrea

 

(This is the prayer I prayed at the 4 Corners Festival Broadcast Service on BBC Radio Ulster on Feb 2, 2020. It includes some of the poem Building A City Of Grace that appears in this years 4 Corners Festival poetry book of the same name)

 

Lord, we give thanks

Indeed we worship you, the Creator God

As we gaze and often take for granted

The wondrous beauty of our city

 

Cavehill in the north

Belfast Lough caressing the East

The Lagan Tow Path to the Giants Ring in the South

Davis Mountain to the west

 

Forgive us when we miss the beauty

Of the setting of the wonderful city

That you grace has gifted us

 

Forgive us when we use and abuse your gift

Forgive us when pump pollution into our air and our waters

When we damage the ecological circle of life

 

Forgive us when we use and abuse each other

In the houses and streets and work places and parks

Forgive us for the hurt, 

Mental, emotional, spiritual and physical 

That we cause to family, neighbours and the stranger.

 

God we thank you for the example of your grace

That you moved towards us

When we had caused enmity with you

 

Lord we thank you for that grace of unmerited favour

That in Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension

You demonstrated your love for us in this

That while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

 

God, we thank you that when we confess our sins

You are faithful and just to forgive us of our sins

And purify us from all unrighteousness

 

So, Lord, with our sins forgiven

We ask that you would purify us now

Make us builders of a city of grace

 

 

Lord,

In every building

On all our streets

May Love be the language

As neighbours greet

 

In prison yards

And Church retreats

May Grace be the force

When politicians meet 

 

Lord as the prophets saw visions of a day

When the swords would be turned into ploughshares

 

So, we pray for the day in our city

When army Saracens would be turned into surgical beds

When sniper bullets would be turned into children’s colouring lead

When the guilty in our courts would be redeemed into contributors instead

When all our decadent feasts would be the food that made sure our hungry are fed

 

Lord build a city of grace

And begin by making me a builder.

In the name of the Cornerstone of your building

Jesus our Lord

Amen


TOMRROW IN FITZROY - AND OTHER CORNERS - 2.2.2020

Https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-83959113-240342103828-1-original.20191209-113120

Tomorrow I will be on the radio even before I get to Fitzroy! The 4 Corners Festival Sunday Service will be coming live from Cliftonville Moravian Church, 424 Oldpark Road, Belfast, BT14 6QF. It will be a service full of poetry and worship, including Brian Houston singing in Irish (well a wee bit) and Rev Lesley Carroll preaching on the festival theme of Building A city of Grace. If you wish to come please be in your seat for 9.45!!! We need rehearsals before going on air at 10.15!

I will then be raining across to Fitzroy where morning worship will begin at 11am but I will be there ASAP. Tomorrow we will reflect on Brexit and God will advise us on how to respond from Micah 6. No better text. I might wear it all over my shirt and be sure Friday night's interview with Gary Lightbody will get a mention.

There is no evening service in Fitzroy on Sunday night as the 4 Corners Festival has its event in St. Anthony's Catholic Church, 3 Willowfield Crescent, Belfast BT6 8HP at 7pm. As the 4 Corners festival website puts it:

Bishop Alan Abernethy of the Church of Ireland returns to St Anthony’s, the scene of one of the most horrifying and transforming moments of his life, to talk about the power of grace in changing attitudes and creating new possibilities. As a fifteen-year-old boy Alan lived with his family next door to St Anthony’s, witnessing in 1973 one of many attacks on the church down the years.

There will be a response by his friend from university days, Brendan McAllister, the Interim Advocate for Victims and Survivors of Historical Institutional Abuse, who is training to be a Roman Catholic permanent deacon.

Bishop Alan recalls: “I watched late at night as a crowd of rioters desecrated St. Anthony’s and nearly killed the priest. This was a moment that changed my life for ever, it led me on a journey of ecumenical endeavour committed to finding Christ in my neighbour.”

Out of the experience he resolved to get to know Catholics and subsequently met Brendan, “one of the grace moments of my life.”

 


"I NEED YOUR GRACE.." - INTERVIEWING GARY LIGHTBODY - A PERSONAL REFLECTION

Gary-Lightbody-4CF-3946-scaled

photo: Bernie Brown

 

What can I say? What an utter privilege. 

It was like the thrill of my life but I was so in the zone of “I don’t need to be rubbish here” that it probably flew past too quickly.

I have had such privileges before. The Ricky Ross event two years ago was amazing but I knew Ricky better. We’d had an afternoon together to conjure something. I had never met Gary Lightbody until 10 minutes before we went on. Yet, with our friends in common I felt I did.

So, very quickly Gary is sitting beside me and I am aware that I have to deliver. The interviewee is only as good as his interviewer and I could botch this one big time. 

I am also aware of the range of people in the room. We have the Snow Patrol fans that have come from all over Europe for tonight. They will want something new from Gary.

Yet, there are those who are not big Snow Patrol fans but have come to a 4 Corners Festival event to hear something about reconciliation in Belfast and beyond. Some of them also wondering why Gary Lightbody is speaking in Church and maybe expecting him to preach a little!

Some might just want me to shut up and let Gary sing!

I am tying all these threads together in my head but most important of all is Gary. I need to make him feel relaxed. As much as our mutual friend Davy has convinced and reassured him, he is suddenly vulnerable to a minister in front of a packed church!

What happened for the next hour and a half, and then the two and a half hours after that, was that Gary Lightbody proved every idea I have had about him from a distance to be utterly correct. His warmth, charm, authenticity and grace simply spilled over into an amazing evening.

Half way through I got to thinking about Gary’s grace and realised that even if I asked a stupid question Gary would have given a good answer to prevent me from looking stupid. When someone in conversation makes you feel that way it is always a good thing but in front of 400 plus people it is a gift.

I had prepared like never before. Indeed, some of my congregation and friends are struggling to come to terms with me and prepared in the same sentence! That was for Gary’s sake. I didn’t want to catch him out or make him feel vulnerable, so I was more scripted than usual. Gary was so open that he didn’t even look at the questions I sent.

It is in those questions that I have all my fear. Oh I wanted to know about Granny Rea but would the audience? I wanted to go into my favourite lyrics but would the audience? It could have been great fun for me to have a chat with Gary Lightbody but there were hundreds of others to consider. 

So, some Snow Patrol stories from the early days and right up to the writing of Wildness. 

Stories of family and Belfast and how Gary has watched it change as he returned time and time again before settling here. 

Stories of school and A levels. It was a joy that I got the same D grade in English Lit as one of rock’s best poets but humbling that the rock star got an A in RE to the minister’s B!!

There was serious talk about The Troubles, mental health and his father’s recent death. All balanced by off the cuff humour and a story about a pheasant called Paddy. We even had photos of Paddy! 

It was emotional. 

It was laugh out loud. 

It was dark.

Yet, through the cracks the light shone in.

I got all my answers and more. I came out more convinced than ever that Gary’s Granny, who he sings about being with him every day and guiding him, is a real role model for all Gary does. I loved hearing about how being a Christian led to her indifference to religious labels and her welcome for the minister or the priest. Grace personified. All that the 4 Corners Festival is about. I just wish Fr Martin and I had been the minister and priest! She would love this Festival!

We ended with grace. The 4 Corners Festival theme is Building A City Of Grace and few people have helped build us up as a city in recent years than Gary Lightbody. However, I was all over the grace part of our theme. 

I asked Gary about what he meant in Don’t Give Up - This is your grace/And I Don’t know why?” and in the most played song on the radio of the 21st Century, Chasing Cars - I need your love/To remind me/ To find my own”. 

His answer was interesting and revealing. Using Belle and Sebastian drummer Richard Colburn as an example he spoke of people who exude joy in a room full of people. He then spoke of the projects he has experienced through the Lightbody Foundation and people sacrificially giving to others. He spoke about those who have it within them to always make right choices. He was very clear that he didn’t see it in himself.

In private conversation I think Gary and I could talk for hours about those definitions of grace but publicly I would like to declare how much I disagree with his judgement on himself. In everything Gary Lightbody did from graciously agreeing to talking to me at a small Belfast festival, to his authenticity, honesty and care for the interviewer on the stage, to the two and a half hours afterwards that he gave everybody time who wanted to chat with him - GRACE. 

Grace oozed out all over the stage and back stage too. Oh, friends will want to argue theological definitions until I am bored and literally demented with it but as for grace in real life actions and giving, this was a sermon in flesh.

Having already done stunning versions of I Think Of Home, Run and Lifening (it's a great room Gary if you ever need it - top job Jonny Fitch on sound!) Gary finished with a closing him... Chasing Cars... and a preacher's pause at the altar call words, "I need your grace to remind me, of my own"

I do Gary and you did! Thank you!


BE A BUILDER OF A CITY OF GRACE - DURING 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL 2020

4CFTee

Building A City Of Grace, The 8th Annual 4 Corners Festival kicked off this morning at the University of Ulster, York Street campus with Sixth Formers from schools across Belfast coming together to imagine what a City of Grace would look like. They have been looking at architecture of the city and creating poetry that will be published as soon as Monday night!

So… we are up and running. Tonight to a sold out crowd in Fitzroy I will be asking Gary Lightbody what he eats by the word grace when he sings it in Chasing Cars. Tomorrow knitters from across the four corners will be knitting the city together and we will be under the cranes in the evening listing to the poetry of Beano Niblock and Linda Molloy as fellas the songs of the legendary Tommy Sands…. and for the next ten days the programme goes on!

This morning I surmised… what if we all did some gracious act during the Festival. What if we went across our boundaries and helped someone do something? What if we gave food to or volunteered at a Food Bank. What if we helped a homeless person? What of we cut our neighbours grass or left a real for an elderly person on our street? What if we went somewhere in our city that we have never been and spoke to someone from “the other side”. What id we sent a card to the last person we would vote at Stormont and tell them we are praying for them.

What if we started intentionally these next ten days to build a city of grace… did some good neighbourliness as Alan McBride calls it… even loved our enemies? 

Would the city be worse off for it? Would we? Might we make a wee shift in the direction of this wonderful and wounded city and start something that could go deliriously out of control!

Let's start tweeting "What if?" ideas and adding the #4Corners2020 hashtag. Your idea might inspire someone else.

Go on… be a builder of a city of grace!


BE A BUILDER OF A CITY OF GRACE - DURING 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL 2020

4CFTee

Building A City Of Grace, The 8th Annual 4 Corners Festival kicked off this morning at the University of Ulster, York Street campus with Sixth Formers from schools across Belfast coming together to imagine what a City of Grace would look like. They have been looking at architecture of the city and creating poetry that will be published as soon as Monday night!

So… we are up and running. Tonight to a sold out crowd in Fitzroy I will be asking Gary Lightbody what he eats by the word grace when he sings it in Chasing Cars. Tomorrow knitters from across the four corners will be knitting the city together and we will be under the cranes in the evening listing to the poetry of Beano Niblock and Linda Molloy as fellas the songs of the legendary Tommy Sands…. and for the next ten days the programme goes on!

This morning I surmised… what if we all did some gracious act during the Festival. What if we went across our boundaries and helped someone do something? What if we gave food to or volunteered at a Food Bank. What if we helped a homeless person? What of we cut our neighbours grass or left a real for an elderly person on our street? What if we went somewhere in our city that we have never been and spoke to someone from “the other side”.

What if we started intentionally these next ten days to build a city of grace… did some good neighbourliness as Alan McBride calls it… even loved our enemies? 

Would the city be worse off for it? Would we? Might we make a wee shift in the direction of this wonderful and wounded city and start something that could go deliriously out of control!

Let's start tweeting "What if?" ideas and adding the #4Corners2020 hashtag. Your idea might inspire someone else.

Go on… be a builder of a city of grace!


POETRY AT 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL 2020 - AND A BOOK OF IT

Damian Gorman

Words are a powerful thing. Oh I have always been quick to suggest that in many contexts we need actions to back up our words but that does not mean I do not believe in the impact of words. I preach every Sunday. I write a blog every day. I have written books and poems and songs. 

God is described by the apostle John as the Word. That is the power of words. In the poetry of it all we rare told that by those words of God, creation was formed. 

The Bible is full of words and though the greatest expression of those words was for the Word to become flesh and live for a time among us the Bible never rejects the power of words. The words of history, Gospel, poetry, song, letters, proverbs, prophetic imagination and lament. Hebrew and Greek words transforming the world.

At this year’s 4 Corners Festival we are putting some emphasis on the poetic word. Among the singers and preachers and story tellers there are a few poets. Some will write their very first poem, others are published and legendary.

At our very first event Sixth Formers will be writing poems about what their dreams of a future Belfast would look like.

There is a John Hewitt wander through the traces and to the places that inspired one of our greatest poets.

Grace Under The Cranes will give us the opportunity to hear Beano Niblock and Linda Molloy read while the legendary Tommy Sands sings. Beano is a former UVF prisoner and Linda lost her son in a sectarian attack in 1996. Tommy’s songs like For The Roses are internationally known for their emphasis on peace.

Damian Gorman is known as a BAFTA award winning film maker as well as playwright. He’s also a poet and works in communities trying to encourage people to tell and hear stories of the conflict. This will be a powerful evening and adding Anthony Toner a very literary songwriter to the bill is mouthwatering. The two artists are excellent together.

Some of these poems will appear in a book of poems from the Festival called Building A City of Grace. We hope the book will be launched at the Damian Gorman event and will include poems written by those Sixth Formed students just three days earlier. A Stockman poem might sneak int here too as well as work from other members of our planning group. Photographer Philip McCrea will make the entire piece even more beautiful with some great shots of the city.