Eye of The Sunset and boat

'I gaze in the eye of the sunset...' by me


Tomorrow in Fitzroy we will be spending time shifting between King David's Psalm 8 and a poem that I wrote almost exactly half my life ago that feels very much like my Psalm 8. 

We will look into macro-skies and find the transcendence of God, asking who God is.

We will then look into the micro-self and ask why on earth God would pay us any attention.

We will then ask what our role in this big vast Universe is?

If you can find a route through The Belfast Marathon to be in the live gathering in Fitzroy you will get to enjoy Bruce Cockburn's Psalm-like Lord of The Starfields performed by George Sproule.

If you decide to stay at home and watch online you will miss George but enjoy a video with Julie Fowlis and Karine Polwart soundtracking some wonderful nature photography by Fitzroy folk.



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





Fitzroy from across the road

I can understand the hesitancy of people going back to Church. Covid-19 is still rife. I am hearing more friends getting it every week than during the 2020 peak. Life seems recklessly back to near normal. I understand people being cautious.

Of course it is also very nice and comfortable to get up ten minutes before Church, brew a coffee, heat a bagel and then sit up on the sofa and watch church on your tv, laptop or tablet. We are so thankful that a worldwide pandemic hit when we had the world wide web, Zoom and Youtube!

Some aspects of Church can indeed be held together on Youtube and Zoom. Of course underground Churches around the world have held themselves together while hiding away in isolation since the Church began. Fitzroy, I feel, has held it together well. Indeed, we might have achieved stuff we couldn't have in normal times.

There are other important things about Church that cannot be done in isolation. The sense of fellowship and singing together for example. Though masks and social distancing has curtailed these, being together has been helpful for a good percentage of our community.

This week for the first time we have a full children and youth programme starting to entice our young families back. The numbers who have booked in are up. Good news.

Not everyone will yet be convinced. I have to say that with our safety standards at Fitzroy, it is the safest place I have been during Coronavirus. As with Presbyterian guidelines we are being more cautious than we have to be. If you are a Fitzer it would be good to see you soon.

Tomorrow we will be Gathering at 11 and the online service will go out at the same time. I am thinking that soon we will begin streaming the Gathering but there are differences in how you to do the Gathering for that to be presentable enough.

This week's Lectionary has me taking on a tough little pericope in Mark 7 where Jesus seems to be rude and racist to a Phoenician woman. In the online version there is good news about our partner school in Arua, Uganda and prayers on the environment. In the Gathering Michael Dologhan will bring a youthful energy to worship.





"When they said (they said) repent (repent), repent (repent)
I wonder what they meant"

- Leonard Cohen


REPENT. At first it wasn’t so surprising. Random Biblical words appear all over north Antrim. Evangelical giants have been posting messages for centuries, higher up trees than Zaccheus ever ventured. “Eternity where?”

Walking over the scrawled word REPENT as we made our way to our favourite beach in Murlough Bay did catch my attention though. Maybe it was my more fertile holidayed mind but I started asking questions.

What did the scrawlers mean? Why did they scrawl it there? It got a little confusing as I walked on. The rest of their “pavement art” was not as philosophical or religious. Boys names and farm names seemed to have taken over from converting the world.

REPENT. It has all kinds of connotations in this particular part of the world. Conversion is usually the aim of such statements but what are they converting us to? That the “artist” thinks that this generation automatically fill their minds with an every Sunday churched theology when they see the word is a little out of touch with a post Christian society.

Anyway, what it might have meant to those who wrote it I didn’t really know. In fact I was being a little bit naughty to caricature what I thought they might have meant - “stop drinking, smoking and swearing and read your Bible and pray everyday”. Maybe I too am out of touch. Maybe it was just kids having a laugh!

Whatever, I started surmising the word in its Gospel context in Mark 1. Then all of the books I had been reading and songs that I had been listening to on this summer holiday started throwing up clues as to what Jesus meant by REPENT. 

So, thought I, that might be a great way to start back preaching In Fitzroy this Sunday. A strong Gospel word, surmised with Scripture in one hand and all my recreational reading and listening in the other. 

Sue Divin’s amazing novel set in Derry/Londonderry/Doire has a wonderful moment of repentance that will give the sermon a liturgical act of homework. 

Sue’s book though is as much about Northern Irish society as it is about two teenagers falling in love. There are questions of repentance for us as a society too. Jackson Browne’s new album Downhill From Everywhere calls for that a societal and environmental repentance. 

There are lots of other songs and book references and, beyond that, loads of little social media quotations coming together. The magpie preacher in me is full of buzz and imagination. Watch out on Sunday as I build a space for us to make big decisions with our lives. REPENT.


Fitzroy Sunday Gathered Service is at 11am and you have to book -

Fitzroy On Line Sunday Service goes live at 11am on Fitzroy TV


Fitzroy Board

My last Fitzroy preach for a good number of weeks. I wanted to do Psalm 23 but thought it was too contrived then discovered that it was the Lectionary Psalm for this week! Perfect! I will be drawing from that most familiar Psalm lessons from lockdown, lessons for the summer vacation and lessons for post summer, all wrapped in that Psalm 23 benediction...

So on Fitzroy TV from (11am) with SU's Damian Wharton on summer camp prayers and George Sproule doing Bruce Cockburn's version of the Psalm post benediction.

And live in Fitzroy with Chris Blake, Peter Greer and Chris Blake on worship... also at 11am.


BBC Service credits

I had the privilege to put together the BBC Radio Ulster Morning Service on Sunday May 30th 2021.

Though recorded in Fitzroy we were not able to have live Fitzroy bands leading us due to Coronavirus restrictions. So I chose these songs.

Some people have been asking about the songs and poem so I thought I would share the credits!



(from My Saviour)     


READING: Isaiah 6: 1-8  read by Erin Humphrey



(from Campfire)


READING. John 3:1-17. Fr Ciarán O Callaghan



(from Because Of Your Love)


POEM: God of the Manger, The Donkey and The Cross 

(written by Steve Stockman, read by Erin Humphrey)


God, born a no-one

In a nowhere place

The first is last

Flesh and bone grace


God of a Kingdom

Rides into his city

Washes their feet

In holy humility


God ends up broken

Cursed on a tree

It’s the strangest truth

That sets us free


If life is to be gained

Then it has to be lost

Following the God

Of the manger, 

The donkey 

And the cross.



(from Love Like No Other)



(from Campfire)



(from Jesus and Justice)


Thanks to my producers David Walker and Bert Tosh...


Stocki smiling in pulpit

Against all your better wishes, this Sunday morning (May 30th 2021) could be a Sunday full of Stockman!

Your choices:


10am - Live worship in Fitzroy.

We have been gathering for a number of weeks now and though we are only a percentage of Fitzroy, scattered across the church, cannot sing loudly or have tea and coffee afterwards, there is certainly a live feel to the worship.

I am delighted to say that I have got more into the groove of repeating the sermon. The lectionary reading is John 3 and we will be seeing asking what Nicodemus made of Jesus chat about a very different God that was being worshipped in Jerusalem at that time.

This week Alison and Sarah McNeill will lead our worship.


10.15am BBC Radio Ulster Sunday Service

This radio service technically comes from Fitzroy. It was recorded in our Welcome Area. Though based on the same Lectionary Reading of John 3 it will have slightly different building blocks. I am helped in the service by readers Fr Cairán O Callaghan and Erin Humphrey. The music, as a result of the BBC response to current restrictions are not live but take from CDs. We will have Carrie Underwood, Brenton Brown, David Lyon, Rend Collective and Brian Houston unless they edit!


11am Fitzroy On Line

Our online service with a similar sermon to the other two and worship from last week's live service as well, as well as a lovely song by Erin Humphrey!


So, use these while and when you can. Obviously the radio and online services can be listened to and  watched at anytime. 


And if that is not enough, I will be on Pause For Thought with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2 at 5.45 am (and it IS live!) the first three Mondays of June. That'll be an early start to my day off! 



Fitzroy TV

Pentecost Sunday in Fitzroy! It will all be about TWO songs and TWO truths about The Holy Spirit. 

Pentecost UPROOTS and ROUNDS us. These are not contradictions. Last year we looked at Pentecost as a bonfire in a hurricane. It is a powerful force that sends Jesus followers  into the world to do things they couldn't have imagined weeks before. It UPROOTS their ways of life to live an entirely different way.

The Lectionary readings this week though are from John 15 and 16. John records Jesus talking a lot about The Holy Spirit in the Farewell Discourses. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a Paraclete - a helper, comforter, teacher, counsellor. This is the Holy Spirit GROUNDS us, being with us to lean on when we're not strong.

The online service (going live at 11am) will feature the two songs and a prayer for the Middle East.

The live service in Fitzroy will add some communal songs, sung behind masks, but sung! 


Stocki in Ho's TV

No live gathering in Fitzroy tomorrow BUT we will be on-line as usual (going live at 11am) on Fitzroy TV. We will still be scanning the scenes just after Jesus resurrection. Jesus pastoral care for Thomas is my own personal conversion story. We will also look at what Jesus meant when he said "Peace be with you" in a week when Belfast wasn't very much at peace and the challenge of one of my other favourite Gospel verses, "As the father has sent me, so I am sending you."

In the evening (going live at 7pm) you can see the next in Gary Burnett's brilliant series Paul in ten where he leads us through some of the apostle Paul's teaching in just ten minutes. This series is so good that it has been published as a book - Paul Distilled. Tomorrow night's theological theme is "The Cross Shaped God". 



Cross in Fitz

Fitzroy’s Easter Week began last Sunday (watch it). We spent Sunday morning around the cross, asking questions about who was to blame for Jesus ending up on a cross. We looked at his own control of the events and the link between sacred and sacrifice. How these dramatic events of Holy Week caress and collide with our souls.

Our Good Friday Reflection (live at 7pm) will take us around the cross again. This time with songs, poems videos and Scripture we will see ourselves in the experience of two disciples, Judas and Peter. There will be a brand new song from Blackman Trinder Overdrive and versions of others more familiar. 

On Sunday (live at 11) we will celebrate Resurrection Sunday. This year we will walk around the empty tomb in the light of a year of Coronavirus. There is a deep pastoral energy in Jesus’s meeting with Mary. With the help of Kerri ní Dochartaigh’s stunning book Thin Places we will look at hollowing and hallowing a new beginning. Everything is wrapped up in poignant and creative music.



If you are a member of Fitzroy there will also be a gathering n the church on Sunday morning. At 9.30 Rev Ian Hart will lead  some actual live worship and reflection.