FITZROY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

TOMORROW IN FITZROY - 3.4.22

Fitzroy front

In Fitzroy we have been following Pete Greig's book How To Pray as we journey through Lent.

Tomorrow we will be looking at Confession. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he said, "Forgive us our sings as we forgive those who sin against us". That's perhaps the toughest line in The Lord's Prayer. 

In a week when Will Smith has been working out what sorry means it might be good for us to look deep inside. What is the worst thing that we have ever done? Do we feel forgiven? What is the worst thing that has happened to us? Have we forgiven those who sinned against us? 

All age band will lead our worship and we'll have the baptism of Nancy Campbell! 

 

In Fitzroy at 11am... or live stream HERE... recording from HERE on Monday 


TOMORROW IN FITZROY - 6.3.22

How To Pray

We are looking at Pete Greig's helpfully practical book about prayer, How To Pray,  during Lent.

Tomorrow we will look at how we approach God. Who is God? What is prayer? It is not mathematical. It is a mystery that we are called to and called to for our own good. 

AW Tozer once said that whatever we think about God is the most important thing about them. So it is with prayer. How do we live and engage with an entity way beyond our mortal minds? With someone we call Father but also hallow his name?

With the help of Bruce Cockburn's Lord of the Starfields:

"Lord of the star fields
Ancient of days
Universe Maker
Here's a song in your praise"

 

We gather in Fitzroy at 11am. It will be streamed live on Fitzroy TV... and then a recorded version will appear on Monday morning - Fitzroy TV

 


HOW DO YOU PRAY IN WAR? - TOMORROW IN FITZROY 27.2.22

Ukraine-Christians-Pray-Image

We have all been shocked by the events in Ukraine this past few days. War is back in Europe and we thought that such ideas were left back in the history of the first half of the 20th century.

How do we respond?

As prayers flooded social media bombs were raining down on innocent victims. Did that mean God wasn't answering or that there is no point praying? Why do we pray?

Tomorrow morning we will ask honest questions about living in a world where there will are and rumours of wars. I will confess to how a lack of faith stopped me praying for an historic world event. 

And we will pray for Ukraine... again... in our sense of hopelessness it is what we can do. 

It will al start a new series for Lent in Fitzroy that will help us to understand prayer, using Pete Greig's book How To Pray. We started this series for Lent in 2020 but got distracted by Covid. Let's get back to it!

Gathering in Fitzroy at 11am with live Streaming... A recording of the service will appear on Fitzroy TV on Monday. 


GETTING ASHED FOR LENT - AN INVITATION

Janice and I with ASH

ECUMENICAL ASH WEDNESDAY SERVICE

FITZROY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, 77 UNIVERSITY STREET, BELFAST

MARCH 2, 2022 @ 8pm

Preacher: FR MARTIN MAGILL

 

Without question the most spiritually satisfying experience of Lent that Janice and I ever had was in 2020 when we were ashed at what was believed to have been Belfast’s first Ecumenical Ash Wednesday service in St. Mary’s in Chapel Lane. 

It was the second time I had been ashed. The first time it was a bit of a surprise - shock to be honest. 

I was to be a guest speaker for a few days at an Episcopalian Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The Cathedral of Advent is one of the most evangelical Episcopalian churches in America. 

I was picked up from the airport and driven straight to an Ash Wednesday service. Sitting near the front I soon realised that they were all getting ash on their head.

This was not the practice of Protestants in Ballymena where I grew up. I will be honest. I felt awkward. In Northern Ireland we are conditioned to what is Catholic and what is Protestant. The differences are dug deep. 

There was nothing I could do though and I reckoned if I was going to preach in this Church the next day that I better go forward. So, in a prayer blessing I received my ash. I will be honest again. I was glad that I was in Alabama as I left, looking like a Catholic!!!! 

Of course, the truth is, that like my evangelical brothers in Alabama, it is not only Catholics around the world who get ashed! In other parts of the world many Reformed Christians are happy wearing the mark of Christ’s death.

Our 2020 experience could not have been more different. Of course we had spent more time in Catholic circles and discovered that the caricatures of what Catholics believe was more myth than reality. Oh do not get me wrong there are differences in some theology and practice. However, we had also been enriched by sharing our love of Jesus with Catholic brothers and sisters, learning particularly in contemplation and prayer. 

To be ashed in St Mary’s was still a little awkward, particularly on the way home where you realised that people’s prejudices were stereotyping us. 

In the end that decision to come forward and commit to deeper disciplines during Lent came back to us as we walked through it, particularly in that most of that Lent was spent in strict Lockdown. 

Having that ash put on our heads, a reminder of our human frailties, also reminded us of our passion for Jesus and his ways. When I stumbled through Lent 2020 I was brought back to the tangible decision, a picture of our public profession.

We in Fitzroy are delighted to be hosting the next Ecumenical Ash Wednesday service on March 2nd, 2022. The preacher will be Fr Martin Magill who is almost part of the team at Fitzroy and there will be an opportunity to receive the ash.

Why not come along and experience the richness of such a service. There is no obligation to receive the ash but as a sign at the beginning of Lent of our journey towards Jesus’ death and resurrection, let me invite you to consider it. 

to book: email - roberta@fitzroy.org.uk


WHY STOCKMAN REPEATS HIMSELF - TOMORROW IN FITZROY 20.2.22

Stocki smiling in pulpit

I always feel jealous of the singer. He or she get to do all their hits... again and again... and again.

We preachers cannot get away with that. Stockman repeats himself they would say if I did it. I can't shout tomorrow morning - "have you any favourites". I am always under the pressure of something new and original. Week in week out.

Having said that, as I often suggest, who am I to have an ego so big as to think that anyone remembers what I preached even a week ago?

Anyway, as I decided to preach an old favourite tomorrow, let me explain why I see it as an artistic act.

There is nothing more encouraging for me than when someone in the congregation uses a well repeated Stockman line during a prayer, or talk or worship session. When a line of mine becomes common currency my hope is that something has seeped through. 

I am always saying that no one sings the sermon on the way home. That is why the hymns are so theologically important. 

Repetitive lines can maybe have the same impact.

I hear Fitzers saying about "tumbling and stumbling after Jesus" or being "particles of light across the city" or "living 10:10 lives". Something has sneaked inside. I pray that they might dig deep.

Speaking of deep that is the word, as February would have it. I never set out to repeat week in week out the DEEP word but that is what has been consuming us. That to be authentic followers of Jesus always means digging deep. Nice or good livin' wasn't what Jesus was after. It was something far deeper, more courageous and revolutionary.

So, tomorrow morning I will bring out an old Rich Mullins' phrase. He used to sign his autographs 'Be God's... Rich Mullins'. That wasn't some new agey heresy that we could be divine. The apostrophe gives it away. Be God's property, ambassador, witness, servant, child. 

When asked why  he signed 'Be God's' Rich always said because he always thought that being good was easy. Anyone can make a good job at being good. Being God's? Well that changes the world.

My students when I was in Chaplaincy would have 'Be God's' as phrase as on what they called a bingo card; the lines that Stockman might say every week. They maybe thought may receptiveness was lazy. Instead it was a calculated creative way for phrases to stay with them long after they had left Chaplaincy.

When they repeat one back to me I am not embarrassed but thrilled. It worked!

So tomorrow morning it will be 'Be God's' again as Luke 6: 27-36 calls us to go deeper than nice!

 

Fitzroy meets at 11am and will stream live on Fitzroy TV. A recording is available from Monday morning.

 


PEACEMAKING - GOD'S MANDATE - TOMORROW in FITZROY, RADIO 4 AND RADIO ULSTER - 23.1.22

Stocki  Marti and Radio 4

photo: Sheila McNeill

 

On Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity Sunday I can be found in a few places in the morning.

I have already blogged about Fr Martin Magill and I doing the BBC Radio 4 Sunday Service (8.10am). We were asked on this particular Sunday to share our story. So we do. We share our journey but also the Biblical basis for what we believe we are called to do. 

I am very frustrated that being Radio 4 they have changed my music. I compromised as it was BUT felt that there is no better way to end prayers than Mary Gauthier's Mercy Now. Even that has been replaced... so I am afraid that this is my first and last Radio 4 Service. The music is as important to me as what I say so to have no creative control of that is so disappointing.

Anyway, that Service is also repeated on BBC Radio Ulster at 10.20am after David Campton, Mylie Brennan and Sue Divin talk about 4 Corners Festival .

Then at 11am I will be live in Fitzroy and streaming on Fitzroy TV.

At this service I will be preaching about Fitzroy's Peacemaking history and the Biblical basis for that. 

I would never call myself as an ecumenist though many of my critics would wonder why. I am far more interested in peace making, of reaching across our sectarian and denomination divides than I am about one massive global ecclesiological entity. I'd be suspicious of that.

I do believe though that we can learn from brothers and sisters, following Christ, in other denominations. I also think we need to be united in God's mission, in bringing God's Kingdom and in the Biblical mandate for peace making.

Fr Gerry Reynolds, so vital in Fitzroy's peace making work with Clonard Monastery, once said, "A divided Church has little or nothing to offer towards leading a divided people into the way of peace." How I agree. Prophetic.... but more of that in the morning! 

 


LOVE KEEPS COMMANDS - WHAT? - TOMORROW IN FITZROY 16.1.22

Fitzroy TV

On recent Sundays in Fitzroy we have been taking Brian Zahnd's advice and building a theology and radical way to live on wonder.

We have stopped at the manger and peered in. We have realised that the moment that Mary's waters broke was a watershed in history. The spiritual wonder of what happens in these nativity scenes is multifaceted. Who God is? Who humans are? How then we should live?

We have been seeing the seismic shift in how faith works out post Jesus incarnation. We have soundtracked  a Waterboys' chorus to it - "That was the river, this is the sea". All of it highlights the utter wonder of who this God is.

Tomorrow, we will be shaken by words Jesus uses to his disciples about love being the fuel that keeps commandments. This really is the sea!

With the help of very old Neighbours' episodes, a little bit of the apostle Paul and maybe a quick look at Boris Johnston's work parties...

 

You can gather with us at 11am in Fitzroy, watch live on Fitzroy TV or watch later when a recording loads on Youtube - HERE


HOW THE BABY JESUS SHIFTS OUR POSTURE AT COMMUNION - TOMORROW IN FITZROY: 9.12.22

Nativity 4

I have been doing Christmas differently this year. I used all my discipline to curb my over enthusiasm at getting Jesus born. As, writer of hymns, books and sermons, John Bell says, “We have Jesus born before Mary has contractions.”

So, in Advent, we waited. We asked how Old Testament players and then how Zechariah and Mary waited. We made it to Christmas Day. Jesus was only born when he was supposed to be born. 

When the preacher leaves Jesus arrival to Christmas Day that demands more discipline through January, by the congregation as much as the preacher, as we keep the baby Jesus in the Sunday sermon long after any other recognition has been been put back in the loft!

Well, this particular preacher thinks there is so much spiritual wisdom and theological imagination for prophetic movement in the nativity scene that I am going to linger.

So, let us put a stripped CSI Investigation Area tape around the birth of Jesus and attempt to come to terms with the seismic shift in God’s interaction with humanity.

My friend Doug Gay, in his preparations for his sermon this weekend, was using Bruce Cockburn’s epic chorus to inspire him:

 

“Like a stone on the surface of a still river, 

driving the ripples on forever

Redemption rips through the surface of time

In the cry of a tiny babe”.

 

For me , I have been doing a lot of Surmising about the massiveness of this moment of Jesus birth. I am concluding that when Mary’s waters broke, a whole new spiritual world gushed in and have leaned a Waterboys lyric to best express it:

 

“That was the river

This is the sea”

 

Tomorrow morning (in Fitzroy and on Fitzroy TV at 11am), we will gather together for communion and enlighten the eyes of our souls to see that how we participate in this Jesus given sacrament is fundamentally different to how we would have related to God before the baby was born.


ALL GOOD THEOLOGY BEGINS WITH WONDER - Tomorrow in Fitzroy 26.12.21

XMAS WONDER

On Twitter this past Christmas week Brian Zahnd Tweeted Plato's quote “All philosophy begins with wonder.”

He then added. "Theology too. Or at least good theology".

The events of that first Christmas morning are utterly spilling over with awe and wonder.

Max Lucado wrote in God Came Near:

“The Omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the Universe became an embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent on the nourishment of a young girl. God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The Creator of life being created. God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys and a spleen. He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother. God came near.”

In such wonder all good theology begins. 

The God of omnipotence takes on imminence. The God beyond infinity and holiness becomes intimate. This tears up the human idea of gods and paints a brand new picture of a God who is humble and gracious, merciful and loving. A God who does not reconcile to us by what we give but by. the fact that God so loved the world that he gave... 

It is almost beyond wonder. It is wondrously good news. The bells of change are ringing.

I am excited to get preaching this stuff... especially tomorrow... In Fitzroy at 11am. The service will be streamed live and the recording available on Monday morning.


CHRISTMAS WEEK IN FITZROY 2021

Crib

Christmas week in Fitzroy begins tomorrow morning (11am for live gathering and Streaming; recording on Fitzroy TV on Monday).  And I will be sharing why I love Mary. Mary was never meant to be a theological discussion but a is disciple to inspire. In Fitzroy we have been Waiting through Advent and tomorrow we will see how Mary waited and what she was waiting for. You need to have booked in advance.

In the evening we have a Hot Dog and Film Night. In an attempt to draw our young families to Church. The hot dogs will be served in the car park (from 5.30) and then we will move into Church for a film - Charlie Brown's Christmas. It is not a long movie but it is fun and resonates with the real meaning of the season. You need to have booked in advance.

We will meet again on Christmas morning (10am and streamed) when we will do a short carol worship service and I will speak to the children about BEST Christmas gifts. 

Then on Boxing Day we will meet again (11am and streamed) and give it all a little more grown up thought on how this heavenly meteorite came hurtling and knocked the world off its axis.... "when the old world started dying and the new world started coming on..." (Rich Mullins)

Can I suggest that this next week is going to be filled with Omicron positive tests. That has not only implications for those who test positive but for loved ones and friends. I don't want anyone to get Covid-19 ever BUT this week. Please Lord no! So please do not comes to events if you have any symptoms, please hold strictly to rules in force and make your own decision if you are willing to take the extra risks that this week holds. From Sunday 26th they might have less implications.