In our Fitzroy Sunday service tomorrow (going live on FITZROY TV at 11am) we will be staying on the wilderness road that we found ourselves on last week. A couple of social media messages this past week focused my preparation. 

After I posted the photo at the top of this blog last Sunday morning my friend Clive Price posted:

For years I thought 'wilderness' meant a really bad place. 'Oh he's having a wilderness experience' used to be a common expression - and not a nice one. Then I read about the wilderness motif in the Bible and its true meaning. It is a place of encounter.

Then, with all the news about Covid-19 on Tuesday my friend Brendan Mulgrew Tweeted:

That is a day full of bad news. Where is the light?”

So, we will ponder such things as we continue to journey with the Israelite through the wilderness and the culture shock they are facing after 4 centuries as slaves in Egypt. This culture shock becomes a place of encounter with God.

With the help of Rich Mullins song Hard To Get performed by Belfast songwriter Andrew Patterson and the movie Shawshank Redemption we will exegete Exodus 17, apply it to the news of the week around us and ask "where is the light?" 


Fitzroy TV

Tomorrow in our Fitzroy Sunday Service (going live at 11am) we will be thinking about the whingers! We follow the children of Israel through the wilderness and as they whinge. I will use an amazing quotation by Miroslav Volf to help us ask some questions about our own fragile times and whether we are going to settle for just an improved Egypt or strive for the Promised Land? I'll also be using some Brian Zahnd wisdom to help us realise we might be in the best days for a long time to understand God's Word. We will ask what we believe, who we are and what we do. A variety of worship with a beautiful song performed by Erin Humphrey. 


Stocki in Ho's TV

Tomorrow in our Sunday Service on Fitzroy TV we will be looking at Joseph. Right at the end of Genesis he is face to face with his brothers who expect him in his powerful position in Egypt to take his revenge on them for selling him into slavery. Instead we get a redeeming of all the sibling breakdowns that are strewn across that book. Grace, forgiveness and redemption are imprinted into a book that begins with fractured relationships.

I will look at something else happening here. Joseph's Act 1 is with family. Then Act 2 is in Pharoah's Palace. Acts 3 sees Jospeh go back to his old normal, the family of Act 1. If we took our Act 1 as Pre-Covid. Act 2 as Covid then what can we learn about our hoped for return to the things of Act 1 in  Act 3?!?!?! I will even share about my worst ever sermon and how, 40 years ago this week, I went to Sunderland Poly to study journalism for 3 years and only stayed 3 days.

All wrapped in a Fitzroy blend of worship and a cover of Bob Dylan's Pressing On by Chris Taylor as a post benediction reflection.


Fitzroy TV

Tomorrow in our Fitzroy on-line service, available from 11am on Fitzroy TV, I will be asking how we can be lights shining in the Coronavirus sky.

The apostle Paul tells us that David served God's purposes for his generation. We are very much living through the Coronavirus Generation, so how can we serve God's purposes. we will look at the insights from Philippians 2 and will be helped in our exegesis by the Blackie & The Rodeo Kings song Grace, performed by Stephanie Hall, and a section in Jeanine Cummins' novel American Dirt where one man indeed shines like a star in the sky of the uncertainty and anxiety of the migrant world.

We will be praying for Fitzroy and other Churches as we begin to return to gathering again.

Worship will be led by an array of Fitzroy's talent and we will close with a brand new song called Hope, written by myself and Gareth Black and sung by Eleanor Black. 


Stockman in Your Home

It will be so good to be back in Fitzroy tomorrow... going out on Fitzroy TV at 11.00am.

For this first Sunday back we will be giving a wee nod to Van Morrison on the eve of his 75th Birthday. I will be looking at the consequences on our lives of this Coronavirus marathon. I will be looking at how we find God when the pandemic quake that his hit the world shakes us as individuals, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I will hopefully pastor us in the midst of the fog of uncertainty and anxiety with the help of John Paul Lederach, Van Morrison, the Fair Head and Jesus himself.

With the schools going back with extreme difficulties we will be led in prayer by Alastair Beacom a new Fitzer who is the principal in Dunclug Primary School. Philip Mateer will read in own inimitable way and Jonny Fitch will be our musician as well as the Chris Blake band. After the benediction Brian Houston will play a meditative version of Van Morrison's Full Force Gale. 

Speaking of Van Morrison's birthday, I will be on Sunday Sequence on BBC Radio Ulster around 9.30, sharing the spiritual benefits Van's songs have been in my walk with God.

And... why not this special weekend for Van Morrison watch our Light For Rock Musicians Vol 1: Van Morrison on Fitzroy TV - LIGHT FROM VAN MORRISON


Stocki Holiday

My last sermon until late August. I have to say that I need the break. My body is weary and falling apart a little. To lie on a sofa with a few good novels will do me good...

BUT not before tomorrow's last one of the session. Paul and Talitha Bowman are leading us in music and Talitha is covering a Lauren Daigle song O'Lord. Talitha is about to celebrate her 15th birthday. Quite a talent. Her song leads into the sermon that also features Martyn Joseph's song Yet Still This Will Not Be, an incredible lyric by Stewart Henderson. U2's song Grace gets a line in there too.

After taking us across the shifting sands of Ballycastle beach last Sunday, this week I am a couple of miles in land in Ballycastle Forest. We will be tossing mustard seeds and pearls into the forest floor and see them trampled by the deer, covered in pine needles and somehow in their insignificance become the most vital things. Jesus said the Kingdom was like this.  

Be great to have you for my last preach until late August. Watch this space for a list of those who will more than wonderfully fill in while I am reading novels!

See it on Fitzroy TV from 11am on Sunday July 26th 2020 - HERE



Stocki in Ho's TV

Tomorrow's Fitzroy On-line Sunday Service (going live at 11am) was a mental battle. For most of these Coronavirus months I have done well in front of the camera. Last week I felt a little tired and the sermon took a few takes. This week I felt sharper BUT there were an awful lot of distractions outside of myself and within. After almost 10 re-takes Alison in our production house told me to go off and get a coffee and sandwich and come back. It still took a few more takes! I hope the first quarter doesn't sound tired. it is difficult repeating something that many times. I am so glad I am not an actor!

I believe the perseverance was worth it. Gazing across this week's Lectionary Readings I was attracted to the Genesis 28 one. Jacob. I had my imagination captivated by Jacob as a small boy and then Bruce Springsteen preached about him in a gig in 2005. This Lectionary pericope about how God met him at Bethel seems to resonate with the disorientating times we live in. Presence. Grace. Encouragement. Partnership. All themes coming out of this sermon that took so many takes. We even end up on the beach in Ballycastle.

Worship is led by the Blacks, Gareth, Karen and Eleanor with Jonah on production. Also we have a band hymn, recorded in Church! Kyle Auterson reads for us.


all recent On-line Sunday Services and Light From Rock Stars series available on FITZROY TV


Light U2

I am excited about tomorrow on Fitzroy TV.

Going live in the morning at 11am, I will be asking how fertile our souls are to learn the lessons that God might have been teaching us in lockdown and as we open again. Having had the opportunity to reassess how we have been living are we hard souled to God's word, are we shallow without the character for the slow burn of faith, are we allowing wealth and worry to choke God's flourishing or are we making sure the soil of our souls is fertile and ready for the seed Jesus wants to sow. See it is a spiritual health check! Delighted that Ali McKeown and Adam Milligan will lead us in worship.

Going live in the evening at 7pm is the 3rd in our Light From Rock Music I am looking at U2. Of course these are the guys that I have spent most time surmising so in order to cut it down I have looked at the band in 3 stages, stages I discovered through Philip Yancey are different stages of spiritual development - soaring on eagles wings, running and finally walking. We will have performances of U2 songs by Jonny Fitch, Caroline Orr & Peter Greer and Shannon and Danny Moore. If I say so myself, this one excited me!

these and previous service and Light From Rock Stars available on FITZROY TV


Light U2

This Sunday night sees the airing of the third in our new series  Light From Rock Music on Fitzroy TV. After episodes looking for Light in the songs of Van Morrison and Bob Dylan we are turning our attentions to U2.

Now, I wrote a book about U2. That was 60,000 words published in 2005. There has been 15 more years of light coming out of their albums, gigs and campaigning since then! Indeed, some of the songs that you are going to hear in this episode are from more recent times.

So, my challenge is to be concise. To do so I am going to go down three roads. 

I am going to look at the early days. U2’s 2014 album Songs Of Innocence gives us a lot to investigate if we wish to find out how the band came together and what the foundations of their raison d’être are. I will suggest that U2 is a spiritual vocation as well as being a rock band.

Then I will look at growing up in the faith. Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again but he didn’t mean that rebirth was the end of the journey. It was but the beginning. Growing up again has not been so much emphasised in large swathes of evangelical Christianity particularly. U2 grew up in public and catalogued it in their art. There is a whole lot of light there.

Finally, we will look at the pastoral side of U2 and in that pastoral side how they can be helpful to a world struggling mentally, emotionally and spiritually as it lives through a viral pandemic. U2 were there to encourage Northern Ireland towards the Good Friday Agreement, there to help American after 9/11 and then again after the Bataclan concert massacre in Paris. We will find light there too.

Music in this episode is from the Fitzroy Collective. Expect inventive covers, powerfully performed. 


LIGHT FROM ROCK MUSIC VOL 3 - U2; DON'T LET IT GO OUT goes live on Sunday July 12th 2020 at 7pm - WATCH IT HERE


Stocki in African shirt

Recording on-line sermons were new to me 4 months ago and though they are now very much the norm they do not always run smoothly.

It is a very different gift. I have needed to create a relationship with a screen. I look back to fleeting moments on Sky News, The View or on Melvyn Bragg’s South Bank as helpful experience but it wasn’t a lot. I was glad to be able to pick up on a new discipline quickly.

The new preparation skills have perhaps been more difficult. I don’t feel that if I am speaking to a screen that I can look at notes, whether down or up or sideways. That has meant preparing notes very differently. They are diagrammatical so that if I have to I can give a quick glance to know where I am going next.

This week’s sermon was the worst experience I have had. I had problems over the 24 hours before recording downloading the content on paper into my head. I felt I had something to say. The Lectionary text in Matthew 11 was so relevant to Covid 19 times. I was happy with that but I couldn’t get the flow. 

I asked Alison, our Fitzroy TV sermons producer in our Streamyard studio, for an extra half hour and paced the kitchen, increasing my Saturday step count, trying to get the flow right.

When we started I wasn’t my usual confident self. Then there was a ping. A Facebook message arrived in and we had to stop. Switch off Facebook and my phone. Take 2.

Take 2 was ok but nothing like the standard I demand from my delivery. About two thirds of the way through I stumbled over my favourite Mumford & Sons quote. I stumbled so badly that I stopped. Alison actually said that I wasn’t in the zone. Indeed. I asked for an extra half hour to go pacing around that kitchen again.

Eventually, I was back and right in the zone and, though it is for you not me to judge in the morning, I was very content with the final result. As you watch tomorrow, be aware of the struggle it was and the time and patience that Alison and my in-house sound engineer Jasmine had to give me.

The Lectionary is relevant again for our Coronavirus world. The two major ideas of rest and wisdom are pertinent. As I unpack those words we look at them in the social and spiritual realms. God tells Solomon he can ask for anything. What would we answer to that? Jesus invites us to lay down our burdens. Will we take him up on that invite? 

The sermon, like the service, is scattered with Ugandan references. A Fitzroy team should be in Arua, Uganda right now and we hear greetings from those we would be working with. I even wear an African shirt. It all makes for a colourful service.

Recording the evening Light From Rock Music was not smooth either. I recorded that on Friday and whereas last week I had a written script for the Van Morrison edition I wanted to be more focused on the screen than my notes. Again, it took a few takes.

However, I am quite happy with this exploration of Bob Dylan’s entire catalogue. We do spend a part of it in his “Gospel Years” as they have come to be known when Dylan was very much claiming a born again Christian stance between 1979 and 1981. 

However, we ask if Dylan’s early 60s Civil Rights phase was more prophetic than his Christian years and then look at his brand new number 1 album Rough and Rowdy Ways and ask if there is still Light to be found there. 

Adding to it all are the covers of Dylan songs by Chris Taylor, all the way from San Antonio, who I believe to have one of the best voices to traverse Dylan’s lyric-scape as proven on his wonderful record Down A Dead End Street. 


The Fitzroy Sunday Service will be on Fitzroy TV  from 11am on July 5, 2020

Light In Rock Music Vol 2: Bob Dylan - Pressing On will be on Fitzroy TV from 7pm on July 5, 2020