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


Vol 2 Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan. The folk singer, come rock pioneer who was awarded the Nobel Prize For Literature and is currently Number 1 in the album charts at the age of 79. Bob Dylan who between 1979 and 1981 recorded three albums known as his Gospel Trilogy.  

I am very excited to be speaking about Bob Dylan in our new Fitzroy TV series Light from Rock Music. During the vows we take during ordination services in the Presbyterian church we are told not to refuse light from any quarter. In this series we are doing what I have been doing for 40 years and actively seeking light in the work of recognised rock musicians.

The first in the series was Van Morrison in which I was delighted to have Belfast songwriter Brian Houston as my guest singer. Brian recorded imaginative versions of Into The Mystic, Full Force Gale and When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God adding beats and sounds and even a snippet of John O'Donohue reading one of his benedictions. I was so pleased at the response, even from one person who said they knew nothing about rock music but found the VOLG insightful and meditative Watch Light From Van Morrison: Dreaming in God HERE 

In our Bob Dylan episode I am thrilled to have as my guest singer Chris Taylor. Chris is from San Antonio, Texas and came to fame in the Contemporary Christian Music world as lead singer of Love Coma before a catalogue of solo records that reveal the artist within, in his eclectic and creative range.

If Brian Houston was an obvious choice to sing Van Morrison, being from the same East Belfast streets, then I chose Chris because of his stunning album of Bob Dylan covers called Down a Dead End Street. That record was in my Top 10 albums of 2017 and in my review (read that HERE) I wrote of how Chris's "voice has a strong rough hue that makes traction in Dylan’s quirks. That gives him the sensitivity to eek out the yearning and deep soul searching going on." Wait until you here his covers on Sunday night!

In my commentary on Dylan I will be looking at those "Gospel years" when there is plenty of light in creed and spiritual formation. I will also, however, be looking at his short folk Civil Rights years and wondering if he was more biblically prophetic then than in his very clear Christian records. I will also be looking at the 40 years since his Christian phase and asking if there is still light to be found, right up until his brand new number 1 record Rough and Rowdy Ways.

Light From Rock Music Vol 2: Bob Dylan - Pressing On will be available on FITZROY TV from 7pm on Sunday July 5th

Followed by Light For Rock Music Vol 3: U2 - Don't Let it Go Out on July 12th

JUNE 28th 2020 in FITZROY

Light From Rock Music 1

I am thrilled to be back on the preach again tomorrow in Fitzroy. The service goes live at 11am on Fitzroy TV. I will be asking where we go from the crossroads that we are at. As pubs open, people start thinking of holidays and the possibility of church gatherings is being mentioned how do we traverse the road ahead. I'll be looking at Matthew 10, Romans 12 and Galatians 5 to see if we can find our way forward. All wrapped in the by now familiar bespoke worship that tis week includes a wee Psalm co-written by King David and Bono.

In the evening (going live at 7) is a new series Light From Rock Artists. When Presbyetrians are ordained as ministers and elders there is a phrase used in the preamble to the vows that says we “are not to set their reason above the Word of God, or to refuse light from any quarter.” I have been finding light in the songs of rock musicians for forty years. So we start a series that we hope will continue into the autumn but begins with a mini-series of three. The first is Van Morrison. I will be asking what light we can gain from Van Morrison's sense of wonder and fiery visions bright and will be accompanied by Brian Houston who has imaginatively revisited three Morrison songs.

JUNE 21st IN FITZROY... plus news of a new Rock Stars In Ten series


For those who have somehow not heard, I had my gallbladder taken out quite suddenly just twelve days ago. In hospital, as I waited for the operation, I had to quickly change things. I was able to use an old Taylor University Chapel talk from last November to fill the immediate gap of June 7th. Considering it was seven months old it fitted well with our service that concentrated on the recent events in America.

I then immediately mobilised my youth Director Paul Bowman for June 14th, knowing that he would be creative in using our gifted young people to lead us and also be potent in the sermon.

I was also aware that I needed another week to recuperate before I could preach again. As I lay wondering, the new Moderator of the Presbyterian Church In Ireland, Rev Dr David Bruce, gave me a pastoral phone call and offered to preach. Oh yes please.

So tomorrow (going live on Fitzroy TV at 11am) I am delighted to welcome David to Fitzroy. His brother-in-law Clive Gould is a member of ours and David and Zoe know us well. I look forward to watching. I also might make a wee appearance. 

I am recovering well and hope to be back next Sunday, not only in the morning service BUT also with a new series going live in the evening.

Rock Stars In Ten (Along With Some Songs) will see me draw some spiritual nourishment from rock artists. In order to give more impact I felt we needed the songs. So, I asked a couple of gifted musical friends to help me with the first two and then we will be back to Fitzroy finest players and singers for the U2 night.

So, I am delighted to announce:

JUNE 28 - VAN MORRISON IN TEN (Along With Some Songs from BRIAN HOUSTON)

JULY 5 - BOB DYLAN IN TEN (Along With Some Songs from CHRIS TAYLOR)

JULY 12 - U2 IN TEN (Along With Some Songs from The FITZROY COLLECTIVE)

So, along with the songs these short vlogs will be slightly longer than ten minutes but they will shorter and sharper than our usual Fitzroy Gospel According To... evenings. 

Watch FITZROY TV here


Matthew Fitch drums

DOUG GAY'S Missing  -  Video by PETER GREER

Recently, we played this Doug Gay song during our Fitzroy Sunday On-Line Service. Doug, a theologian, author and songwriter, wrote it in lockdown. It is a beautiful juxtaposition of lament and hope. Psalm-like. The verses have us lamenting the pain of separation in lockdown. It is cathartic.

Then the chorus breaks in with this joyous hope. Peter Greer put a Fitzroy-centric video to the song and when Doug hit that line, "One day there will be such a gathering.." and a photo of a very full Fitzroy came up on the screen I freely admit that I spontaneously burst into tears. 

It surprised me. I have been one of those who have been experiencing what has become known as "lockdown relief", the breather that us introverts have enjoyed. yet, seeing my Fitzroy community... their faces... in that familiar space. I didn't realised how much I missed it.

A lot of my imagining as a pastor these days is about that gathering. How long will it be? How can we make it happen? What will the stepping stones be like in between now and that full church experience?

The government has said that churches can meet again on June 29th. That is easy rhetoric. I found it humorous and a little sad that I had to find the news under a headline that stated that hairdressers were being allowed to reopen. That is the place that churches have in the world of 2020! 

The reality though is much more complicated than the rhetoric. As I have blogged before the very clear restrictions of Stay At Home was much easier to live out than the Be Alert of reopening. 

When we say churches can reopen Fitzroy has to consider all that needs to take place to make sure the building is safe from spreading Coronavirus. There are practical steps to work through. Then we have to ask how we can safely work through social distancing. Can we use every other pew. We have the architects drawings out. If we do that then do we need two services... or three? Will we have to turn visitors away if there are no pews available? When will the science of this pandemic tell us we can sing again? If we can't sing then what will a service look like? It is likely that for a time the Welcome Area will remain either closed or unable to fit the numbers who will want to restore fellowship. 

What is certain is that that emotional moment in Doug's song is still a long way off. We continue to need patience. In the meantime we will be living in the blend and blur of the virtual and real. The pastoral and indeed missional work of the church goes on and perhaps that is the over riding factor in how we move in short careful steps from the lament of Doug's verses to the celebratory joy of us all back together again.

Grace and imagination will be needed, as always.


Stocki and Houstie

Coming up on Fitzroy TV, a new series about Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and U2...

Over the past few months Fitzroy TV has given you the wonderful series Paul in Ten. This was a series when a New Testament authority in Fitzroy, Gary Burnett, gave us short snappy talks on different themes in the theology of the apostle Paul. It was a resource used by so many (watch Paul In Ten here)

As that series came to an end, I began to think of something to follow it. One thought led to another and I thought that perhaps we could do Rock Stars In Ten

Over the past decade Fitzroy has presented a Gospel According To... series where we have performed the music of a wide variety of rock and pop stars as well as Disney, CS Lewis and the West end. 

These have taken the form of creative music and other art forms blended with a spiritual commentary, drawing out theology and Biblical themes.

The idea for Rock Stars In Ten is for me to be more succinct and draw some spiritual nourishment from a few artists. In order to give more impact I felt we needed the songs. So, I asked a couple of gifted musical friends to help me with the first two and then we will be back to Fitzroy finest players and singers for the U2 night.

So, I am delighted to announce:

JUNE 28 - VAN MORRISON IN TEN (Along With Some Songs from BRIAN HOUSTON)

JULY 5 - BOB DYLAN IN TEN (Along With Some Songs from CHRIS TAYLOR)

JULY 12 - U2 IN TEN (Along With Some Songs from The FITZROY COLLECTIVE)

So, along with the songs these short vlogs will be slightly longer than ten minutes but they will shorter and sharper than a Gospel According To...

More on these evenings and hopefully more in the series to come... 



Fitzroy TV

With myself on the sidelines, do not think for one moment that Fitzroy's On-Line Sunday service will be any less than excellent these next two weeks.

Going live tomorrow (June 14th) at 11am will be a short sharp youthful service full of energy, contemporary worship and relevant Biblical thought. Our fabulous Youth Director Paul Bowman will be in charge and it will be imaginative and meaningful. I am looking forward to it myself, tucked up in my recuperation blanket!

Next Sunday (June 21st) we are delighted and honoured that the new Moderator Rev Dr David Bruce will be preaching for us. David has been a friend and mentor for decades. He was UCCF Travelling Secretary when I was on Queen's CU Executive, he was minister of  Ormond Quay and Scots in Dublin when my office as Youth Development Officer was there in the early 90s and we have crossed paths in his recent role as Secretary to Council for Mission in Ireland. His brother-in-law Clive Gould belongs to Fitzroy

So, I hope to be back for June 28th and as well as the Sunday Service that day, we will be starting, in the evening, a brand new series that I think the music fans might revel in. More details coming soon!



Soul FM

On Pentecost Sunday 2020, after my sermon, we played this brand new song (written by Steve Stockman and Jonny Fitch... performed by Jonny Fitch... lead guitar by John Trinder... a three minute summary of that sermon... and then prayed the prayer below...




Here we are on Pentecost Sunday

All together

Yet all in different places 

And uneven spaces

Lord, we are united across geography

From British Columbia to Alberta to Ohio 

From Holland to England, Scotland Wales

Back to Ireland and home to Fitzroy Belfast

Lord we together in Jesus


Some of us are only children loving the space, with our daughters at home, loving this time

Some of us are older, alone and feeling the isolation

Some of us are children and a little bored

Some of us are parents trying o juggle homeschooling and work

Some of us are under pressure in business

Some of us are enjoying the breather

Some of us are students under pressure

Some of us are going through labour alone while our husbands wait in the car park

Some us are teenagers and missing adolescent adventure

Some of us are grieving and having to do it at a distance

Some of us are enjoying nature, reborn

Some of us don’t want to go back to what life was like before


Lord, we come before your Holy Spirit

Together in uneven spaces

And we are anxious, confused, uncertain, wondering, hoping, loving

So on this Pentecost Sunday

Lord blow a bonfire in a hurricane through us

Revive us, refresh us, reorientate us, reboot us

Lord, the great ideas of Jesus’ alternative ways

Cost him his life

Lord toss that wild idea everywhere

Holy Spirit inspire a new human strain

Of mercy, humility, equality, justice and grace

Lord blow away the vacuous straw of urgent joyless chaff

And nourish Christ like ambition, values and selfless love

Lord purify us, 

Forgive us Jesus

When we made you safe and nice

Dying and being raised to life for nothing more than a few petty little habits

Lord forgive us when the world looks at your Church

And sees plodding, predictable platitudes

Instead of a full force gale of goodness, kindness and hope

Lord here we are on pentecost Sunday

Together in different geographical places and eleven coronavirus spaces

We offer ourselves

Blow through our fears

With fearlessness

Like a bonfire in a hurricane.

In Jesus's name



you can watch the entire service HERE ON FITZROY TV