MY LIFE IN THE MUSIC I LOVED

ALWAYS FITZROY - REFLECTING ON STOCKI'S 50s - AS HE REACHES 60

Stocki smiling in pulpit

(As I arrive at my 60th Birthday... here is the final part of a series of 6... as I try to express each decade in as few words as possible...)

 

Always Fitzroy

The last big gig

The only gig in town

Who else was welcoming my wild imaginings

Who else was as wild in theirs

So began in my 50th year

We took off

At the speed of a teenager

Clonard Novenas

Gospel According To…

Community Carol Services

Communion in Museums

Bruce Cockburn and Over The Rhine

Irish Language classes with some priest

Martin Magill

 

A couple of coffees with Martin

Something beyond us was happening

Listening

Ideas sharing

Critiquing

Pilgrims together

Contriving nothing

Marinating everything 

Holy Spirit conjuring

The 4 Corners Festival

Ricky Ross

Gary Lightbody

Being interviewed on The View

Speaking at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis

Touring the Mid-West of America

Being awarded the Civic Leadership Award

And sharing our 60th to raise money for Embrace NI

Watch for us on BBC Book Week!

 

Fitzroy 200

Imagining

Hall renovations

Contemporary space

For a contemporary ministry

Opening to the neighbourhood

And tithing for a school building

Not a financial transaction

But a relational partnership

With Fields Of Life

In Onialeku, Arua, Uganda

Taking a team for the Opening

Falling in love

With children

Staff 

And community

Dancing together

Grieving together

Praying for each other

Mutual sharing

We were rich in shillings

They were rich in love, hope and resilience

A fence

A well

A girls’ toilet block

Text books

Sponsoring 

Annual visits

So much love and hope and joy

Fabric

Craft stalls

Fundraising

Even a sabbatical

Writing From Killing Fields To Fields Of Life.

 

In Fitzroy

Learning to preach

Learning to pastor

Learning to listen to all

And not just hear one

Learning to slalom the genius and madness

Of congregations

Our gifts

Our foibles

Seeking 10:10 - 

As much in John’s Gospel, as my birthday

Life in all its Fulness

Stumbling and tumbling after Jesus

Being particles of light across the city

God’s Kingdom on earth as in Belfast

Grace and imagination

Realigning our place in God’s order of things

 

Coronavirus

Discovering gifts

And deep gladnesses

That met this particular deep need

Online Church

Blog

Belfast Telegraph Column with Fr Martin

Pastoring by phone from the kitchen table

Wild imaginings

For a time such as this

Maybe when all is said and down

My best time

 

Not all easy

Everyone wanting you in their image

Everyone thinking they can do your job

Creating community you can’t be in

Feeling the isolation 

Laying your insecurities on the line every Sunday

Limping with your inferiorities

And the family not called like you are

But still having to be called

Learning who you are

Learning who you are not

Learning that it will pass

Learning to trust

Being vulnerable enough to learn

 

The night before my licensing

In the Portstewart sand dunes

Alone with God in his vastness

Another Larry Norman song

“I am a servant getting ready for my part

There's been a change, a rearrangement in my heart

At last I'm learning, there's no returning once I start

To live's a privilege, to love is such an art

But I need your help to start

O please purify my heart, I am your servant”

Servant

Like Jesus

60 years in 

And still tumbling and stumbling after

Seeking forgiveness

Grace

Equipping

For 10:10

In the next 10

As it has been in the last 60

God willing.


ALWAYS CAPE TOWN - REFLECTING ON STOCKI'S 40s - REACHING 60

Capetownship

(As I arrive at my 60th Birthday... here is part 5 of a series of 6... as I try to express each decade in as few words as possible...

 

At 40

Wonderful wife

Two lovely daughters

University Chaplain

Weekly music show on BBC Radio Ulster

Live sessions

Concert on the Lagan

A popular website

Only review of Radiohead’s Mandela Hall gig in the world

 

And then

Walk On - a book on U2

Number 99 on Amazon chart

85,000 sales

Touring America

Calvin College

Festival Of Faith and Music

Taylor University

Messiah College

Ohio Wesleyan

Westmont College

Kenyon College

Cathedral of Advent in Birmingham, Alabama 

Then back to earth

With students who didn’t care much

An album - Gracenotes

With Sam Hill 

And gigs where I learned the importance of monitors!

This really is life in all its fulness - 10:10

 

Cape Town

Habitat For Humanity

A mission trip to mark the Millennium

Money left over

Go again

And then again and again and again

Bible study on the field

Poverty of Khayelitsha to Century City’s marble mall

HIV visits in Guguletu

Fair Trade Vineyard with unjust trade on other side of the fence

Peace and reconciliation with Alex Boraine’s ICTJ

Even FW De Klerk met in our tiny hostel

Capetownship

Hair cut for 3,500 to fund a house and a half

Concerts

Poetry books

Photographic book with Gordon Ashbridge

Hundreds of thousands raised

150 students taken

Over 40 house built

And lives changed 

Especially ours

Mine

Janice’s

Lynn's

Chris’s

Even Caitlin and Jasmine’s

A year to prepare to go

A year to respond to having been

Always Cape Town

 

Always Cape Town 

In my mind and heart and soul

“Ubuntu”

I cannot be me without you

"All because of you, I am” U2 called it

Loving God and neighbour as self, Jesus called it

“I wake up every morning

And thank God that I am Black South African and a Christian

Because every day I get a chance to forgive my enemy”

Wow

“If you are are serious about peacemaking, two things

First, check your motives to the very marrow

And second check them again in case you have missed anything”

Wow

“Don’t leave your money

Leave your heart”

Indeed.

 

Ballycastle

Come come away

Allowing the candle to flicker

Instead of the pressurised burn

The beach

The being still to know

The empty days

Sorbet

For the next thing

 

And then

Discomfort

Uncertainty

A nudge to something

“I am a little fearful Fitzroy might phone”

“You wouldn’t go there, they talk to Catholics”

“Hello Steve, would you consider Fitzroy”

Fitzroy weren’t looking for a minister

I wasn’t looking for a Church

And we found each other

 

Fifteen years before

Ken Newell the minister of Fitzroy said

“Steve, when you get to 50, know who you are

Most of my peers have no idea

Looking over their shoulders at their peers

Be your own person”

Fifteen years later

A year from 50

In my dining room 

The same dining room Ken shared with me

On the cusp of 50

Fitzroy…


ALWAYS STUDENTS - REFLECTING ON STOCKI'S 30s - REACHING 60

Stockies on Jazzi's first day

 

My 30's

Always students

 

Dublin 91-94

Youth Development Officer for the Republic of Ireland

26 Counties

Me, a car and a CD walk man

Playing CD after CD

Writing poems and lyrics for songs

Written with Sam Hill

The Angels and Ghosts of Vienna

Donegal, Mongahan, Limerick, Cork

Adventuring with the city of 1000 bands

 

78 Eaton Wood Green

Neighbours called us Community

Meeting strangers

Like Rich Mullins 

On the landing in the middle of the night

Friendship

And off to America

Redding California to Ivan Hoes, Indiana

Right side of the white lines

Yosemite, Vegas, Grand Canyon, Indian Reservation

Rich Mullins and an out of tune choir

First last for last to be first.

 

South Africa to visit Janice

Africa for first time

Seeing Apartheid’s last days

Uneasy to be white

Would need to be black to come back

And we would…

 

Sunday nights in Abbey Basement

Weekends in Lucan Youth Centre

Turning the Living Room cafe into early 60s Greenwich Village

Discovering Juliet Turner

Developing Iain Archer

Wishing, I am wishing, I am wishing you were mine

Jonny Quinn on percussion

Pioneeering with Arklight at Ovoca

The Irish invasion of Greenbelt

Announcing Cockburn

Leading Communion

Joining the Board 

Booking the bands.

 

3 years that packed in 10

 

Then back to Belfast

To the same city as Janice

To love

To marriage

To Caitlin and Jasmine

 

To live with students

58, then 88

Creating community

The fertile soil of lifetime friendships

Inquisitive minds about following Jesus

Finding where deepest gladness meets world’s deepest need

If you are not spending every waking moment changing the world

Don’t be good, be God’s

 

Always students

At our wedding

At the door

Partying in the room outside our bedroom

Playing American football in the car park after the Super Bowl

Whispering outside Jasper’s room

 

Art and Soul

Galleries and music

Poetry

Sport

Worship

Quiet reflection

Interesting people talking

About interesting lives in their fulness

 

While watching a growing up and in and out

A faith beyond the surface slogans

Deeper than the bingo numbered shallow cliches

Where God changes us in a call to change the world

 

Janice and I watched 

Romance spark

Love on fire

And heartache and betrayal

You don’t need soap operas

When you live with 88 students

Always students.


ALWAYS PREACHING - REFLECTING ON STOCKI'S 20s - AS HE REACHES 60

Ordination

(As I arrive at my 60th Birthday... here is part 3 of a series of 6... as I try to express each decade in as few words as possible...)

 

In my 20s I was always preaching

My mission years

Have pocket Bible, signed by Bono, will travel

To anywhere

And everywhere across Ireland

Preaching

Coffee Bars

Youth Weekends

Christian Unions

Portrush CSSM

Summer camps

Church Campaigns

Finally, ordained as Assistant Minister in First Antrim

Rev

IrREVerent more like!

 

Fanning into flame

The spark gifted

Holding the Bible in one hand

Holding the culture in the other

Referencing Dylan and Springsteen and U2

And later Deacon Blue

Signposting the light from all corners

Ripped jeans

Rock band tee

Ponytail and ear ring

Never in fashion 

But always careful to look as careless as I could

You don’t look like a minister

I try hard not to

But did Jesus have short back and sides

Reaching the last one who wanted to listen

Intriguing them to hear

That they might undo their caricature 

And see a revolutionary Jesus

As relevant and up to date now

Don’t store up treasure on earth

As he was then

Preaching to who I used to be

What I used to need to hear

To Martin Baxter who preaches himself now!

 

And living 10:10 **

In the slipstream

In the viaducts of a twenty-something dream

The concerts

The laughter

The rock star impersonations

China

The Philippines

First trip to London

And falling in love with the Badger

Bob Dylan sings:

“Oh every girl that ever I’ve touched

I did not do it harmfully

And every girl that ever I’ve hurt

I did not do it knowingly” ***

 

Perhaps the preacher especially

Needs grace and forgiveness.

In my 20s I was always preaching.

 

 

*John 10 v 10 - I have come that you might have life and life in all its fulness

** The Badger was a nickname given to Janice - long story!

*** From Bob Dylan’s Restless Farewell


THERE WAS ALWAYS MUSIC - STOCKI'S SECOND TEN YEARS - AS HE REACHES 60

Stocki CSSM hippy

(As I arrive at my 60th Birthday... here is part 2 of a 6... as I try to express each decade in a few a words as possible...)

 

In my teens

There was always music

From cousin Sharon introducing me to

Donny Osmond and David Cassidy

To finding my own in T.Rex and Slade

Pop music

From 7’ to 12”

Always music.

 

Moving to Shandon Park

With Reids and Surpals and Smalls

Francis Kelly til he took off to Dublin

Rab McConaghy

Janet Reid

Harryville Youth Club

And always music

 

Ballymena Academy

Learning lessons

Finding my place

Not so much in class

As out of class

In the golf team

The Debating Society

The sound desk

Being DJ at all the school parties

There was always music

 

Summers on the golf course

Handicap dropping

First hole-in-one

East Antrim League

Team captain

British Opens

Autographs

Winning the afternoon sweep

To buy Fleetwood Mac

Always music

 

Swap shop

Among friends

A few old singles

For 4 early Beatles LPs

Life changing

Thou Shalt Have no Other Bands...

"All you Need Is Love"

"Give Peace A Chance"

"Imagine all the people..."

Always music

 

But

As a guy called Larry Norman sings

"The Beatles said All You Need is Love

And then they broke up"

They were asking the right questions

But I sought answers

How to change the world?

 

And then

Back a decade

No God?

What if?

Let’s pray that if you’re not there

You won’t tell me that you are

But if you are

That Jesus will give a more robust love

Than The Beatles

And so

Looking at the Bible

Looking at Jesus

Looking at my life

Wow

Not only there

But interested in me

Offering life in all its fulness

Yes please

As Larry Norman also sang

“I've searched all around the world 

To find a grain of truth

I've opened the mouth of love 

And found a wisdom tooth”

Let’s follow...

 

I will be 60 on October 10, 2021 and along with my good friend Fr Martin Magill (60 on Sept 13th) we are having a 60th Big Birthday Fundraise for https://www.embraceni.org

Please consider donating at - https://www.embraceni.org/donations/


THERE WAS ALWAYS FOOTBALL - STOCKMAN'S FIRST TEN YEARS - AS HE REACHES 60

Stockman 4 with ball

(As I arrive at my 60th Birthday... here is part 1 of a 6... as I try to express each decade in a few a words as possible...)

 

Galgorm

28A Maine Park,

Galgorm before

Before it was on Billboards

For its Spas, hotels and International Golf tournaments

Wee narrow streeted Galgorm

With my Grandparents' thatched cottage

Right in the middle of it

Uncle Bert beside

Where I got lunch

Got stung

Got to play football all day long

Got spoiled

Got my values

Got loved.

 

Football

There was always football

With the Cunninghams and Kirkpatricks on the green

With the Jamiesons and McCandlesses up at the garages

Football

George Best with long hair

And Manchester United on my wall

4-1 against Benfica’s Eusebio

European Cup glory

The first match I remember

Before a change

Peer pressured 

To City

Bell, Lee and Summerbee

But mainly Colin Bell.

 

Gracehill Primary

Always football

Before school, at break-time, at lunch-time

Always first picked.

Fast, skilful, eye for goal

BUT not brave enough

Or good enough the day I saw Stephen Penney play

 

Harryville 

The Moat Road at Granny’s

Granda dying young

Finding his paint, 

Stirring it before painting the back wall

And getting a good hiding

Cousin Sharon and Paul and I racing from church

To see new cousin Gregory… and Jason

Deborah with Uncle Bobby and Aunt Shirley from Canada

Church

Harryvlle Presbyterian

Sunday school

BB

Football

Playing with a future international Stephen Penney

Against a future International Nigel Worthington

And winning the League

 

God

“Last question. Do you believe in God?”

As I was watching before the The Big Match came on.

What a question? I surmised

No I don’t, my 7 year old self concluded

And there started

A decade of atheism 

Or 

Was it a new beginning

In conversation with the God that didn’t exist

A surmising of cosmic questions

To find answers in the next decade.

 

Galgorm

Gracehill

Harryville

Stockmans

Kernohans

Reids

And football

Always football.

 

I will be 60 on October 10, 2021 and along with my good friend Fr Martin Magill (60 on Sept 13th) we are having a 60th Big Birthday Fundraise for https://www.embraceni.org

Please consider donating at - https://www.embraceni.org/donations/


HOW A LARRY NORMAN RECORD WAS THE LAST TOOTH ON THE KEY TO MY SALVATION

In Another Land

 

If there is one record that I can say actually changed my life then it is Larry Norman's In Another Land. In Another Land was the final key that unlocked my belief in God and my realisation that following Jesus was for me. 

Oh, I had been reading books. Books that gave me a reasoned argument to the authenticity of the Bible, historical evidence for Jesus and even for the resurrection of Jesus body. 

I was in a place where two things needed to come together. That God existed and that if God did exist I was up for God’s vision of how the world should be.

Now, some will say that it really should have nothing to do with me choosing what God’s vision was. It is about me falling in line with God’s vision whether I like it or not. He is God after all.

That might indeed be true but that truth was not the key to unlock anything. Our ways of evangelism often lack the crucial secret to unlocking doors to people’s souls. We have theology. We have formulas. We have liturgies of conversion. We have technical solutions but…

Human lives are more complex and more nuanced. Jesus understood this. There are no evangelistic formulas in the Gospels. There are no four point plans of salvation. What Jesus says to Nicodemus is very different than what he said to the Rich Young Ruler. What Jesus says to the Samaritan woman is not the same as what he said to Zacchaeus (if indeed he needed to say anything to Zacchaeus!). 

Jesus way with people was very artistic. Larry Norman had a line “to love is such an art”. Jesus was creative and imaginative with his interactions. He read every human story differently. He assessed everything about them. Then he picked the lock. He doesn’t go in with a manual and go through the tick boxes.

Most of us find faith in different ways. We have different back grounds. We have different needs. We have different baggage. We have different starting places. Therefore we need different keys to unlock the doors. 

For me as a seventeen year old I was at a point in my life where I was looking for answers to life’s biggest questions. I had been churning up the questions of rock music for a few years. Love and peace and truth were high on my teenage agenda. John Lennon had been singing:

 

I'm sick and tired of hearing things

From uptight-short sighted-

Narrow minded hypocrites

All i want is the truth

Just give me some truth

 

That was what I was searching for. I was quite drawn to Jesus but I had a huge issue with the transcendent reality of God’s existence. When I look back now at my asking God if he existed or not I am aware that God’s answer was to turn up in my own life’s circumstances rather than handing me a tome on apologetics.

One of the very last notches or ridges on the key to my soul was that LP by Larry Norman. Now, I think my mate Philip knew what he was doing. He knew I loved rock music. He perhaps sensed that this was better than handing me another tract. 

The cover shocked me. There was this guy with long blond hair, looking as cool as George Harrison. I didn’t know many Christians that looked like this. Could Jesus be rock n roll? 

When my stylus hit vinyl and The Rock That Doesn’t Roll kicked in I was surprised again. Not only did this rock but it was really good. 

It was then as if Larry started a conversation with me. It was pretty evangelistic stuff. It is even confrontational. Yet the poetry seeped through.

 

I've searched all around the world to find a grain of truth

I've opened the mouth of love and found a wisdom tooth

(I’ve Searched All Around The World)

 

Yellow fingers from your cigarettes

Your hands are shakin' while your body sweats

Why don't you look into Jesus?

He got the answer

(Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus)

 

Two roads diverged in the middle of my life

I heard a wise man say

And I took the one less traveled by

And that's made the difference, every night and every day

(One Way)

 

I loved it. It spoke my language, almost in my accent. I remember writing “He got the answer” across the desk in school (In pencil). God had convinced me he existed. Now he convinced me that Jesus wasn’t just for “uptight-short sighted/Narrow minded hypocrites”. 

There seemed to be that vision to. Larry’s songs seemed to be speak not just to me but my generation. There was something that this Jesus was about that might just fulfil The Beatles’ hopes of love and peace and truth. Larry sings on another album “The Beatles said All You need Is Love and then they broke up”. I decided that Jesus was more robust than John, Paul, George and Ringo.


MEAT LOAF, ME AND JESUS!

Meat Loaf

Meat Loaf. Now that might be a really guilty pleasure. I was watching a documentary on Meat Loaf. It took me back to early 1978. 

I do not only remember Meat Loaf’s debut performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test but the conversations the next day in school. Those of us particularly interested in music were all over this performance. We had seen or heard nothing like it. Bat Out of Hell blew us away.

The album however was not easy to get. Bat Out of Hell was originally a slow burn (forgive the pun!). It took awhile to find its way into Ballymena record shops. My first copy was a recording on cassette. It would be the end of the summer before I bought my own copy, during The British Open at St. Andrews!

I remember days where I listened to that record all day long. That was not something I tended to do. I had played Sweet’s Block Buster so many times in a row that I tended not to do that. 

I could not get enough of it and even now I see what caught our attention. Bat Out Of Hell was Queen through a blender with Bruce Springsteen. Indeed, E Street Band member Roy Bittan played piano and it was how a friend introduced me to Born To Run. Bat Out Of Hell was bombastic and dramatic but Jim Steinman’s songs were so strong that you forgave that and maybe secretly liked it. I mean Two Out of Three and You Told The Word Right Out of My Mouth are great songs.

It was full of desire, a lot of it sexual. It is not lost on my looking back four decades later that I was sixteen and not doing well with girls so it probably reached my teenage hormones. Jim Steinman’s songs though have more going on than sexual lust.

There is a lust for life. These are songs about milking all that life has to offer. I was a year away from finding Jesus. In my favourite verse in John 10:10 Jesus speaks about “life in all its fulness.” Bat Out of Hell might not have the creed, though heaven and hell are a core part of Steinman’s lyrics, but it is an adrenaline rushed soundtrack of that life in all its fulness.

To be fair it really helped that producer Todd Rundgren understood songwriter Jim Steinman’s vision and crafted the songs into a stunning piece of rock music. The melodies are strong. The playing has flourish. Meat Loaf has charisma. Some songs are long but there is not a wasted second.

For Meat Loaf it never got better. Oh I enjoyed Jim Steinman’s solo record Bad For Good and Meat Loaf’s eventual follow up Deadringer but nothing ever quite reached the heights.

Indeed when in 1993 Bat Out Of Hell II was contrived from its sound to its cover to how they sold it. The music business svengalis conned us all into buying the follow up. They gave us the sound, the image and took us back but I was almost twice my age with different tastes in music and at a different stage of life. We all bought the nostalgia and though there were some good songs, it was no longer who we were. When I took it to a second hand shop they refused to take it. They had so many already!

Don’t get me wrong. I still come across Meat Loaf’s songs that I like. I am not sure I have listened to an entire album through since about 1982 but every now and again I want to hear that voice, that Steinman arrangement, a little bombast. Maybe I am looking at that wee bit of nostalgia that was over dozed on Bat Out Of Hell II. Maybe I am looking for that adrenaline rush that thankfully for me is more than a rock roll dream come through but a real life imaginative way to live come true! 


DECEMBER 9th 1980 - LENNON'S DEAD & I AM DOING BOB DYLAN IN SCHOOL ASSEMBLY

Stockman head

It was a big day for me. One of the biggest at that stage of my life. I was speaking at our Ballymena Academy morning Assembly. The Christian Union in school were doing a week of mission. We had been given an opportunity to speak at Assembly and I had been designated. I was going to speak about Bob Dylan.

I arrived in school nervous and earlier than usual. As I walked through the doors and into the 6th form end of the locker bay a few boys were chatting. I walked past to head towards the Assembly Hall and Stephen Barr said, “End of an era, eh Steve?”

I stopped, wondering what he meant. “End of an era,” he repeated, “John Lennon dying.” “What?” I stammered. “John Lennon was shot dead last night. Did you not hear?” 

The next memory I have is sitting in the Assembly Hall’s sound room. I just sat. I loved The Beatles. I loved John Lennon. Dead. Murdered. I hadn’t experienced death close to me and this felt close. I sat on in the silence. I was a little shaken. 

Yet, I had to pull myself together. I was doing School Assembly. I said a prayer and prepared myself. I was playing a tape of two Bob Dylan songs - Blowing In the Wind and I Believe In You.

Bob Dylan had had a conversion experience around the same time as me. My idea was to play “the answer is blowing in the wind” and then ask if Dylan had found his answer in Jesus as expressed in “I believe in you…”  "Had Dylan found that answer?" I was asking. This might be the first time that I did a prototype of The Gospel According To…

It was not long until I was speaking. I cannot remember my exact script. I wish I still had it. I remember playing the music and receiving a wonderful listening from my peers.

Afterwards I walked off the stage with my headmaster, Denis Jagoe. He congratulated me and then said something that I would later, much later, remember as one of the wisest pieces of preaching advice I ever got. He said, “You didn’t insult their intelligence.” 

As well as advice for me I can only imagine now that Denis was critiquing the patronising tone that he had heard many preachers use. He was sharing an insight that I have used ever since. 

The rest of the day was about John Lennon. I drifted through school coming to terms with his death. Double Fantasy had just been released. He was back and we hoped he would come to do concerts in the UK. I couldn’t help but think of his five year old son, now bereft of his dad. I went home and watched the television all night long.

We remember John Lennon’s death as December 8th as he was killed in New York late that night. I look back on December 9th 1980 as one of the most memorable days of my life. The morning we all woke up to that senseless news. My biggest challenge yet in what would become my life’s work of preaching. As well as that I had stumbled into what would later be called Theo-musicology. I would write books on the subject and one would include a chapter on Bob Dylan. I also had my first and best teaching on preaching!

Every year I remember John Lennon… and that day in my own life!


MY DAY IN ABBEY ROAD

Alternative-abbey-road

It was February 1998 and it caught up on me unawares. I had gotten off the tube at St John’s Wood Station and walked down Acacia Road. I had no preconceived thoughts or anticipation about what was about to happen. 

I was thinking about the fact that I was here to be part of a film about the late great Rich Mullins, a Christian songwriter that I had had the privilege of spending some time with.  Rich’s friends were making a tribute film and because of Rich’s love for Ireland thought I might add some nuance about that love. He had stayed with us in Dublin and called an instrumental track, 78 Eaton Wood Green, after the house. I was excited about meeting Jimmy Abegg, Rick Elias and Ben Pearson who was making the film. Rich had passed away just five months before and being with his friends was still part of the grieving.

I was also mindful that my wife was pregnant with our first child. It was due in a week’s time. I was hoping she didn’t go into labour until I got back home again!

Anyway, minding my own business I turned a corner and there it was. Wow! My body physically reacted. My emotions fired. There in front of me was the zebra crossing… THE zebra crossing. It was like looking at something almost sacred. Now it isn’t and if you are theologically squeamish don’t quote me and abuse the hyperbole, as some have in the past. I am using sacred poetically but poetically sacred seems the correct word.

I knew this zebra crossing. It was a part of me. It was part of the culture. I had just turned into Abbey Road. Abbey Road! The name of the last album that The Beatles recorded. A classic album even by Beatles’ standards. Come Together, Something, Here Comes The Sun. That amazing medley. Iconic and this cover was the icon on the cover. The Beatles walking across the Abbey Road zebra crossing, exactly where I am walking now.

I fell in love with The Beatles as a fifteen year old boy in 1976. I have spoken about how finding Jesus out of a love for this band did influence my faith. I go off and listen to many other bands, bands that I love, but I always come back to The Beatles. As I listen to their records I feel the feelings of my teens and twenties and thirties and… 

Now, it must have been that, in February 1998, I was not listening as much as I had. Walking into this space took me by too much surprise. I wasn’t considering them as I had walked down Acacia Road.

Now I was in the space. A few tourists were around about me. They stopped to look at the wall outside the studio I was heading towards. Abbey Road Studios where most of The Beatles’ records were recorded. Fans sign the wall outside. I stopped for a moment and joined the fans, checking out the names.

Then I had work to do. I walked through the gates and through the door of the Studio. I suddenly started to think that there was no way that they would let me in here. The Beatles (broken up almost 30 years earlier) might be there or some other big band. I wasn’t getting in. A couple of fans were turned away. I approached the desk, gave my name and was told that I had been expected and pointed in the direction of Studio 2.

It was now getting crazy in my head and heart and soul. Studio 2. That was where they did it. The Beatles used this “office” to change the entire world. I opened the door and Jimmy Abegg came over, gave me a hug and introduced me to the others.

The console space is reasonably small and immediately I was at the recording desk. Now it was bigger than any The Beatles had in the sixties but it was where their desk sat. Breathe. Then I looked to my left and there was the window that looks down into the studio. Two steps and I was at that window looking in. Oh my goodness me!

As well as filming the tribute video, Jimmy and Rick were recording the orchestral parts of an album that Rich was working on before he died. It later came out as the Jesus Album. I watched, mesmerised at where I was and what had happened. Later I got to walk down the steps and for a moment stand on the floor where The Beatles stood to make Please, Please Me, A Hard Days Night, Revolver… 

So, there I spent the day. People I knew came in to see Jimmy and Rick and to just stand and bask in the historic space. It was a special day. The film worked out great and I was honoured to be in it alongside Amy Grant, Michael W Smith and a host of star names.

As I headed back up Acacia Road to catch the train to Heathrow. My head was full of The Beatles. I thought about all those records, the photos I had looked at of that studio. What an amazing day I had had. Maybe if the child  we were expecting was a girl (she was) we could call her Abbey. Road seems not appropriate. It was only years later that I thought of Abbey Rhoda. Maybe Caitlin’s lucky it took me a little time.