STOCKI SURMISING

BORIS & PARENTS - IT'S MORE WHAT WE DO THAN WHAT WE SAY

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Caitlin had just started talking. It was a Saturday morning and Janice and I were trying to steal an extra half hours kip. I was asleep when I heard Caitlin saying, “I see myself, I see myself…” She was looking right in my eye. Out of the mouths of babes I thought. Then I remembered that I had put my glasses on before I fell back to sleep. She was seeing her reflection!

Being a thinker of things, that moment has lived with me through Caitlin’s life. She’s 24 this year and sadly when she looks at me she sees too much of herself. 

I have realised that the parts she, and her sister Jasmine, see, as well as the very clear eccentricities passed down through the generations, are not things that I talked to them about but actually what they really see me and their mother, Janice, do.

Oh I wanted them to play football or hockey or golf. I tried to get them interested but no interest.

We took them to Africa from a very young age. Year after year. Didn’t talk to them much about it. Jasmine is now doing International Development at University and Caitlin did her Early Years degree Dissertation on Early Education development in East Africa.

They didn’t pick up what we said. They were influenced by what they saw. 

I have been thinking about all of this as I’ve watched today’s news. 

Boris Johnston’s party attendance in May 2020 when the rest of us couldn’t see our loved ones is a shocker. We had a dear friend who died a few days after the party. The funeral was limited. I was in hospital 10 days after the party and had no visitors. I watched as patients who had been in for some time struggled at not seeing partners and children.

It makes us angry. The one rule for us and another for those in power reeks of injustice and the kind of leadership we expect in developing countries, not the UK.

I understand the calls for Boris’s resignation from other politicians across opposition parties and within his own. In any other era I think he would have gone by now. 

Which for me is the worst part of it. Why has he not already gone. Have we changed our values. What we can get away with. As children watch their parents and almost unconsciously pick up their values, priorities and bad habits so a population is influenced by what they see their leaders do. It is frightening as a parent. Even more so as we watch our leaders.

God was more about seeing an example than just hearing words. After 39 Old Testament books he felt that the best way to understand God and how he wanted us to live was was to see it. “The Word became flesh”. Oh, don’t ignore what Jesus said at all but his idea was more about us becoming like the Jesus we see rather than just obeying words. He came to show us how to live. To follow. 


WHEN THE CHAPLAIN MET THE BISHOP AND TALKED POP - A Tribute To BRIAN HANNON

Brain Hannon

 

I was so sorry to hear about the death on January 10th of Brian Hannon, former anglican Bishop of Clogher.

I imagine that growing up, especially in his late teens, Neil Hannon must have got pretty annoyed at being called the minister’s son. I wonder, 10 years later, whether Rev Brian Hannon ever got used to be known as Neil Hannon’s father. 

I’m a minister like Brian Hannon but I am known more for being a rock fan so it will be a surprise that I actually met Bishop Hannon first and have spent a longer time with him.

I did eventually meet Neil. It was that amazing gig to reopen the Ulster Hall in 2009. Called, Remember The First Time, Northern Ireland finest did one of their own songs and a cover of the first band they actually went to see in the Ulster Hall.  

I was standing in the crowd beside my friends Peter Wilson and Paul Wilkinson when I realised that their other friend was Neil Hannon! It was a perfect position to be in when The Lowly Knights introduced their cover, Divine Comedy’s Something For `The Weekend. “Great writer”, says I for effect. Neil almost fist pumped in contrived comedic glee. 

It was Brian Hannon that I got to spend most time with. I was given the honour of being invited to speak at Monaghan Collegiate Prize Day. I had no idea that the Chairman of the Board of Governors was Brian Hannon, Bishop of Clogher. On the journey from the school to lunch in a nearby hotel I was driven by the Bishop.

Those who know me will know that for this particular clergyman to be thrown to such a situation was much more challenging than it would have been if Mr Divine Comedy himself had been my chauffeur.

I am reckoning it must have been late 1998 because as I got into the car the first two things I spied were cassettes of Fin de Siècle and A Short Album About Love. 

I immediately confessed to the Bishop that we had something in common. I was a fan of his son. He then shared with me various things about the music industry, the press, Neil and himself. 

He spoke about the press and the record company and a Bishop whose son was writing singles called Generation Sex! It was ripe for difficulties at many levels! He knew he needed to be onto the lyrics before a tabloid journalist would phone up looking a headline. The Record Company were always trying to appease the lyrics but Bishop Hannon got their weighty thoughtfulness. 

He shared with me how he had a recent concert gone back stage and met Tori Amos and her band. Later he had told Neil how wonderful and normal they were, to which Neil shrugged and responded, “What did you expect Dad?” His son’s vocation was opening the Bishop up and he was so prepared to admit his mistakes, prejudices and need for learning.

He also shared a TV moment that had moved both of us just a short time before. Neil was performing live own BBC Northern Ireland’s Across The Line. To do something special he sang the old hymn Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind. I couldn’t believe it at the time. It was beautiful and poignant. The Bishop and his wife Maeve were very moved. Neil would later write an Oratorio with organ, strings and a choir entitled To Our Fathers In Distress and inspired by his father’s battle with Alzheimers.

Speaking of Neil’s faith the Bishop said that he would tell him he was agnostic but after most of their chats the Bishop added with that mischievous humility, that I was so charmed by. that he was probably no more agnostic than the Bishop was at times himself! 

I found Bishop Brian Hannon to be a warm and gracious man, humble and open. Open, not only to me or to his son’s career but to himself. He was a Bishop in his early 60s whereas I was a young University Chaplain in my late 30s. His honesty near confession of what he was learning left an indelible mark on me. I regret not asking to come and spend more time with him.

I treasure that lunch so much. As I looked back this morning I wondered if I had missed something else. Bishop Hannon’s reading of others. When he introduced me to his wife at the lunch table, he introduced me as “Steve, a fan of our son Neil.” He had picked up the fulness of Stockman in a short car journey - not so much Rev as Divine Comedy fan!

Today, my prayers and good wishes go to Maeve, Neil and Bishop Hannon’s other sons Desmond and Brendan. 


VACCINATIONS AND MASKS - FREEDOM OR FREEDUMB?

Stocki Vaccinated

An email tonight from the British-Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat that a Christmas reception that I was invited to on Tuesday 7 December was cancelled. Such responsibility in rather high places reminds us that Coronavirus is alive and well and needs careful traversing.

It does not always feel that way. On the street you can sometimes wonder if everything back to normal. “Stay Alert” seems a very old cliche that far too many people have long thrown away.

Then there are those whose freedom is so important that they refuse to wear masks. Even worse there are those moving among us without any vaccinations. 

Freedom eh? I wonder how long it will be until we have protests at government buildings across the UK about the infringement in our freedoms at having to drive at 30mph in the city and 70mph as a national speed limit. How dare the law restrict us! 

Or might smokers having to confine their smoke to the pub garden begin to complain that they have to keep the danger of cancer outside public buildings while those who don’t smoke yet are not vaccinated or wearing masks can bring the danger of Covid 19 into the same public buildings.

The freedom argument only works in an anarchical society. In any democracy with a legal system there are all kinds of laws that restrain our freedoms if they are a danger to the health or life of a fellow citizen. We are even aware of social media rules needed to prevent mental health.

I have heard a new word across social media - “freedumb”. It is defined as a nonsensical and asinine belief that freedom means you can literally do anything you want including violating other peoples’ rights.

Freedom does not mean freedumb as some might like it to. Whether it is my speed limit or no smoking examples the health of others and their right to life supersedes our individual freedoms.

A few weeks ago I preached about the truth setting us free (John 8:32). It would be a terrible exegesis of such a verse to think that Jesus came to let us do anything we want.

Jesus’ truth and freedom was the way of life that humans were intended to live. That is a life that takes responsibility for other human beings and indeed the very planet. It is about loving our neighbour and a denying of self and taking up our cross to live such a way.

I have known more to have caught Covid in these last few weeks than at any other time. We are living through a world wide pandemic. Lives are in constant danger, never mind the trauma for our doctors and nurses and the grief of those who have lost loved ones. Schools are in chaos and people are dying because waiting lists are longer and longer due to the Covid demand in hospitals.

So let live a Jesus inspired freedom to think of others first instead of an anarchic freedumb that endangers loved ones, neighbours and society! 

 

Get vaccinated. 

Wear your mask. 

Wash your hands. 

Stay safe. 

Stay alert. 


SURRENDER - WHAT I DID AS THE MASK CAME DOWN IN THEATRE THIS MORNING

General Anasthtic

Yesterday I used the fact that I was going into hospital today for a short meditation on vulnerability. Today I have been in theatre and out and home. Feeling a little woozy from the general anaesthetic and a little pain but all is better than I imagined. Now it is prayers that it works.

My friend Heather McKay inspired me as I lay back in theatre to meditate on Surrender...

 

"Surrender don't come natural to me
I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want
Than to take what You give that I need”

This Rich Mullins lyric has been in regular meditation since I first heard Hold Me Jesus in a cassette of the demoes of A Liturgy, A Legacy and a Ragamuffin Band that Rich handed us in Windowrock, Arizona in 1993. There were no strings! Not many heard those demoes.

He had written some of that record, his best work, while staying in our house in south Dublin and played them live for the first time, just to us, in the front room! The house 78 Eaton Wood Green even became the title of a hammer dulcimer instrumental on the album. 

Any way, back to Surrender. As Rich tells us, in his typical forthright fashion, Surrender doesn’t come natural. Indeed if you grow up under political murals of NO Surrender or that wonderful Bruce Springsteen songs about not surrendering in friendship then perhaps it is against the fallen human grain.

After my blog about the vulnerability of such procedures my friend Heather McKay posted on social media that for her vulnerability led to surrender. That was my spiritual meditation today as I went for a small procedure.

When you are laid out on a bed in an operating theatre and you are allowing a needle in your vein and a mask to be put across your mouth and nose you are surrendering. Without that surrendering into the hands of others there is no chance of recovery, no hope.

Two things give you that faith to be able to surrender. 

First, there is a recognition of your condition. Knowing you need fixed forces your hand. The hope of post surrender healing helps with the discipline of it.

Second, those that you are surrendering to. If you spend enough time around NHS staff, as I have sadly had to do in these last few years, then you learn that you could not be in better hands. Even as Covid-19 makes their lives even more difficult they are so calm and steady and thorough and professional. Heroes. Just the kind of people to surrender to. 

After my blog about the vulnerability of such procedures my friend Heather McKay posted on social media that for her vulnerability led to surrender. That was my spiritual meditation today as I went for a small procedure. 

The good news of Jesus is that our lives can be spiritually operated on. Our brokenness needs soul surgery. 

When we know who Jesus is and what he can do then we can come through Rich Mullin’s hurdle of surrender being unnatural to find Lone Justice’s exciting invitation for the revolution of surrender to something bigger than ourselves. As I lay myself back this morning and laid all my control down, as well as to the NHS heroes, in my last waking words before I went under was me whispering surrender and falling into the hands of God :

“The beginning and end of every wish

Is balanced in the centre of a vision like this

Maybe my emotions are inclined

To surrender to the notion of a glorious kind.”


MY HOSPITAL PROCEDURE - A PRACTICAL WORKSHOP ON VULNERABILITY

Hospital

(Though this is a personal experience I hope that it might be of help to others going through operations at...)

 

I am back in hospital tomorrow for a small procedure. I have had a similar one before. I am apprehensive. How will it go? What are the implications in the week of recovery? Will it work?

Added to this comes the new Covid-Factor. As I isolate I am fearing the news that a colleague of my daughters has just tested positive. My father-in-law was out on public transport. I am in hiding! Extra anxieties.

I stress that though under a general anaesthetic, this is a small procedure and I hope is that I will be home before tea time. As I look across my congregation and the operations just had, or being waited for, and the anxieties about tests had, or being waited for, this is no big deal. 

However, when you are on any operating table, when you are under any general anaesthetic, you are looking for all the prayer and divine help you can get. Others might have more serious conditions but this is my condition. These are my fears. 

So I am anxious. Some of those fears have to do with the procedure itself but much of my apprehension is about my vulnerability. 

Whatever the seriousness of a procedure or operation or how we deferentiate the two, you are laid out on a bed with people pushing you through hospital corridors. You arrive and see all the operating theatre paraphernalia. People are then looking down at you, explaining what they might do. You have to give yourself over to them in some kind of trust. Then you are gone…

… You come round and do not know where you are. Or who this nurse is. Or whether your operation worked. You are pushed back through the corridors, this time a little less yourself than you were the last time. 

With Covid-Factor you do not even have your loved one waiting in the ward. There is not that hand for reassurance. At least if all goes well I will be getting out quickly and will have Janice’s hand to reach for.

Yet, getting home will bring its own anxiety and vulnerability. Getting out of bed with wires and leads sticking out of your body. Washing and brushing your teeth become unfamiliar acts that need carefully thought through. There is discomfort, pain and many moments of embarrassment and indignity. 

The truth is that in such surgical scenarios we have left all our strengths behind and are in a new place called Vulnerable.

So as I make my preparations for tomorrow I begin a very practical workshop on vulnerability. God became vulnerable. Jesus crossed a border from safety to be born as a baby, laid in straw and then the run as a refugee. He was eventually laid out on a piece of wood and nailed to it. Naked. Made fun of. Alone. He emptied himself of all of his strong cards!

“Follow me,” Jesus invited us. Follow me into vulnerability. Do not hide behind your natural strengths. Do not stick to your safe places. Do not hangout with your same old friends. Open yourself to weakness. The apostle Paul would later write that “God’s strength was made perfect in our weakness”. 

Maybe anyone training to be a pastor should have a small procedure as part of the course! Seeing it from the other side is eye opening. Experiencing it is full of vital spiritual lessons

If you are the praying kind I would value your prayers for this surgical spiritual retreat… if you are not the praying kind, send me your best wishes. I am sure I will blog on the other side!


MY 60th BIRTHDAY - WONDERFUL DAY

Stocki 60

Much as I loved the surprise parties thrown for my 40th and 50th birthdays I had my family under strict orders that I didn't want big party for my 60th. 

It wasn't that I wanted to hide the fact that I was 60. Fr Martin Magill and I have heralded our landmark birthdays for a month, trying to raise money for Embrace NI. 

No, I have become more and more introverted through my 50s. I am not sure what to do with crowds pointing at me. Fitzroy singing “Happy Birthday’ before the service was lovely but my heart and brain go mush and I cannot fully appreciate the sentiment! 

I am happier at a good meal with a smaller number rather than short greetings with a couple of hundred.

So it was Holohans Pantry my very favourite restaurant, owned and run by good friends. We even had Eli and Bella as waiter and waitress. The food was amazing. I am a Seafood Boxty fanatic so joined by our good friends David and Rachel Quinney Mee I was in my happy place. I am always so relaxed in the Pantry.

Not that I got away without a surprise. Oh no! Dandering out at the end of the Fitzroy service someone mentioned an Ice Cream Van and I realised that they have done me again. Surprise!

Yet, a surprise that included the entire congregation, at least the 60% back after Covid, was a perfect way to celebrate. To see the children and young people enjoy a big 99 or a double one with lime sauce was a birthday thrill. Even a more mature member admitted to racing to get in line before the kids.

It was a real carnival and of course with an ice cream van and children it was not about me. I loved it. 

The whole day had started on BBC Radio Ulster. Fr Martin and I were rather honoured to have our landmark birthday recognised on Sunday Sequence and the lovely Audrey Carville reflecting on our lives.

It was good to give testimony to what has been a 10:10 ‘life in all its fulness’ and confessing no regrets but that at times I had hurt others. It was good to declare that we weren’t switching off and were getting excited about the future, particularly the 10th Anniversary of The 4 Corners Festival next February.

It was good to give a last plug to our Big 60th Birthday Fundraiser. To realise that we will have raised over £7000 for Embrace NI and the work that they do with refugees and migrants is the best present ever. Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed so generously! 

An hour after that interview I was standing in Fitzroy. It is my piece of pitch. As Kevin De Bruyne has that midfield space where he can play his genius, passing a football into the path of a team mate, so I have my lectern at the front of Fitzroy.

For twelve years that has been my space. In grief, in illness and in joy that little piece of real estate has been the place where I have found my deepest gladness, my reason to be on this planet.

To be there on 10:10. on the day of my 60th birthday, was a marvellous lining up of the calendar. To share the first communion in 18 months with my congregation was going to be special anyway but even more on this particular day. 

“You know who you are with bread and wine in your hand. You are a somebody.” A twist on TV’s Tales of the Unexpected. Who we are. And then… to close… Singing…

 

And all my life You have been faithful (oh)

And all my life You have been so, so good 

With every breath that I am able

Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God (yeah)

 

As we sang I felt a perfect moment. Me and God… aligned. I am thankful, so thankful for reaching 60. For having Janice beside me, throwing surprises. For daughters ploughing their deepest gladness. For an amazingly gifted and generous congregation that allows me to be me. For a wider society that invites me to share with it whether on radio, in newspaper or occasionally TV (Martin and I will be talking about a favourite book in BBC’s Book Week… coming up soon!).

Late evening, with a wee glass, Janice and a TV thriller. In the quiet, looking back. A most wonderful birthday.

60 years. What a 10:10 life. As Van once said, “It’s too late to stop now…” I am kind of glad it is over. The rest of my life starts here! Let’s go!


ON THESE STEPS - PRESBYTERIANS MARK 100 YEARS OF NORTHERN IRELAND

On These Steps

It seemed to me that it was the press getting it wrong, not for the first time. 

As I welcomed people at the door of the Presbyterian Church’s On These Steps event marking 100 Years of Northern Ireland I watched the TV cameras as journalists interviewed political leaders about President Higgins decision not to attend a church service in Armagh to mark the same 100th Anniversary.

With all that fuss about church and 100th Anniversary events you might have thought that the press would be interested in what was going on in the actual building that they were interviewing outside of… but no.

If I say so as one of the organisers, On These Steps was a cutting edge contribution to the discussion around the founding of Northern Ireland. It recognised that as some celebrated the existence of Northern Ireland others deeply resented partition. 

We were on the steps of Union College 100 years to the day that the first Northern Ireland parliament met. We heard Jim Allen perform the King’s speech from that very day:

I speak from a full heart when I pray that My coming to Ireland to-day may prove to be the first step towards an end of strife amongst her people, whatever their race or creed.

In that hope, I appeal to all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the hand of forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and to forget, and to join in making for the land which they love a new era of peace, contentment, and goodwill.

On These Steps flowed from these words.

Local songwriter Ferna sang a newly commissioned song imagining Northern Ireland as a person reflecting on his/her birthday. Ferna is deep of thought with a poetic dexterity and musical daring. We got it all. It was imaginative, poignant and I hope we could all see ourselves, individually and communally, “I am never not afraid/So I’m always getting saved.” 

There was a fascinating address by historian Ian McBride about the world of 1921 where Europe was being cut up with borders and Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances that caused our border. He said, “My hope is that, in this centenary year, we can collectively interrogate some of these self-serving reflexes…The challenge for historians, among others, is to ensure that the complex realities of the Irish situation a century ago are not ironed out for political, ideological or therapeutic reasons.”

Presbyterian Moderator David Bruce led us to look forward. With personal, literary and Biblical images he called our politicians to see our institutions as precious and for us all to sit down at the crossroads and talk about our stories and how we can live together. He spoke of how Jesus brings the love and justice together in his incarnation and cross and therefore hope is possible. David concluded:

“A multi-cultural Ireland, north and south is a blessing to us, and we need not be fearful of it. The stories of those who have left everything behind in their homelands to be part of our story in this, their new homeland, need to be heard, and they will enrich us, just as we will bless them…Whatever a new Ireland resembles, it will not be because someone was victorious, while another was defeated. If it looks like that, it won’t be a new Ireland…”

The press, obsessed with short catchy headlines missed such helpful content. They also missed a panel that doesn’t meet publicly too often in Ireland - Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Paul Givan MLA and Junior Minister, Declan Kearney MLA, representing the deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, who was unable to attend. Newly appointed Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Rt Hon Conor Burns MP, also took part along with Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD. Jude Hill interviewed. Now there’s a press story. Missed!

The atmosphere was one of respect and listening. I might have liked a little more honesty and forthrightness from panellists but it was a real contribution. We need more of such events as we move forward to whatever the next 100 years looks like. Maybe the press will share headlines of some of the good things too!


LUCIA'S STORY.. & A QUESTION OF YOU - On Organ Donation Week

EMB-Lucia-Quinney-Mee

photo: Jasmine Stockman

 

It is Organ Donation Week. Let me tell you a story and then ask you to do something.

Lucia Quinney Mee passed away a few days before her 21st birthday. Over the previous 12 she had depended on four families giving their loved ones organs that she might live.

For most of her life she was best friends to our daughter's Caitlin and Jasmine, living in the same cul-de-sac where our own house is in Ballycastle.

Along with Lucia's sister Alice, the four girls connected one sunny day and soon were all splashing in our kiddies pool. They were four buddies ever since, walking through childhood and their teens until Lucia would leave them in May 2020.

There were so many incredible happy memories. Yet, I guess Lucia’s story stood out in sad and wonderful ways. Around 2007 the girls came up to a Chaplaincy night at Derryvolgie Hall, where I was Chaplain. They did their dance routine, cute kids loved by our students. Lucia’s eyes were a little yellowish… within a week she was in an operating theatre in Birmingham Children’s Hospital receiving her first liver transplant. 

Lucia received her fourth liver in King’s Hospital, London the day before New Year’s Eve 2019. Sadly, she never quite made it through. For five months she battled with her amazing parents and sister by her side. We hoped. We prayed but as her dad told us “sometimes love is not enough to hold a body together.”

Through twelve years and those first three livers Lucia has lived the most incredible, inspirational life. She became a swimming star at British and World Transplant Games. Gold medals were plentiful. She carried the Olympic torch in 2012.

She set up a charity Live Loudly, Donate Proudly while ill before her third liver transplant that encourages people to donate organs. In 2016 she organised a Gala Dinner for Transplant charities and her speech was so mature and articulate. 

She also spoke at the 4 Corners Festival Banquet in January 2018 when we celebrated families who donated their loved ones organs to others. 

Her Live Loudly Donate Proudly blog showed an exceptional flair for writing for one so young.

In 2017 she was the youngest in the Queens New Year’s Honour’s List, receiving a British Empire Medal. Our Jazzi took the photo above for the press! She also got to have lunch with the Queen herself.

In between all of that there were parties and pop concerts and all the stuff a young woman does. In spite of all she had to go through Lucia lived loudly and more than that selflessly. In the pool she swam for her donors whom she never knew but never forgot. She wanted others to have the gift of life she was given for those twelve years. She was a world changer. 

We loved her. We admired her. Last night sitting in her parents house, a house filled with photographs of her bright, brave smile I was emotional again.

Today I want to thank again, though I don't know who they are, the donors' families that allowed Lucia to become so precious to us. Life. More days to love. What a gift!

So on Organ Donation Week, have the conversation. Tell your loved ones that should tragedy cut your life short that you want to give a longer life to all the Lucias. To give life through your death. It almost has a Gospel sized sense.

Do it. Do it this week. Do it now!

 

I remember you, tiny in the corner

Coming over to splash in the water

I had no idea that down the years

You’d become an extra daughter

I remember the Chinese lanterns

Going up in the New Year sky

Writing how you’d change the world

And wondering how they fly

 

I regret not seeing you in the pool

When, even second, you were a winner

Olympic torch and Empire medal

The Queen inviting you for dinner

I remember your big Gala night

When as well as your beautiful fashion

You spoke courage beyond your years

With articulate flair and passion

 

Live loudly donate proudly

Is exactly who you are

And in every dark night of my soul

I’ll go searching for your star

We loved you and we love you

You will always have our love 

But for holding bodies together

Earthly love is not enough

But we will love you

For love is the best thing

Love is the only thing

Love is the eternal thing

We love you. 

THE GIRLS

 


SENDING MIGRANTS BACK, RADUCANU'S LESSON AND EMBRACE NI

Daily Express Raducanu

Only a British tabloid!

Alongside a seemingly triumphant headline of MIGRANTS WILL BE TURNED BACK TO FRANCE they have a photograph of a delighted, if disbelieving, Emma Raducanu, the nation’s tennis new hero after her phenomenal US Open victory.

The clue is in the name. Emma is not one of the Hartlepool, Swansea, Derry or Glasgow Raducanus. She is the Toronto born daughter of a Chinese mother and a Romanian father. In the final Raducanu beat Leylah Fernandez a Canadian teenager born in Montreal to a Filipina and Ecuadorian. 

There in one tennis match that screams to everyone paying attention that migration is the way of the world. It always has been. It is the way of history. It is how I ended up here. 

Migration is also the way of the Bible. From Genesis though to the latter stages of the New Testament people are on the move, the people of God are on the move. Jesus was a refugee, on the move, at the very crux of the Salvation History narrative! The Exodus, another movement of migration, was a major storyline too.

It is us understandable that God would understand such human migration and therefore into his advising on how to live life safely with care and compassion would include laws on how we deal with the stranger, coming into our communities or nations. It is always with care - the love of God. 

As a follower of Jesus, and as a minister in a congregation, I am always aware of Jesus example in Matthew 25 where he lays out how you’ll recognise a sheep of his flock. By their welcome to the stranger and meeting the needs of the thirsty and hungry. This is the business that you’ll find Jesus followers, as well as work with the sick, the prisoner and  the naked, being busy about.

This is why Fr Martin Magill and myself decided that we would choose Embrace NI as the NGO to benefit from our Big 60th Birthday Fundraise. 

Embrace NI has been helping the churches across our denominations to care for the migrant, refugee, asylum seeker, stranger for 25 years.

They have an emergency fund which our Fundraise will hopefully healthily replenish BUT they also do an amazing job at resourcing churches both in Biblical teaching and pragmatic application. 

Please check their website https://www.embraceni.org for more details of those Biblical and practical resources and some exciting seminars they are doing. 

And it would bless Fr Martin and my heart if you could feel able to donate to our Big 60th Birthday Fund - https://www.embraceni.org/donations/

There might be an Emma Raducanu out there but be sure there will be another human that God loves preciously who needs the welcome help of Jesus followers rather than being turned back to France without a Jesus welcome. 


20 YEARS SINCE 9/11 - Stop The Spinning Wheel

911-attacks-guantanamo-trial

 

On the 10th of September 2001 Clive Gregson was gigging in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He encored with The Beatles song Across The Universe and and crowd sang over and over, "Nothing's going to change my world..."

In the morning the same crowd woke up and watched the world change before their TV News eyes. 9/11. Twenty years ago. Where were you, everyone is asking?

It was quite a strange way that I got to see the news live. My friend Shane Tucker, now back living in Delaware, Ohio was in my Chaplaincy cafe. He wanted to show me a video. As we tried to get it going the TV cut in and there was news of a plane hitting the Twin Towers. But for Shane I wouldn't have been watching TV.

We watched and the second plane hit. Shane immediately knew it was a terrorist attack and was on the phone to his father in America. He said to me - Bin Laden. I am not sure we ever watched his video.

I don't know when I wrote this poem. Somewhere between the terrorist attack of that tragic day and the idea of going to war in response. It takes me back to the day and I think brings Jesus revolutionary ideas into all such moments.

 

Do you remember when the sky exploded

Do you remember the sick stench of rubble and skin

Do you remember the children left waiting in nurseries

Do you remember the funerals without a coffin

Do you remember the lingering fidgeting agitation

Do you remember the paralysis of nothing you can do

Do you remember Jesus saying, “Do unto others

As you would have them do unto you.”

 

Do you remember the heart of the nation crumble

Do you remember the rip in the lining of your soul

Do you remember the day fair could not be mended

Do you remember despair spiralling out of control

Do you remember the news men lost for words

Do you remember fiction blurring into what’s true

Do you remember Jesus saying, “Do unto others

As you would have them do unto you.”

 

And in vengeances vicious circle

In the perpetual cycle of hate

Someone has to stop the spinning wheel

Or everything’s gonna be too late

Jesus said, “Do unto others

As you would have them do unto you.”

That grace can blow holes in our waging of war

So that peace can squeeze through.

 

Do you remember nowhere left to run

Do you remember the long cast shadow of death

Do you remember the people falling, falling, falling

Do you remember the fear for your next breath

Do you remember the panic ‘neath the dust of hell

Do you remember the heroes trying to make it through

Do you remember Jesus saying, “Do unto others

As you would have them do unto you.”

 

And in vengeances vicious circle

In the perpetual cycle of hate

Someone has to stop the spinning wheel

Or everything’s gonna be too late

Jesus said, “Do unto others

As you would have them do unto you.”

That grace can blow holes in our waging of war

So that peace can squeeze through.