Allow me to let you into a secret – I’m shy. I know in the past I’ve found an outlet for humour, creativity and energy through drama and kids’ action songs on a conference stage, but those days are a fair bit into the past now. I enjoy preaching and leading worship and pastoral calls, but those activities seen by many as the main ‘work’ of a minister drain me and I need space afterwards to be renewed. It takes me a while to make friends, and to be honest I tend to be overawed by any ‘famous’ people who happen to be in the same room as me. Getting an autograph (or these days, a selfie) isn’t particularly on my agenda at festivals, concerts or cafes when I’m in their presence.
Which is why you’re getting this picture instead of one with Martin Smith and me looking like bosom buddies:
He was playing in Belfast at the weekend, singing solo with a great team of musicians who aren’t Delirious?. The venue was intimate, not at all like the large-scale performances of the past at the King’s Hall or Belfast Waterfront Hall. The musicianship was fantastic. And as the night continued I enjoyed listening to Smith’s new material as well as singing along with old favourites. At the end of the evening he hopped down off the stage and chatted with folks who had gathered to greet him. Not including me of course – I’m shy!
But I also tend to linger at the end of things, whether church services, movies or in this case, concerts. And as I chatted with friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, I became more aware that it might be possible to also have a quick word with Mr. Smith. It struck me that the Cutting Edge, Delirious?, CompassionArt and now Smith’s solo works had all affected me positively for a long time.
For instance, rewind a good few years to a summer day in Belfast, Kathryn and I are in town doing some shopping only to return to our car to find a window smashed in and our digital camera (which in the early noughties were fairly expensive items) stolen out of the glove box. The sense of loss and violation, combined with the hassle of contacting police and driving home with a bin bag taped over the glass (not a pleasant experience in the rain!) would have justified a nice quiet night at home. But we had tickets to see Delirious? at the Summer Madness festival so we halfheartedly headed back to the city. My wife was understandably upset but gently encouraged as the band started singing, ‘Every little thing’s gonna be alright… There is someone who can carry you’. It was like a shot in the arm, though, when in a repeat chorus, Martin Smith sang, “Every little thing’s gonna be alright, KATHRYN…” What a wonderful combination of circumstance and listening to the Spirit, for a simple song to communicate God’s loving presence with his children. Yes, we had lost some photos and it was awkward dealing with insurance to restore the car and the camera. But we left that place knowing God cared for us and was with us in the little things.
So last Saturday night I pushed back on my introversion and shook hands with Mr. Smith, and told him how I felt (other introverts will recognise that I had spent a few minutes rehearsing in my head the exact words I would say!) – “I just wanted to say Thank You. Your songs have nourished my soul for twenty years.”
And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
Here’s a version of that song (not from Belfast!), and you can find the lyrics here: