On song: Noted musician testifies to ‘God’s little ninja’

By Wendy Shaw

Stephen Kirk often talks about music as being ‘God’s little ninja’.

The Canberra-based musician provided an entrancing soundtrack to the Evangelium Conference at Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Launceston on 13 August.

The Archdiocese of Hobart organised the conference, which focused on making parishes places of outreach and mission.

In addition to his prayerful music, the Catholic singer-songwriter also presented a popular workshop on music as a tool for evangelisation.

The youngest in a Catholic musically-gifted family of six boys, one song was to have a profound impact on Stephen’s own return to the faith.

By the time he finished school, he felt that the Catholic Church was irrelevant to him. After a couple of years at university in Australia, he went on exchange to the University of California, San Diego, partly because it offered a gospel choir music program and also to escape his straight-laced life at home.

But music, in the form of ‘God’s little ninja’ – because it can sneak past people’s defences – had other plans.

“My cunning plan, young and foolish as I was, was to have a ‘prodigal son’ year. Lucky for me, God had other ideas,” said Stephen, now aged 51.

“I started singing in this enormous choir led by this beautiful man, Ken Anderson. He played this 1200-voice choir like his instrument. There was this one song called ‘Jesus is the center of my joy.’

“Listening to this song, and to Ken’s beautiful solo, I just had this experience of recognising the presence of God – that God was real and He was there with me. God, through the music, drew me to an encounter with Him and through that encounter my life was changed.

“Until then, I was doing my best to walk away from God. After, I was hungry. I had seen it, I had tasted it – just a slither of the beauty and wonder of God – and that changed the direction of my life.”  

However, Stephen emphasised that in using music as a tool for evangelisation, music is merely a vehicle to draw people into an encounter with Jesus.

“Music is not the source. Music is not the power,” he said. “The power is the Paschal Mystery made present to us in the liturgy.

“Your job, if you are using music in the liturgy, is not to add to the liturgy, it’s not to augment the liturgy. It is to unlock the power, the treasure, the wonder, the majesty, the glory that is there in the liturgy. It is to draw people into a living encounter with Christ.”

A father of six and a grandfather of one, Stephen works as a software expert. He hasas been a regular visitor to Tasmania over many years and was involved in the Archdiocese’s Gracefest events in 2019.

Evangelium host and the Archdiocese’s Director of Youth Evangelisation, Sam Clear, described Stephen Kirk as “one of Australia’s most beautiful singer-songwriters who dedicates everything to God”.

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