Singing quartet mark decade of devotion

Simple Faith today: Glenn McClelland, Eddie Lister, Paul Cairns and Jonathan Welsh
Simple Faith today: Glenn McClelland, Eddie Lister, Paul Cairns and Jonathan Welsh

Paul Cairns can barely believe that it’s 10 years since he received a phone call from his younger brother Jonathan and their friend Eddie Lister asking him to come meet them in Pizza Hut in Glengormley right away.

“That’s where we were formed,” smiles the 38-year-old, who sings baritone for gospel quartet Simple Faith, and has been with the popular group since its very beginning, back in 2004.

“There was Eddie, Jonathan, my cousin Chris Black, and Lee Lowry, so there were five of us. We went to Chris’ house in Glengormley and started learning a song.

“That was a long day - from lunch time, right the whole way through to late at night - talking about it, listening to songs.

“We started reading and praying together.”

And he reveals that this connection through prayer, and talking to their Heavenly Father, formed and has continued to form the backbone of their existence - even now they still meet every week and pray together, talking through any problems they might have and bringing them to God.

The original line-up of the group has changed a little over the years, but today its members are Paul, who is originally from Carrickfergus, English-born Jonathan Welsh, the newest member and the man responsible for the deepest of deep sounding bass tone, which adds a wonderful depth to the group’s performances, lead singer Eddie Lister,from Carrickfergus, and tenor Glenn McClelland, who lives in Portadown.

Paul’s brother Jonathan left the band at the end of last year.

As well as ministering at times in Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, which is also the home church for most of the men, where they sing in front of 2,000 people, Simple Faith travel to churches and events across Ireland, Scotland and England, and have even been to America, where they ministered to audiences who adored their Southern Gospel style of singing.

They have also ministered in Norway, at major gospel outreach events at Belfast’s Ravenhill Rugby Ground and the Odyssey Arena, and have even enjoyed supporting singers like Andrae Crouch, Israel Houghton and New Breed in Dublin, Guy Penrod in Belfast, (this being Guy’s only UK concert) and Divine Authorities Gospel Concert headlined by George Hamilton IV.

Indeed, as Paul explains, their sound is inspired by the likes of The Gaither Vocal Band, The Old Paths, Philips, Craig and Dean, The Hoppers, and Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, and many more gospel artists.

And since their humble beginnings in a suburban fast food outlet, they have, Paul smiles, been blessed with six albums, Road to Redemption, The Cross, Defining Moment, Uncomplicated, Go Tell The World, and their latest one, which is due to the launched this weekend, He Can and He Will.

But in spite of their success on the international field, at the core of what they do is their desire to minister and spread God’s Word, sowing seeds into the hearts of men and women of all ages, not only encouraging and challenging the Christian, but also reaching the unsaved and letting them know that there is hope and joy in serving Christ.

“We all grew up in the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle Church - I was brought up in the church and dedicated by Pastor McConnell as a baby,” Paul tells me.

“I became a Christian 16 years ago,” he adds, explaining that even though he had always attended church and knew all about Jesus, simply “going to church doesn’t make you a Christian.”

He continues: “It’s having that relationship with God, and I was being a hypocrite. Probably because of previous mistakes, I just got to a point where I knew if I made a decision to go one way, that I would never get another opportunity with God.

“It was a build up of events (that led to me becoming a Christian). Pastor McConnell would have perhaps asked me something like, ‘what were you up to last night?’, because your life portrays how you are, and maybe my Saturday night was not seeing me live the way I should have been as a Christian, so then you’ve got to make that decision. I have never looked back.

“I fail and falter and fall every day, but praise God for his Grace, Mercy and forgiveness. I never would look back.

‘‘ I only look back and think, ‘thank you Lord for saving me and intervening at that particular time.’”

From he was a child, singing was Paul’s passion.

He joined the children’s and the youth choir and eventually, the Tabernacle Choir. “I always wanted to sing,” he says, adding that he grew up with gospel music and loved it.

Paul and Eddie had always talked about forming a group of some sort, and finally, in June 2004, that dream became a reality.

They chose their name after something original band member Lee Lowry said in prayer: “You know, it’s just a simple faith.” And so the group was ‘born’.

Paul reveals that Simple Faith came into being at a time when they needed to connect more deeply with Christ the most - their beloved dad had passed away just three months earlier. Not long after they were formed, Lee decided to step down; he subsequently went on to become a Baptist Pastor. Jonathan’s best friend Glenn McClelland replaced him and is still in the band.