Tribute to my hero friend: Ray Shiels

In the early hours of yesterday morning I heard the very sad news that my dear friend and fellow Every Nation Europe church planter Ray Shiels had passed away after a long-standing bout of cancer.  While our grief is deep, even deeper are our feelings for Rays incredible wife Claudine, and his two awesome teenage sons Jack and Sam. And off course Rays father and family.  We give them our sincerest condolences, and pledge our whole-hearted support to to help them and the Dublin church with whatever they need now and in the future.

It was about 7 years ago that Ray & Claudine sat with Ali & I in our lounge in London and shared with us their dream to plant an Every Nation church in Dublin, where Ray had grown up. It has been an incredible privilege to send them out and cover and support them from our church in London, and to see Jesus build His church in Dublin over these years.

After preaching my Sunday morning message for the London service to a video camera at 3am (!), I was on a 7am flight to Dublin to be with our church there to share the sad news and support them at their Sunday morning service. This is a very special group of God’s people – and Jesus’ promise to build His church not matter what still stands: Watch this space for the incredible church rising here in future…

On the flight to Dublin yesterday I penned these words in an attempt to express my memories of this great husband, father, preacher, pastor, architect, and very good friend:

“Ray was my friend and my Irish Kingdom co-labourer. A man with an infectious convincing passion for life, and for His Lord Jesus Christ.  He walked worthy of His calling, not settling for the rewards and honour of this world. He dreamt big. As a high-flying architect he had been a part of planning and architecting many magnificent structures around the world, but his greater dream was for the church which Jesus Christ is building. He stayed true to what he believed. He always hoped. He fought bravely. He lived by conviction, definitely not for convenience and comfort. He died to self, long before he died yesterday.

Ray was a man in love with his wife Claudine. He was so proud of his two sons Jack and Sam who are fast becoming men, and who will now be forced to grow even faster. He knew and lived out his priorities of family first.

I had the privilege of laughing with Ray, of dreaming with Ray, of praying with Ray, of crying with Ray, of planning and planting churches with Ray, of standing on the upper slopes of great Alpine mountains and skiing down with Ray, and eating Goulash and drinking Glu-wien at the bottom…

Ray loved music, but more than music he loved worship, and I like thousands of others I had the privilege of worshipping with Ray. His saxophone and Irish penny-whistle seemed irresistible to the Holy Spirit. Ray brought a new sound to Ireland. He raised the spiritual temperature there. He worked for unity among the ministers and churches, and saw great fruit in this through the “Arise Dublin” initiative.

I was challenged by Ray’s life and by His passionate preaching of Gods Word. The most impacting message I ever heard himpreach was at our London church men’s weekend last year, which he entitled “Let your pain be your pulpit.” It was the story and lessons from his struggle with the cancer up to that point. It was the best “apologetic for suffering” I have ever heard (And I have heard many, by the best!). He challenged us as men to live beyond all excuses and comfort zones. He spoke of being willing to give it all up and lay your life down for the cause of Christ, if that’s what it required. Our recording equipment failed for that session, and that message was never recorded. But Ray’s life will keep telling the Great Story. His pain WAS his pulpit, and continues to be. I am sure that Ray would want nothing less than that our own pain at his loss would at this time also be our pulpit to tell the Great Story of the life which he had found through faith and hope in Christ as Saviour and Lord – a life which Ray is right now living in its fullness for eternity.

I look forward to worshipping our King Jesus again with Ray in eternity. I know that we can’t take anything with us from this life to the next, but I do hope that Ray will have his sax and Irish penny-whistle with him there, because eternity, like the past, will be all the richer with it! Until then, I and we will miss you deeply my friend.”

Live life to the max – like Ray did…

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” – Jesus

The next part  below is not part of the original post, but is pasted from a follow up post to the above, which I wrote following Rays funeral where I shared the message:

In my previous blog I shared some of my personal reflections on the sad passing away of my friend and co-Europe church planter Ray Shiels, who together with his wife Claudine founded and pastured our great church in Dublin, Ireland. Over 4000 people have viewed that tribute I wrote, which is an obvious testimony to the many people whose lives Ray deeply touched.

Allow me for a moment to put on my preachers hat, and share with you some thoughts from my message at Ray’s funeral service in Dublin:

ANSWERS & ANCHORS…

I start with acknowledging that I do not understand at all why Ray died. If I were God, from my perspective, I would not have let him die.  I know that “ to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” but right now heaven’s gain seems certainly to be our loss.  As we try to make sense of the why? of this tragic loss of a friend/husband/father/pastor/ musician, I am aware that there are no easy answers. At the same time I know that life is not simple, and cannot be understood looked at from just one perspective. It is like a ship with one anchor which starts to drag, but then we throw out a few more anchors and these hold the ship steady in the storm. Just so, while I can’t make sense of it from one perspective, I do find that there are other strong anchors of hope and promise which can hold us all in this storm of life. Here are 3 of these relevant to us in this sad time:

1.       The promise of comfort to those who mourn:

In Matthew 5:4 Jesus said: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  – Mourning begins with weeping, and helps us in time to a place of being able to “live without.”  “Jesus wept”, and He still heals the broken hearted.

2.       The promise of a better resurrection when there is no resurrection in this life:

In John 11:25 Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies….Do you believe this?”  I remind you about what Ray believed: That God loved him. That his sin separated him from God. That Christ died for the penalty of his sin. That because he repented and received Christ as his Lord and Saviour, he was forgiven and born again and right with God. That he had received the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ, and that “though he died, he will live.” My friends, do you believe this? If not, would you consider this, and like Ray repent and turn in faith towards a God who loves you?  We may be separated now, but we can all join Ray in his “better resurrection” for eternity.

3.       The promise of the church’s future:

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said: “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.”  Every Nation Dublin was not Rays church, but Jesus’ church. God’s plans and purposes continue and we know that we will be amazed at what will grow out of this seed that has “fallen to the ground and died.”

Hebrews 6:19 says that “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain…” – Ray has gone “behind the curtain” – may our anchors hold us firm and secure to continue living for Christ in this life, until we join him there. God bless you.

44 thoughts on “Tribute to my hero friend: Ray Shiels

  1. Wolfi, thanks for the great tribute. I first saw Ray at the Innsbruck conference before he became ill. I did not know him at the time, but when I heard him speak I remember asking the Lord, “Just give me a measure of this man’s joy and enthusiasm!”

    Since then it was a privilege to get to know him over the years, and even in the midst of sickness and trials he was always able to impart encouragement and faith. He will be dearly missed.

  2. Cindy

    I did not know Pastor Ray except by email and prayers but now through your tribute I can see what an amazing legacy he has left. My prayers go out to Claudine and the boys. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Pastor Ray preached at our church in a time that my rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments was at the worst. The first thing I had noticed even before I knew that he was the pastor about the preach was that he was part of the worship team that morning with his irish whistle blowing with such passion and mostly joy. His message about going into the deep, was not only deep and inspiring me to go deeper but what amazed me most was the life in his words and the joy in his voice. I then found the podcast and downloaded it and occasionally later listened to it. When pastor ray preached again he preached about the valley of the shadow of death, and still i have to say he is one of my favourite pastors even though I had only heard him speak twice. I recall speaking to him afterwards…

    I know without a doubt where Pastor Ray is, and I know he is extremely happy where he is. however I will say this news does make me a little sad and earth has lost one of the best, but I trust that God will continue to grow the seeds Pastor Ray by his example his love, his life and smile has tried to impart in us.

    To Pastor Rays family, may God’s peace surround you like a shield and comfort you when no one else can and like no one else can…

    God bless you

  4. Damian Tyrrell

    I have not spoken to Ray since the summer of 1983. I am his cousin from Canada. This news of his passing makes myself and our family sad. I believe with our prayers that God will comfort Claudine, Jacka and Sam and all Rays family and friends.

    We pray for God to bless you all.

  5. Ray was a beacon of life and hope to all who knew him. Though I knew him little, was around him only a few times, his impact was deep. Praise God for Ray and his example of total surrender and joy in the Holy Spirit. Can’t wait to see you in God’s presence Ray! Dance a jig for me!

    God’s best strength to Claudine, Jack, and Sam!

    We love you and are praying for the family and friends and church.

  6. Mark Shiels

    My brother has passed away peacefully and happily after a long and difficult illness.
    His father, brothers, sister and relatives are all completely devastated by his passing
    and await his return home with Claudine, Jack and Sam.

    Of course we have lots of happy memories of our Brother, Son and most importantly Friend and right now it’s very difficult to imagine that we cannot share more of life with Ray.

    Raymond’s life was characterised by happiness, positivity, creativity and a musical prowess that knew no bounds. He took on many great challenges in life and the way he faced into his battle with cancer showed what a special person he was.

    Ray will be deeply missed by all the friends he grew up with, his school and college buddies, musical colleagues (of which there are many) and most importantly Claudine, Jack and Sam.

    All of our love and support to them at this dificult time.

    RIP Brother

  7. Wes Hinsley

    I found Ray to be the kind of man that spending just a few moments with, would make you want to spend far longer – listening to him and trying to absorb some of that buoyant sparkling irrepressible sense of life, that overuled the great trials endured.

    It was a joy to share some times of worship in London with Ray playing a diverse and wonderful variety of instruments he would bring – just to make that particular sound he wanted at the right time. He sincerely encouraged me with writing music too, at times where it was greatly needed.

    I will miss him very much. I am one of many who might say that over the years, time with Ray, his character, encouragement and friendship, has made them far stronger and richer in life.

    With love and prayers to all of you, family and friends.

  8. Anonymous

    “You will come to the grave in full vigor,
    like sheaves gathered in season”- Job 5:26

    Ray will be missed so much. We looked to him as a mentor, a brother and friend. He solemnized at our wedding in August 2005. We look back on that wonderful day and the days preceeding where Ray helped us prepare with many, many fond and happy memories.

    We are praying for Claudine, Jack, Sam and Ray’s dad and brothers and sisters.

  9. Rich Barber

    I recall that my first experiences of Ray were musical – be it his goosebump initiating Shofar blowing to open up a Bible School graduation, or having the privilege of playing bass to his sax at Jon & Lana Silk’s wedding all those years ago – but more than that – as Wolfi mentioned – the thing that struck me in his speech was how his eyes saw always beyond the purely musical and into a realm of worship that could melt the hardest heart, and break down the mightiest worldly fortress.

    Since then, every time I’ve met Ray, he’s been an incredible inspiration to draw close to God, rejoice in his presence, fight heavenly battles with the power of love and the Spirit and to never be afraid to let the creative voice of God be heard through you as you worship and sing yourself into his presence! His absence now from us in the body leaves a gap that it’s hard to comprehend, but let’s pray his legacy will live on in all the lives he’s blessed.

    Rest in God, dear Ray…

  10. Michael Swain

    Wolfi – you have said it so well.

    Ray was without doubt one of the finest and greatest men of God that I have ever known. He is a peerless example of a life well lived and a race well run. I have every confidence that the seeds of faith that he sowed and the example he set will yet be powerfully used by God to accomplish His kingdom purposes for Dublin, for Ireland and even the nations of the world.

    On a personal level, it was one of the greatest privileges of my live to have counted Ray as a brother. He was more than just a friend to me. I will miss him greatly but know that the day will surely come when we (and all those who know Christ and who loved Ray) will be together again and with the Lord for all eternity.

  11. Noel Brennan

    Ray will be missed deeply. He was one of the deepest and truest men I’ve ever met. He spent himself on others, never ceasing to give. He taught me many things that I will carry throughout my life and will have the privilege of passing on his teaching and example to my son.
    My deepest condolences to Claudine, Jack and Sam and his father, brothers and sister.
    Our loss is heavens gain.

  12. Susan Farrelly, Georgina & Denis Miller

    This is from Ray’s cousin Sue and his Aunt and Uncle Georgina and Denis. Ray was a wonderful kind and gentle person. The last time we were lucky enough to have spent time with Ray and his family was two years ago at a family gathering. Ray’s family and ours were very close, as children we spent holidays together and had some great times. We are very sorry to have lost Ray so early in his life but will remember him dearly. Our sympathys are with Claudine, Jack and Sam now.

  13. Fiona Crilly

    This is from Ray’s cousin. You will be sadly missed by us all. Rest in peace with Marie and the rest of our dearly departed. Much love to Claudine, Jack and Sam may they find the strength to deal with the loss of such a great husband and father.

  14. Anonymous

    Last year Ray baptised people in a freezing cold lake in Ireland, he was bald, and slim from treatment but continued to lift God up and bring others to Him. I know that everyone is comforted by the fact that Ray is now with his wonderful Father and Lord whom he loved so passionately. Ray, you changed so many people’s lives.

    I pray God will provide the strength, love and support that Claudine , Jack and Sam will want through this time. x

  15. Ewan and Laura

    I (laura) was a singaporean student at Trinity College and had the honour of being nurtured and disciplied by Pastor Ray and Claudine; and have seen the EN Dublin church grow.

    Pator Ray’s life was the kind we’d want to imitate, as he’d imitate Christ.
    He lived abundantly and one thing i’d always remember was his words always overflowed with joy, life and love.

    Pastor Ray and his family are very dearly loved by us all (international students who have since graduated and returned to their home countries to work)

    Pastor Claudine is a real Proverbs 31 woman.
    Jack and Sam are mighty in the Lord as their father is.
    May the Lord give you beauty for ashes…

    Our love and prayers goes out to the shiels family
    Ewan and Laura

  16. Thomas, Cindy, and Hannah

    This is from Ray’s brother-in-law and family. We will miss Ray enormously. Our love goes out to Claudine, Jack, and Sam.

  17. Liz Brown (nee Miller)

    From another cousin in Glasgow: Ray was some kind of wonderful guy, loved by everyone who knew him. I last saw him and his lovely wife and children at a family get together a few years ago and as usual he was ever cheerful. His Mum is looking after him now. My most deepest sympathy to Claudine, Jack and Sam, my much loved Uncle Noel and the rest of the family.

  18. Todd O'Heron

    Pastor Wolfi – very nice page.

    I unfortunately was only able to meet Ray personally once, towards the end of his time with us here in Nashville though we corresponded many times from great distances. He was at our church the week before he went to heaven – and was very weak. As I approached him to introduce myself, he had his eyes closed and was resting. I greeted him with “Dia duit mo chara”. I don’t know if I even got it right, but before his eyes even opened the most incredible smile came over his face! How wonderful that smile must have been in full health! It’s a small but precious moment I will treasure until we meet again in Eternity.

    The Lord says in Ezekiel 22 “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land”. Ray was that man for Ireland. God called him to stand in the gap for Eire, and he rose mightily to the occasion. Hopefully the tireless work that Ray did has already prepared more people to follow his example.

    My sympathies to Claudine, Jack, Sam, other family, friends, and everybody else who loved this man. Beannacht Dé leat!

  19. Jacques Viljoen (South Africa)

    I had the recent pleasure of meeting Pastor Ray and his family on my recent visit to Dublin. My sincere condolences goes out to the family with a loss of a great father, husband and friend. My sincere wishes during this time of mourning. And may God be with you all.

    God Bless

  20. Mike Brownnutt

    I heard Ps. Ray preach several years ago at Easter in Dublin, on his first Sunday back after a long time away due to the cancer.

    The verse he took as his sermon title was from Ps 118: “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.” As he gave his testimony, he recounted how the doctor had been surprised that – upon first diagnosis of cancer – Ray had not asked the usual question of how long he had left. When the doctor queried this, Ray told him “Because you do not know, and it is not your call. I know the One whose decision it is, and He will make it in His own time.”

    From many men that may have been denial or empty bravado. But seeing how Ps. Ray lived, he knew it and held it to be true. He knew in whose hands his life and death were held. It was, and is, an encouragement and a challenge to me. He is a truly Mighty Man of God.

    I recall he also gave Claudine flowers.

  21. Cousin John Wife Helena Sons Jake Nathan Ryan

    Well what can one say “Ray your a lovely guy “you will be sadly missed by all. Our thoughts and prayers are with you Claudine Jack and Sam.

  22. Anonymous

    I didn’t have the privilege to really get to know Pastor Ray, but he once prayed with me for someone who was also suffering from cancer here in London. The little contact I had with him was enough for me to realise what a great man of God he was, he is, full of faith, full of love. He run his race and finished well and I believe that the seeds Pastor Ray sowed will continue to grow and produce good fruit for many years to come.

    Claudine, Jack, Sam and family – our thoughts and prayers are with you at this time! May our Lord give you the courage, the strength and the wisdom to carry on Ray’s legacy. Remember that you are not alone, not never! May our God bless you always!

  23. Joanne Fazzari (nee - Tyrrell)

    My prayers are with Claudine , Jack and Sam and my Uncle Noel and all the Shiels family at this time. I am also a cousin of Ray’s from Canada. I left Ireland in 1971 and never made it back to reunite with my family there. Maybe one day I can go back to meet Claudine and Jack and Sam. Just know that my thoughts , prayers and love are with you.

  24. Greg Chapman

    With great sadness we bid farewell to Ray. What a wonderful example to us all of selflessness and commitment in everything he set his hand to.

    Playing “Amazing Grace” on his penny whistle during his last days in Nashville was such a picture of Ray’s total reliance on the grace of God.

    God’s comfort and blessings on you Claudine, and your two strong young men of God.

  25. Thank you Ps Wolfi for the tribute. I was so sad when hearing about this. i can remember how much we trusted God and prayed into Dublin and for Ps Ray and his family.

    I trust that we as believers can stand together during this time for the family and the Church in Ireland.

    God bless!! Niel

  26. Jacki

    One of my favourite memories of Ray was him playing his penny whistle at the World Conference in 2004, while the parade of countries was going on.

    I also remember sensing that God was doing something very special when Ray and Claudine were sent out from London to plant a church in Dublin. The church they planted there is testament to that and I know God hasn’t finished His work in Dublin yet. Your spiritual family around the world look forward to seeing what God will do in and through you in the months and years to come.

    Claudine, Jack and Sam, my prayers and love are with you.

    Ps 34:18
    The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

  27. Rita Ivie

    I am Ray’s cousin from Canada. I am very saddened to hear we have lost Ray. I last saw Ray at my Dad’s funeral over 3 years ago but have many happy childhood memories of him. My love amd prayers to Claudine, Jack, Sam, Uncle Noel, David, Paul, Mark, Ann and families and Ray’s family in Christ.

  28. Helen, (cousin) Martin (Uncle)

    It’s been a couple of years since we last saw Ray at a family gathering. We were very sad to hear of his passing. Ray had the most infectious smile, you couldn’t be sad in his company, he was a really wonderful person. Love and prayers to Claudine, Jack ,Sam, Noel, David, Paul , Mark and Ann.

  29. Vee Kaplen

    What a lovely tribute – thanks for that Wolfi
    I remember sitting in Ray and Claudine’s house on the floor and chatting till odd hours when we should have been home and in bed.
    The boys were still so little then too – it almost seems a world away – not to mention the fabulous times we’d have in Glenn’s band.

    Today can not have been easy for all who knew and loved him – but what an amazing life to celebrate.
    God bless all those left behind blessed by knowing Him through Ray

  30. colin hannon

    i cannot believe it. claudine im so sorry. i had decided it had been too long since i had heard from him i decided to look him up on the net…….i am devastated. i have known ray since he was 13 years old and even then he was an inspiration to me. we shared our music, our curiosities of life ,religion,enthusiams. i am too sad to say anymore except to claudine. be assured he loved you with all his heart, our meeting last christmas will remain one of the highlights of my life. please accept my most sincere condolences, Colin, Australia

    1. mary lally

      I cannot express how saddened I am to hear of Rays passing. We had great fun all through Rays college years and I have the most fantastic memories of that time. My thoughts are with his wife, children and family. I would have responded sooner had I known, it is all the more shocking finding out now, a year after his death. I am happy that Ray seemed to have such lovely people in his life and found peace and strength in his faith. My deepest sympathies, Mary Lally, Dublin

      1. Monica Flood

        I was thinking of Ray today and decided to check this site again. Like you Mary, we heard about it all very late. Everybody thought we knew. I think it’s the mark of the man that we all still think about him and he’s not forgotten and I remember all those fun times too.
        Monica Flood, Valencia

  31. Mark Shiels

    Colin….

    Another beautiful tribute.

    I sent you an email to an address I got from Claudine (@MSN)
    Give me a call if you need to.

    Mark

  32. Craig Timms

    Ray, Lesley & I are saddened to hear that you’ve gone to be with our Father. We haven’t communicated since you left for Ireland and we returned to SA. Nevertheless you are a good friend and fine example of a husband & father. You had a positive impact on our lives. Your cell groups were great.

    We’ll miss you.

    Claudine, Jack & Sam, may God strengthen you and comfort you and fill you with His love. Ray will definitely have your interests as top priority in the Lords presence.

    The story has not yet ended.

    Lots of love,
    Craig, Lesley, Aimee, Emma & Annabel.

  33. Deirdre O'Connor

    I heard the news of Ray’s passing from Colin on 24th October. I have been so saddened by this that I can’t begin to imagine how his family must feel. I too knew Ray when we were teenagers and loved him very much. We remained friends well into our twenties but we lost touch. I don’t even know how that came to happen. I knew he was back in Ireland and always meant to make contact but never got around to it which I deeply regret. Ray was a wonderful guy – so enthusiastic about life and so into his music and his art. I shall think of him, as I always do, when I look at one of his drawings which hangs on my living room wall. When we were young, not unusually, our group of friends was always searching for answers and I am so glad that Ray found them in God and his family. My sincere sympathy to Claudine, Jack, Sam and all of Ray’s family and friends. It is a privilege to have known him.

  34. Colum Colfer

    I found out about Ray’s passing a few months ago incidentally while surfing the net for out of contact friends. I was very shocked and saddened to hear the news.
    I played Irish music with Ray in London for a couple of hilarious years (around 1988-89)and I also knew him as a teenager in Dublin many years before that. He got me interested in playing the saxophone and whistle at that time and encouraged and helped me when I expressed an interest in studying architectural technology.
    Ray was a lovely guy with talent to spare who had time for everyone.
    Claudine, again my thoughts are with you, the boys and Ray’s family.
    Colum Melbourne

  35. Declan

    I’ve just today heard about Ray’s passing – I had the immense pleasure of playing in a band with him in the 80’s.. he and his sidekick Johnny O’Meara provided the sax texture for what was some of the most exciting music to come out of Dublin at the time – it’s ironic, because I learned the news about Ray after I had played the organ at a funeral service, and who should tap be on the shoulder but Johnny O’Meara – life is indeed funnypeculiar sometimes…my sympathies to his wife and family, who I never had the pleasure of knowing..his musical ideas and vitality of spirit still make me smile all these years later.

  36. jimmyobrien

    do you remember when we all went to wicklow
    to make a film.
    we had drinks then we went out to make a film called
    “TWO MOMENTS”
    Sorry but I was the idiot who psychoanalysed all the
    people who tried to analyse Enda.
    Ray told me later that people do not like to think.

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