'U2 Eucharists' radicalising the faithful in US

'U2 Eucharists' radicalising the faithful in US

By staff writers
4 Apr 2006

'U2 Eucharists' radicalising the faithful in US

-04/04/06

The words of the charismatic U2 front man, Bono, are ringing out from pulpits across the United States.

The Irish rock band's songs and lyrics are being used by the Episcopal Church in "U2 Eucharists" as a means of exploring the Christian faith in the context of Bono's social activism, reports the Scotsman newspaper.

The newspaper reports that in parishes from California to Maine, worshippers are flocking to hear U2 classics such as Beautiful Day, Pride and Peace on Earth rolled into a service of prayer.

The U2 Eucharist was devised by the Rev Paige Blair, a parish priest in York Harbor, Maine, and it has since spread through word-of-mouth and on clerical websites.

At All Saints' Church in Atlanta, Georgia, organisers had planned for 300 worshippers, and instead had to contend with 500, while at the Grace Episcopal Church in Providence, Rhode Island, as many people turned up for a Friday night U2 Eucharist as normally turn up on a Sunday morning.

While U2 songs are not yet listed in the Episcopal Church's authorised hymnal, Ms Blair believes it is only a matter of time. She said: "I seriously think the day will come. There's a gift they have in speaking to the human soul."

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She came up with the idea after a sermon about the One Campaign, the Bono-backed initiative designed to alleviate global poverty and fight AIDS. She quoted equally from Bono and the Bible and included the lead singer's line: "Where you live should not determine whether you live or die."

Instead of a hymn, the service began with one of U2's earliest hits, Pride (In the Name of Love). As the music played, pictures of famous believers, including Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, flashed on a 10ft by 4ft screen behind the altar.

Other songs included in the service were Peace on Earth, which was inspired by a fatal bombing in Northern Ireland and which questions why God does not halt human suffering; during it, Bono sings: "Jesus, can you take the time to throw a drowning man a line." Also played was 40, in which Bono echoes the 40th Psalm, singing: "I waited patiently for the Lord. He inclined and heard my cry."

Many Christians have long seen U2's frontman as a latter-day prophet. But the Episcopal Church in the US has been among the first institutional church to recognise the band's power. A few years ago two of its priests edited a book of sermons based on U2 songs entitled Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog.

Bono has however provoked criticism from fans and even members of his own band for his close involvement with the US president, George Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, both of whom he lobbied last year as part of the Make Poverty History campaign.

In February, he joined Mr Bush at the national prayer breakfast in Washington, and told the gathered clergy: "I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather ... I'm the first to admit that there's something unnatural, something unseemly, about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents, and then disappearing to their villas in the south of France."

Bono spoke at the Labour Party conference in 2005.

The words of the charismatic U2 front man, Bono, are ringing out from pulpits across the United States.

The Irish rock band's songs and lyrics are being used by the Episcopal Church in "U2 Eucharists" as a means of exploring the Christian faith in the context of Bono's social activism, reports the Scotsman newspaper.

The newspaper reports that in parishes from California to Maine, worshippers are flocking to hear U2 classics such as Beautiful Day, Pride and Peace on Earth rolled into a service of prayer.

The U2 Eucharist was devised by Dylan Breuer. It was announced in 2003 and the first public service was held in Baltimore, Maryland in April of 2004. Breuer chose and led the music with a live band and wrote some of the prayers. The Eucharistic prayers were written by the Rev. Ken Phelps, and the PowerPoint visuals were by Kathleen Capcara.

The U2 Eucharist was devised by the Rev Paige Blair, a parish priest in York Harbor, Maine, and it has since spread through word-of-mouth and on clerical websites.

Rev Paige Blair, from Gathering the Next Generation (GTNG), the network for Episcopalian members of 'Generation X,' decided to host her first U2charist at St. George's in York Harbor, Maine in 2005, making use of the liturgy from the first U2charist in Baltimore.

At All Saints' Church in Atlanta, Georgia, organisers had planned for 300 worshippers, and instead had to contend with 500, while at the Grace Episcopal Church in Providence, Rhode Island, as many people turned up for a Friday night U2 Eucharist as normally turn up on a Sunday morning.

While U2 songs are not yet listed in the Episcopal Church's authorised hymnal, Ms Blair believes it is only a matter of time. She said: "I seriously think the day will come. There's a gift they have in speaking to the human soul."

Rev Paige Blair decided to put on the eucharist after a sermon about the One Campaign, the Bono-backed initiative designed to alleviate global poverty and fight AIDS. She quoted equally from Bono and the Bible and included the lead singer's line: "Where you live should not determine whether you live or die."

Instead of a hymn, the service began with one of U2's earliest hits, Pride (In the Name of Love). As the music played, pictures of famous believers, including Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, flashed on a 10ft by 4ft screen behind the altar.

Other songs included in the service were Peace on Earth, which was inspired by a fatal bombing in Northern Ireland and which questions why God does not halt human suffering; during it, Bono sings: "Jesus, can you take the time to throw a drowning man a line." Also played was 40, in which Bono echoes the 40th Psalm, singing: "I waited patiently for the Lord. He inclined and heard my cry."

Many Christians have long seen U2's frontman as a latter-day prophet. But the Episcopal Church in the US has been among the first institutional church to recognise the band's power. A few years ago two of its priests edited a book of sermons based on U2 songs entitled Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog.

Bono has however provoked criticism from fans and even members of his own band for his close involvement with the US president, George Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, both of whom he lobbied last year as part of the Make Poverty History campaign.

In February, he joined Mr Bush at the national prayer breakfast in Washington, and told the gathered clergy: "I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather ... I'm the first to admit that there's something unnatural, something unseemly, about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents, and then disappearing to their villas in the south of France."

Bono spoke at the Labour Party conference in 2005.

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