U2charist launches Episcopalian anti-poverty drive
The Bob Dylan-inspired ëLove Rescue Meí blared from the loudspeakers in the Columbus Ohio Renaissance Hotel ballroom, as more than 700 US Episcopal Church worshippers gathered for an ëU2charistí in support of the UNís anti-poverty drive.
The louder-than-usual prelude to a joyous celebration on 13 June 2006 highlighted the arrival in town of the Episcopal Church USA general convention ñ which, among other things, will have to wrestle with often bitter arguments about homosexuality currently raging in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
But the specific purpose of this service was to highlight hope not division ñ it was an embracing in worship of the Millennium Development Goals set forward by the United Nations: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, ensure environmental sustainability and create a global partnership for development.
The U2charist also focused on the ONE Campaign ñ the US wing of Make Poverty History, and featured (as its name suggests) the music of the Irish rock band U2 and its campaigning lead singer, Bono.
The Rev Paige Blair, deputy from the Diocese of Maine and an U2charist advocate, said she was "overwhelmed" at the response of the crowd and invited worshippers to let the Holy Spirit move their bodies to the music and move their lives ñ to the rhythm of justice.
Participants did just that, on their feet, dancing and clapping to the opening hymn, ëMysterious Ways,í which reminded people "to touch is to heal, to hurt is to steal. If you want to kiss the sky, [youíd] better learn how to kneel..."
The Rt Rev Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina, challenged the large and enthusiastic group to "be a witness" for Christ. "Come to the Christ in those who struggle, to the Christ in those crying out to be cared for, to the Christ in children who must never go to bed hungry again," he called out to loud responses of "Amen!"
He paraphrased the Rt Rev Steven Charleston who has said that the most important question Episcopalians will answer is, "What witness will we make?"
"It is time for us to do something unexpected and wonderful; it is the moment to practice what we preach!" Curry quoted Charleston, to cheers.
Bishop Curry went on to say that the MDGs were part of a Gospel-based discipleship, "a way for us to discover life again as a Church ... a compelling vision of the world God intended from the beginning."
In some parts of the Anglican world, the US Episcopal Church is being accused of being a lifeless, biblically void vessel because of the affirmative stance many of its members are taking towards lesbian and gay people. Those reporting on the U2charist event say that it is very much alive.
With grateful acknowledgments to Carol E. Barnwell of the Episcopal News Service.
[Also on Ekklesia: 'U2 Eucharists' radicalising the faithful in US; New u2 album explosive in its theology; Bono launches new line in phones - and edits a national newspaper; A Powerful Voice: The Story of Bono from "U2"; Bono unhappy with songís ëGodí line; Bono is hot tip for Nobel Peace Prize; Christian campaigner records famous 'thank God' line for Band Aid; Eradicating poverty 'like eating ice cream' churches told; Plight of AIDS children fails to stir US Evangelicals]