The gospel according to U2 and Bono

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US church uses U2's songs to attract young worshippers

By STEPHEN MCGINTY

BONO has declared that he is not a man of the cloth, "unless that cloth is leather". But the words of the charismatic U2 front man are nevertheless ringing out from pulpits across the United States.

The Irish rock band's songs and lyrics are being used by the Episcopal Church in so-called "U2 Eucharists" as a means of attracting young people who relate to the group's social activism.

Earlier attempts by churches to connect to youth culture have usually involved ministers in open-toed sandals strumming acoustic guitars and singing Kumbaya to the general embarrassment of all. Yet, 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.

However, ear plugs are passed out with the Bibles and hymn sheets for those who prefer organ music.

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."

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."

Bono may favour black leather while on stage in front of an audience of millions, but to some believers, he can still act as a latter-day prophet, producing songs filled with Christian symbolism.

The Episcopal Church in the US has been among the first 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.

Yet Bono has provoked criticism from fans and even members of his own band for his close involvement with the US president, George Bush, a born-again Christian, 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."

The gospel according to U2

IN HER sermon, the Rev Paige Blair quoted from both Bono and the Bible and included the singer's line: "Where you live should not determine whether you live or die."

As an opening hymn, the service played one of the U2's earliest hits, Pride (In the Name of Love).

On a screen behind the altar, pictures of famous believers such as the Rev Martin Luther King jnr were flashed up as the music played.

Other songs included in the service were Peace on Earth, inspired by a fatal bombing in Northern Ireland and which questions why God does not halt human suffering.

Another song was 40, in which Bono echoes the 40th Psalm when he sings: "I waited patiently for the Lord. He inclined and heard my cry."

Copyright © 2006 Scotsman.com. All rights reserved.

Editor's Note: The first U2charist was my idea; it was announced in 2003 and the first public service was held in Baltimore, Maryland in April of 2004. I 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. Paige Blair, a good friend of mine from Gathering the Next Generation (GTNG), the network for Episcopalian members of \'Generation X,\' saw my posts to the GTNG email list about the U2charist and, when she decided in 2005 to host her first U2charist at St. George\'s, she made use of the liturgy from that first U2charist in Baltimore. If you need documentation, I\'d be glad to send you a copy with full headers of a June 2005 email from Paige acknowledging her receipt of the earlier liturgy as she was planning her first service, or you can refer to this BBC news article, which has the correct information: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/6517449.stm - Sarah Dylan Breuer/http://www.sarahlaughed.net

9 Comments

Actually Peter Gabriel and Jim Kerr (of Simple Minds) have written wonderful long songs that directly speak of their love for God. Peter Gabriel wrote a love song of wonderment in the song "In Your Eyes". He allowed it to be used in John Cusack's "SAy Anything" but he was very reticent about it. He has written many songs of love to God. The same with Jim Kerr ("Alive and Kicking" and "Come see about me" (from the Breakfast club.) Listen to these artists too. They actually have been in the fields of Darfur and Sudan actually working hard next to the townspeople since the early 1970s. They are not getting their pictures taken with presidents, being on the covers of magazines or making "Time magazine man of the year" and collecting millions for really nothing. Playing benefits doesn't cut it. Nor auctioning off guitars they were given by Gibson guitars and only autographing them for auctions. No funds from the band itself or actually working hard with the villagers and the poorest of the poor". Audrey Hepburn and Mia Farrow again spent years directly helping the poor. Bono isn't.

The Edge said it best: (Bono) is a bubble off plumb. Ask your parents or grandparents what that saying means.

They still haven't re-scheduled their "postponed" shows, have they. Find other icons of greatness. Yes they are a great rock band...just don't put them on pedestals.and "pray" to them.

I can see why 40 and Pride can be hooked to churches. But U2 of the 90's and beyond have written a lot that churches would go "whoa that came from Bono" I don't think churches would like songs like "zooropa where there are lyrics like "I have no religion and I don't know whats what to Wake up Dead Man. I think U2's symbolism is fixed in a period of time. Even in If God will Send Angels and Please Bono is as much of a critique of religion. Not saying he does not believe in it because he does but as U2 has said about America they are not afraid to tell America what they like about it and what they do not. I think U2 does the same with religion. Edge has said that he is not a believer of organized religion and Adam was angered when they joined the religious group Shalom in the ealy 80's So its all on Bono. U2 might have written the music but Bono wrote the words. U2 has many songs from that time period that has religious symbolism but the U2 of today are writing a different note even in the song City of Blinding Lights "Blessings are not just for the ones who kneel , luckily.

Hey Adam, I just heard you are engaged! Congrats and all my best wishes to you!! :-) here's to a lifetime of love and happiness. Way to go!

hey man and woman... yee-ha... it is fisherman luke here.. scraps some dirt off knee caps..
yeah.. my name is lucas...
true story.
let's get together in the grand canyon... and play a gig.
i can bring some water.

Its not all about what Bono does and criticising it, it should be a motivating factor for us to get up off our arses, and go and help thoes who need it all over the world for all "brothers and sisters". Ask your-selves today whatgood can i do for someone else? then put the plan into action.
Music can and often is a spiritual movement from the soul, long may all spiritualy uplifting music be played and listened to all over the world even in Church

I think it's GREAT that this is going on. U2 still puts out songs with very spiritual lyrics. I just think since the 90's Bono has expressed what many a christian in this day in age (including myself)have felt. Frustration, questions, religion and the churches failure as a whole to reach out beyond our little "clicks" to the people of the world. I think their music is perfect for church.

To BONO if you are listening,

the only way to make poverty history my friend is for people like you to speak out more directly AGAINST the imperialist governments of the US and Britain. These are the culprits(and thier cronies) who make the divide wider bewtween rich and poor! i know you know all this but if you tell as many people as you can at gigs, to vote for other parties(ie, the greens or any party that wont support so called "globalistation") is the only way we can bring about change. kick bush's ass, dont have breakfast with the murdering swine! dont let them buy you off with a few million bucks, you are one of the few hopes the world has....

keep it up big lad:-)

TO PAUL AND THE SQUARE JAWED ONE ,DRUMMER BOY AND ADAM THE FAIR DODGER IT'S ALL A GAME
BUT NONE THE LESS A GAME YOU CAN WIN DON'T LET THEM CRUSIFY YOU...KEEP UP THE HARD WORK....

Your are awesome u2 Bono you're doing good job body. I'm realy respect what you are doing around the world. I'll pray for you

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on April 3, 2006 12:52 PM.

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