This may be a leap a little far forward for Holy Innocents, but it’s a really interesting idea. It could certainly work for an evening prayer service or mid-week Eucharist. U2’s music is powerful, emotionally and spirtually intense; although it can sound harsh to older ears, it’s burnished with a touch of Celtic lilt, running through the melody like a golden thread.
Churches in the United States are weaving music from Irish rock band U2 with their more formal traditional liturgy.
Episcopal parishes from California to Maine are holding “U2 Eucharists” in an effort to make their services more attractive to young people interested in rock music and social activism.
At the Grace Episcopal Church in Providence, Rhode Island, the Rev Robert Brooks welcomed worshippers and then added some unusual advice – he warned them to protect their hearing, saying: “If the sound’s an issue, we do have earplugs available.”
Ushers handed out complementary ear plugs and fluorescent glow sticks for this communion service punctuated by U2’s rock music. Multicolour streamers flew over worshippers’ heads at the service, while children danced near the altar and plasma-screen TVs illuminated the gothic sanctuary. Some people sang and clapped – a few looked puzzled.
Brooks said the special service is part of an effort to reinvigorate his congregation by infusing it with young people and those interested in social activism. The service included an offering for local charities and enlisted volunteers for The One Campaign, an effort to alleviate global poverty and fight Aids that is backed by U2’s lead singer, Bono.
A similar U2 Eucharist in November proved popular at All Saints’ Church in Atlanta. Organiser Laurie Haynes Burlington said she and her husband planned on 300 worshippers – about 500 showed up.
It is not known whether U2’s band members would endorse such services and representatives for the band did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Christian Scharen, 39, a Lutheran pastor and professor at Yale Divinity School, said he has often argued to older colleagues that U2 is heavily influenced by Christianity. He wrote a book on the subject which is due out this year, “One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God,” and says it does not surprise him that churches have caught on to U2.
Bono has told interviewers that he worships God through music. He once belonged to an ascetic Christian community and the band’s early tapes were sold in religious bookstores. In February, Bono spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, attended by President George Bush and members of Congress.
But while U2 has conquered the Top 40 charts, it has not yet won a place in the Episcopal church’s authorised hymnal. “I seriously think the day will come,” said the Rev Paige Blair, a parish priest in York Harbor, Maine. “There’s a gift they have in speaking to the human soul.”
U2:Peace On Earth:All That You Can’t Leave Behind[4:48]