U2 Eucharist returns at First Presbyterian

Springfield’s First Presbyterian Church becomes a “rock ’n’ roll” church Saturday with a worship service featuring the music of superstar Irish band U2.

U2 Eucharist — Six will feature music recorded by U2, plus performances by the Southeast High School Sensations vocal music group, and musicians playing saxophone and African drums. The service also will raise money for the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region.

Eucharist will be offered, and food from around the globe will be served.

The Rev. Clifford J. Hayes, pastor of First Presbyterian, said Saturday’s service recasts U2’s music that is usually heard in secular settings as part of a worship service that draws people of a variety of faiths.

And while the service will feature live and recorded music, it’s not a concert.

“It’s not a performance. It’s participatory,” Hayes said. “You’re not coming to listen to U2 music. You come to sing along.”

Hayes said the sixth U2 Eucharist service the church has hosted will raise money for the people of the Darfur region of the African country of Sudan.

According to an Associated Press article, Sudan’s Arab-led government has been battling ethnic African rebels in Darfur since 2003. Up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million driven from their homes. Leaders there have not been allowing humanitarian groups to work in the region in recent weeks.

Hayes said U2’s primary songwriter, Bono, allows his music to be used for services that help people who are living on less than $2 a day.

This is the fourth local celebration that will help Darfur. Other causes First Presbyterian has helped with the U2 Eucharist are children orphaned when their parents died after developing AIDS and purchasing mosquito nets to stop the spread of malaria.

Since forming in the late 1970s, U2 has addressed weighty subjects in its music — “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is about a 1972 mass shooting in Northern Ireland, and “Pride (In the Name of Love)” is about the life and death of civil rights leader Martin Luther King. The band has continued tackling politics and social justice in its songs, even as it experimented with dance music and other styles.

Band members have publicly said they are practicing Christians, and later U2 recordings include the songs “Jesus Christ” and “God, Part 2.”

Lead singer Bono in particular has raised his profile outside of music, using his celebrity to tout causes ranging from eliminating malaria in Africa and spending more money on education to feeding the hungry. Bono has become famous outside of the band for getting audiences with world leaders and addressing the United Nations General Assembly.

But when people gather Saturday at First Presbyterian on Saturday, Hayes said he hopes there is a feeling of community here in Springfield.

“At the end, we play the song ‘One’ (one of the band’s biggest hits),” Hayes said. “Instead of people recessing out, we ask people to get tight together up front and come together symbolically as one. The emotions are just palpable. It’s a powerful experience.”