Taken U2 to Church

A minister will be swapping traditional hymns for tracks by rock band U2 at a communion service with a difference this weekend.

The Rev Nick Cook will perform as Bono for Leicestershire’s first U2charist, at St Hugh’s Church, Market Harborough, on Saturday.

The band – with Dick Callan as guitarist The Edge, Trevor Roach as bass player Adam Clayton and Alex Ulyett as drummer Larry Mullen Jr – will be performing seven of U2’s biggest hits, including One, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Pride (In The Name Of Love) and Where The Streets Have No Name.

Nick, who is minister of Harborough Baptist Church, said it was a first for the county.

“Well, I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said.

“It will be a fairly normal communion service, but whereas we’d normally have hymns, this will be interspersed with some classic U2 songs.

“I’ll be doing my Bono impression, although I’m not like him as a singer. He can sing slightly higher, so we’ve had to take a couple of songs down a notch.

“We haven’t talked about how we’re going to dress yet.

“I think we’ll be fairly casual but I’m not going to go out and buy the big shades.”

The first U2charist service took place in the United States, where a minister inspired by the spiritual content of some of U2’s hits got permission from the band to use their songs for worship without copyright charges.

The idea is to make the traditional service more appealing to a wider audience, particularly younger people.

The service in Market Harborough is expected to attract more than 100 people. Money raised will go to Christian Aid.

The event also aims to raise awareness of the Millennium Development Goals – eight objectives set by world leaders at the start of the millennium with the aim of halving the number of people living in poverty across the world by 2015.

The service has been organised by Nick and the Rev Andrew Quigley, from Harborough Anglican team, along with Christian Aid.

Andrew said: “There’s a lot of spiritual content in U2’s music and Bono is known for speaking out on issues such as poverty and raising funds.

“We thought bringing in the live music would make it appealing to younger people and maybe, for people who already support the service, it will perhaps help them see it in a fresh way.

“We want people to come because they like the music, we want people to come because they care about the issues, we want people to hear the church speak about values in different and perhaps challenging words.”

Christian Aid spokeswoman Sue Richardson said: “The service is at the end of our annual Christian Aid Week, when we ask volunteers to collect door to door in their communities to fund our work with the poor overseas.”

The U2charist takes place at St Hugh’s Church, in Northampton Road, Market Harborough, at 8pm on Saturday.

Hymns for U2charists

When was the last time ou attended church ?

Do you think you would attend church more often if you enjoyed the music, understood the message, believed the speaker ? How about we focus on the music part of it. Lets face it we all like a good opening number. Something to really pick you up out of your seat.

We think it’s important to have the opening hymn be a high-energy song. Especially if you’re not going to be having the congregation singing preludes first, it’s also good for it to be a song with an intro that starts relatively quietly and builds.  Some songs that we found work well as opening hymns for U2charists include:

  • “Pride (In the Name of Love)” — especially if you’re doing it live and extend the chimey harmonic guitar intro
  •  “Elevation” — especially if you start it with an extended call and response in which the lead singer sings, “the goal is …” and everyone sings/shouts “SOUL!” (listen to the mix of “Elevation” playing as the band takes the stage in the Elevation: Live in Boston and U2 Go Home DVDs to get an idea of how the music would sound — and, by the way, as long as you’ve got one person who can play a tamborine, you can do this without a band)
  • “Where the Streets Have No Name” — A communion hymn ? 
  • “Beautiful Day” — works well because it gives some time for energy to build before the chorus. 
  • “I Will Follow” — fun because its opening riff is so iconic.

The U2charist was initially started in the U.S. Episcopal Church but has been adapted by several other denominations. It is typically a liturgical service (including communion) that features the music of the rock band U2 and a message about God’s call to rally around the Millennium Development Goals.

The U2charist is held by supporters to be a great opportunity to reach out to people in their congregations and larger communities, especially young people, with messages of global reconciliation and justice for the poor and oppressed. Bono, U2’s lead singer, has been a particularly vocal proponent of the Millennium Development Goals, and has been proclaimed as a global MDG ambassador.

The U2charist seeks to raise awareness of the MDGs and call people worldwide to a deeper faith and engagement with God’s mission.

Although churches have used U2’s music in liturgy for many years, the first U2charist was designed by Sarah Dylan Breuer in 2003, with the service held in Baltimore, Maryland, in April 2004. Breuer was a contributor to the book Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog (Cowley Publications, 2003), and was inspired to create the U2charist by her reflection on spiritual themes in U2’s music as she wrote her contributions to the book. The service spread quickly by word of mouth and over the Internet, particularly after the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland held a U2charist at their conference for all diocesan clergy in October 2004, after which many clergy present held U2charists with the assistance of the “Without Walls” worship team throughout 2004 and 2005, with the St. Mary’s Outreach Center in Baltimore, Maryland, where the U2charist first took hold, as its base of operations.

After consulting with Breuer, the Rev. Paige Blair, rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in York Harbor, Maine, along with several of her parishioners, held her first U2charist on Sunday evening, July 31, 2005. Since that time, Blair has appeared numerous times in the media as an advocate for the U2charist.

Since the U2charist began in 2004, it spread quickly around the world, with services being held in numerous countries, including a “U2-dienst” (U2-service), started by the Rev. Jan Andries de Boer from Broek op Langedijk in the Netherlands in 2006., as well as services in Australia, Italy, and Mexico.

Did you know ?

Universal Music Publishing Group and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) do not require a license for U2’s music to be used during U2charist services provided that:

  • the context is a worship service and it is not called a concert
  • all of the money raised goes to a nonprofit or non-governmental organization supporting the Millennium Development Goals with none of the money going to the hosting church

“It’s not if I believe in love/But if love believes in me” — echoes 1 John 4:10: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”