Skip to comments.US [Episcopal] churches mix traditional hymns with U2 rock anthems
Posted on 04/02/2006 5:21:50 PM PDT by sionnsar
Churches in the United States are weaving music from the 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 Reverend Robert Brooks welcomed worshippers and then added some unusual advice he warned them to protect their hearing.
If the sounds an issue, we do have earplugs available, he said.
Ushers handed out complementary ear plugs and fluorescent glow sticks for this communion service punctuated by the Irish bands rock music.
Multicolour streamers flew over worshippers heads at this service. Children danced by the altar. 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 U2s lead singer, Bono.
We absolutely need to grow in order to survive, Brooks said.
Weeks before the service, church members conducted what Brooks called guerrilla marketing, posting fliers at coffee and sandwich shops, bars and colleges. About 130 people showed up for the Friday night service, roughly the same turnout as on a Sunday morning.
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.
We totally ran out of bulletins, she said.
U2 Eucharists appear to have been limited so far to Episcopal churches. No one tracks how many parishes have put them on, but the service in Providence was based on a playlist created by the Reverend Paige Blair, a parish priest in York Harbor, Maine.
Her format has spread by word-of-mouth and on clergy e-mail lists. She has received calls from more than a dozen interested churches and helped put on the service in Providence.
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.
People who have these liturgical resonances in their bones, they go to a U2 concert and they just get it, Scharen said. In some sense, I think it was just a matter of time before this started happening.
Bono has told interviewers that he worships God through music. He once belonged to an ascetic Christian community. The bands early tapes were sold in religious bookstores. In February, Bono spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., attended by President George Bush and members of Congress.
But band members also swear, drink and sing about sex, all anathema to conservative denominations, Scharen said. He believes Episcopal churches are experimenting with U2 because the denomination encourages members to look for the divine in the worldly.
They dont make the stark divide between heaven and earth, between the church and the world, he said.
It is not known whether U2s band members would endorse such services: Blair said she received permission from U2s publishing company to use the bands music, but never talked to the band. Representatives for U2 did not return phone calls seeking comment.
At the Providence service, Blair delivered a homily to pitch The ONE Campaign, which the Episcopal Church supports. She ticked off statistics about poverty and infant mortality in Africa, underscoring her points with equal parts Bono and Bible.
If youre a Bono fan, you know the next line: Where you live should not determine whether you live or die, she said, and then borrowed from the Gospels. What divides the goats from the sheep, those that take up the cross and follow him, is whether they took care of those in need.
The service attracted several curious, including Andera Soracco, 51, a U2 fan who is Eastern Orthodox.
This is a way of bringing the outside world into the church itself, he said.
The opening hymn was one of the bands earliest hits, Pride (In the Name of Love). As the music played, pictures of famous believers including Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr flashed on a 10-by-14-foot screen set up behind the churchs altar.
Several songs included in the service sound more like angry lamentations than hymns of praise. Peace on Earth, inspired by a deadly bombing in Northern Ireland, questions why God wont halt human suffering.
Jesus can you take the time to throw a drowning man a line, Bono sings.
Some Christians might not be able to relate to the shades of doubt and anger, but Blair said that struggle is evident in the Bible.
For example, Bono echoes the 40th Psalm in the opening lines of the bands song 40 belting out I waited patiently for the Lord. He inclined and heard my cry.
While U2 has conquered the Top 40 charts, it has not yet won a place in the Episcopal churchs authorised hymnal.
I seriously think the day will come, Blair said. Theres a gift they have in speaking to the human soul.
Our Southern Baptist Church is plum full of teenagers and we sing songs like 'I'll fly away' 'Victory in Jesus' In the sweet by and by' old stuff and yet they still love it.
I'm not familiar with U2 so I declined to comment, but though I still like folk music I remember and detest folk masses.
U2's members are reputed to be Christians, but even the shallowest of Rick Warren's churches will not use their songs for Sunday service.
Obviously these churches don't much pride in their regular Sunday morning music program or else they wouldn't have a need to bring in pre-recorded tracks.
It didn't matter. Their hearts sang louder than their voices -- and far more in tune to the rest of us parishioners than a paid and technically-proficient choir could ever do.
I remember back in the late 80's when rap hit the church and I was in a service where they presented it,
I got up and left and a elder stoped me and asked me why I was leaving and I said you all are dragging Jesus back into Egypt. I said come out of Egypt and forget the leaks, garlic, and the flesh pots! He did not appreciate what I said but he knew where I was coming from.
1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.
2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
... can you hear the Episcopal death rattle?
While there are plenty of teens in many churches, it is the twenty somethings that fall away.
I suspect that this is the group they are trying to attract since they passed out fliers in "coffee and sandwich shops, bars and colleges".
Actually, choirs get good not by making noise but by learning to sing as clearly and quietly as possible. Think Gregorian chant. Simple music sung quietly and beautifully is within reach of any amateur choir.
I hate when baby boomers try and patronize my generation with "cool" and "hip" music. It just makes these people look like idiots.
* choral music, not instrumental
* sung by a group of singers rather than a soloist
* characterized by a simple musical texture and understandable text.
"Musical examples reminiscent of popular styles (rock, jazz, country) were overwhelmingly rejected as church music. The example rated most appropriate was a male choir singing a four-part version of Psalm 98 (The Lutheran Hymnal 667!). The piece considered least appropriate was the loud and rhythmic "Midnight Oil," performed by the Christian rock group Petra."
I used to be an ELCA Lutheran and the church was run by the baby boomer crowd( i am not knocking all of them!).
They used to think the contemporay service was real hip with the drums, keyboard, hand swaying, etc.! It made me and my wife want to vommit!
Grant it I am only in my mid 30's but I really prefer a liturgical traditional service/mass setting.
I really enjoy the traditional latin mass now that I went back to my RC roots.
I wonder about the nature of the sample for this survey. The author of the study is LCMS, and the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) is extremely exclusive and fundamentalist...
I'm sure if you surveyed say the student body of say Bob Jones University in SC, you'd find similar results, which really doesn't tell you much. There would be no market for Christian rock if such statistics were accurate among broadly evangelical teens. It's a huge market too.
Christian rock may be nice and certain groups may embrace it, but it doesnt mean they want to hear durring church.
The English assistant pastor at this alt.church I help out at calls him St. Bono. Bleeech.
And on key.
Churches that spend a lot on singers make me sick. That's why I quit my old choir.
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