U2Charist to Hit England for the First Time

The groundbreaking 'U2Charist', an adapted Holy Communion service that uses rock band U2's best-selling songs in place of hymns, will be presided by a Church of England bishop for the first time in May.

Published 29 January 2007
|PIC1|The groundbreaking 'U2Charist', an adapted Holy Communion service that uses rock band U2's best-selling songs in place of hymns, will be presided by a Church of England bishop for the first time in May.

A live band will belt out U2 classics such as "Mysterious Ways" and "Beautiful Day" as worshippers sing along with the lyrics, which will appear on screens.

Bono's high-profile anti-poverty campaigns with singer Bob Geldof and the spiritual content embedded in his music have led to U2 lead singer Bono being elevated to the status of Christian icon.

Bishop of Grantham, the Rt Rev Timothy Ellis, who is organising the U2Charist in St Swithin's Church in Lincoln, said in a Telegraph report: "Bono and Bob Geldof are very human, but they have demonstrated that they believe there is sanctity to life that has to be protected."

"If that makes them saints, then I would go along with that."

Bishop Ellis said that the eve-of-Pentecost service in the city centre church would be a traditional one, but stripped down to basics.

"We are hoping the service will be a fresh way to look at worship,
less formal, and less rigid," he said.

"People will be able to express themselves in any way they wish.

"This is not designed to replace traditional services but to enhance the worship provision of the Church.

"We need to try new expressions. If we don't try to update and refresh our thinking we will die."

Seating will be moved so that the 500-strong congregation can dance or wave their arms. Bishop Ellis, who will be chief celebrant, said he had yet to decide whether to swap vestments for jeans.

The Lincoln U2Charist is adapted from an American phenomenon that has swept across the US and even reached Hong Kong. It will be recorded by the BBC for a programme to be broadcast later in the year, and Bishop Ellis hopes it will be replicated across Britain.

Bishop Ellis said that he did not expect Bono to attend the U2Charist in person, though he was hoping he might send a message. The £10,000 cost of equipment will be partly funded by the Diocese of Lincoln, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, will also be kept informed.

The idea was devised by the Rev Paige Blair, an American Episcopal priest in York Harbor, Maine, who held the first service in 2005. Since then, she has advised about 150 churches on U2 Eucharists in 15 states and seven countries.

"Bach and Handel were the popular music of their day, and they had trouble getting played in church," she has said.

"The Methodist hymn writers once wrote contemporary music. Are we worshipping Bono? Absolutely not. No more so than we worship Martin Luther when we sing A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

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