- (Photo: AP / Steven Senne, File)
U2's songs are sung by millions around the world, and lately, the rock band has drawn a new score of fans Christian clergy.
The U.S. church phenomenon "U2-charist" is now hitting the Church of England for the country's first Holy Communion service using U2's best-selling songs.
Already, 150 churches in 15 U.S. states and seven countries have had or plan to have U2 Eucharists. The service stems from an Episcopal church in York Harbor, Maine, where the Rev. Paige Blair displayed U2's lyrics next to the altar in the summer of 2005.
Blair said much of U2's songs are explicitly Christians and perfectly suitable for worship service, according to USA Today. She also noted that some people might need time to get used to the idea.
One Lutheran author justified the replacement of hymns with the rock band's lyrics and a church's decision to choose Bono over today's contemporary Christian music (CCM).
"U2 is good at the art, using language like a poet would, like the classic hymn language," said the Rev. Christian Scharen, director of the Faith as a Way of Life Project at Yale Divinity School and author of One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God, according to USA Today.
Much of the CCM songs, largely sung in evangelical churches and in youth and young adult services, are not as artistic as the hymnal or even Bono's songs, Scharen indicated. He said a lot of the songs instead have "locked-down, straightforward meaning."
But rather than going with the traditional hymnals, the bishop organizing the U2-charist in England in May is hiring a live band to sing U2 classics in a bid to attract youth.
"We are hoping the service will be a fresh way to look at worship, less formal, and less rigid," said the Rt. Rev. Timothy Ellis, bishop of Grantham, according to the London Telegraph. "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."
Since its debut, there has been little criticism of U2 Eucharist within the Anglican body, reported USA Today. Ellis said the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, will be kept informed about the service.
U2-charist in England comes closely after Williams announced a push towards engaging new generation believers through the popular social networking site YouTube.com. Williams said he plans to YouTube his sermons and have other parishes get involved.
Meanwhile, the U2 Eucharist will not just be about singing U2's "Pride" (In the Name of Love) or other hits but a key part of the service is the Millennium Development Goals. Bono is at the forefront of the ONE campaign to eradicate extreme poverty.
He is also a major influence in the churches in the cause against AIDS and has gained the respect of many church leaders including megapastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church and Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church who see Bono leveraging his rock star influence for the sake of the poor and sick. Video messages from the Irish rock star were sent to Hybel's and Warren's latest conferences on leadership and AIDS, respectively, to encourage Christians to be where the sick are.
Ellis said he does not expect Bono to attend the U2-charist in person, according to the Telegraph, but was hoping he might send a message.