Why a U2Charist.

By the time many of you will be reading this on Friday, I’ll be down in Little Rock preparing to lead worship in a unique format called the “U2charist.” A couple years ago, I developed a worship service that incorporated a lot of the music and lyrics of U2 into the usual worship elements. I was a little nervous about “unleashing” the service on the people there in Morris (after all, some of them had never listened to anything by U2, despite the fact that they’ve been releasing albums for more than 30 years now). They were more George Strait types there, and we even had some family members of Merle Haggard in that church. But, I also knew that there were some folks in the church (including the Dellinger family, who is also connected to this church) who loved U2 and were really excited about the idea. (Atticus actually played and sang “Yahweh,” on his guitar.) When the day came, we had around 120 people in attendance (usual attendance was around 75), and there were a dozen or more people there who had visited the church because we were doing a U2Charist. I sent the worship service to my dad, and they implemented it on a Friday night and had a great turnout. The News even came and did a story on this “out of the ordinary” means of inviting people to church. http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2011/jan/29/u2-methodists-20110129/  And this year, the news came and did a story on the U2charist too–http://arkansasmatters.com/fulltext/?nxd_id=517872
A blog post by a young woman who came to that service has some interesting insights into what went on, too. http://deanaland.blogspot.com/2011/02/love-rescue-me.html
Much ink has been spilled on what the proper balance is between the church and the culture. H. Richard Neibuhr’s Christ and Culture is usually referenced as a touchstone on the subject, and is divided into five examinations: (courtesy of Wikipedia, since I can’t seem to see my copy in my enormous bookshelf  🙂 )
Christ against Culture. For the exclusive Christian, history is the story of a rising church or Christian culture and a dying pagan civilization.
Christ of Culture. For the cultural Christian, history is the story of the Spirit’s encounter with nature.
Christ above Culture. For the synthesist, history is a period of preparation under law, reason, gospel, and church for an ultimate communion of the soul with God.
Christ and Culture in Paradox. For the dualist, history is the time of struggle between faith and unbelief, a period between the giving of the promise of life and its fulfillment.
Christ Transforming Culture. For the conversionist, history is the story of God’s mighty deeds and humanity’s response to them. Conversionists live somewhat less “between the times” and somewhat more in the divine “now” than do the followers listed above. Eternity, to the conversionist, focuses less on the action of God before time or life with God after time, and more on the presence of God in time. Hence the conversionist is more concerned with the divine possibility of a present renewal than with conservation of what has been given in creation or preparing for what will be given in a final redemption.

Though I have preached at times on the Christian resisting the dominant culture we find ourselves in, I also espouse Madaline L’Engle’s dictum that “there’s nothing so secular that it can’t be sacred.” Besides, it doesn’t take much translation to hear the music and lyrics of U2 with Christian meaning, since the band makes no bones about their faith lives. Whichever “framework” Niebuhr would find the U2charist in, (probably Christ Transforming Culture), it is a good reminder that our worship should always be relevant. It should always be a lamp to those who are seeking God’s path.
I’ll probably work with the worship committee on organizing a date, probably in the Fall, when we might offer the U2charist here at UUMC as a special evening service in the Great Hall. IF you’d like to see what it looked like in Morris, I made note of it on my blog a couple years ago.