Electric New Paper, 31 Jan 2007

BEFORE he became the pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI once said that rock music was an ‘instrument of the Devil’.

But chances are, he might give Irish supergroup U2 the benefit of the doubt.

That’s because traditional churches all over the world are starting to replace hymns with the songs by the rock band in a bid to attract younger worshippers.

Informally dubbed the ‘U2-charist’, after the rite of eucharist, it is an adapted version of the Holy Communion service where worshippers sing along to U2 hits like Beautiful Day and Mysterious Ways instead of traditional hymns.

The idea for U2-charists was started by Reverend Paige Blair, an Episcopal priest in York Harbor, Maine, in 2005.

Since then, she has advised about 150 churches on U2-charists in 15 states and seven countries, with churches even in New Zealand and Hong Kong embracing U2’s songs.

The Church of England is the latest church to join the trend. It will be staging its first U2-charist in the town of Lincoln in May.

‘Rock music can be a vehicle of immense spirituality,’ Bishop of Grantham Timothy Ellis told Reuters.

It’s no surprise that Christians find it easy to identify with U2’s music – the Christian themes in the band’s music have been widely recognised since their 1981 album, October.

So far, U2-charists held in the US have been a big hit with church goers, reports USA Today.

‘I love Bono and you can rock out to the music,’ said Natalie Williams, 17, a Roman Catholic from New York state.

‘But in church, you hear it in a different way. It’s like new.’

(read more)