May 04, 2008

was the U2charist plagiarized?

I don't want to seem grumpy when I answer questions about this, but they come up all too often, in one of these forms. It's either:

Did the Rev. Paige Blair plagiarize or steal the U2charist from you?


Did you plagiarize or steal the U2charist from the Rev. Paige Blair?

Folks, the answer -- disappointing as it may be for any hungry for scandal, is "Neither."

Paige is a good friend of mine. Paige did not "steal" or plagiarize the U2charist from me. Take a look at the frequently asked question, "Who is the Rev. Paige Blair?" for further information. Paige was a member of the email list for "Gathering the Next Generation (GTNG), which gathered 'Generation X' members of the Episcopal Church and their friends for conversation. I was also a member of that list, and knew Paige from it. When I was planning the first U2charist -- planning in 2003, first service on April 17, 2004 -- I posted to GTNG about it. The list discussed it. So when Paige decided in June of 2005 to hold a service using U2's music, it was only natural for her to post a query about that to the list, and I sent her (I myself -- nothing sneaky happened there) a sample liturgy.

Here is an email from Paige (with full headers) sent prior to her first U2charist thanking me for sending the earlier liturgy.

Here is an email from Paige (with full headers) saying in the clearest and strongest of terms that she has never claimed to have originated the U2charist.

Every liturgy and liturgical concept that I've done so far in my career has been issued via a Creative Commons license: you are free to use and modify it without charge so long as you don't make money off of it for yourself and you do give full credit to your source material.

Paige has, according to her own testimony, done this. She has NEVER claimed to have originated the U2charist, and she has assured me that she has done her best to give the media the full story on that subject.

Paige and I remain good friends, and she and I are in complete and public agreement on the facts:

  • The first U2charist (sometimes spelled as 'eU2charist') took place on April 17, 2004, in Baltimore, Maryland, and Paige had no role in its creation. I posted to the GTNG email list about it, the Diocese of Maryland used it for its clergy conference, and many congregations within and beyond the diocese held U2charists throughout the rest of 2004 and 2005, and beyond.
  • Paige felt called in 2005 to hold a worship service using the music of U2, and posted to the GTNG email list saying she remembered someone holding such a service earlier, and asking for advice. I sent her a sample liturgy, and as I recall, further conversation about this took place with her (though I might be mistaken about this -- quite a lot of people were asking about the U2charist at that point, and I never dreamed it would be important to document its spread).
  • Paige held her first U2charist (she spelled it "eU2charist" as well) on July 31, 2005. Check out the original announcement
  • here.

Paige deserves applause for what she DID do, not approbation for thefts she didn't commit or credit for inventing a liturgical concept she adopted a good time into its development and after it had spread to many congregations.

In other words, please lay off Paige, and please stop looking for scandal in something that Paige and I agree is rather a manifestation of the movement of the Holy Spirit in the church and the world.

Thanks, and please don't hesitate to contact me if you'd like any further information or documentation.

May 4, 2008 in How the U2charist began, U2charist F.A.Q. | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 19, 2008

what if I want to do music for the U2charist live, but don't have a full band?

A lot of folks would like to do some or all of the music for their U2charist live, but don't have access to a full band. No problem! Obviously, having a bass player and a lead guitarist with good effects (U2's trademark sound is in large part about The Edge's use of multiple delay effects) is nice. However, most U2 songs are very simple -- two or three chords, in many cases -- and can be done quite well with just a competent rhythm guitarist and a drummer (djembe/congas, even). Here are some songs that I've done with that arrangement:

  • All I Want Is You
  • I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
  • Walk On
  • Peace on Earth
  • I Will Follow (playing the full chords E and A instead of just the two strings The Edge uses for the song -- with just the two strings and no bass, the song sounds very thin)
  • Gloria (again, with full chords instead of high lead tones)
  • Wake Up Dead Man
  • Stuck in a Moment
  • Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own
  • Yahweh
  • God Part II (done as a blues song, with the rhythm guitarist giving more of a bassy feel by playing the A-string two frets higher with her/his pinkie on the 2 and 4 beats)
  • Sunday Bloody Sunday (listen to the solo acoustic version The Edge has done live)
  • Desire
  • Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
  • Staring at the Sun
  • Bad
  • Running to Stand Still
  • "40"

Believe it or not, I've even done "MoFo" from the heavily-electronic album Pop as a solo acoustic blues song.

This isn't an exhaustive list by any means. If you want some more ideas about songs that work well without a full band or with acoustic instruments only, I highly recommend checking out what songs U2 has done in acoustic sets in concert. U2's concert DVDs are one way to see those acoustic sets, but fans have also posted U2 doing songs acoustic on YouTube. If you do an advanced Google search for pages including all the words "U2 guitar tabs" and the exact phrase "[the title of the song you want]," you'll find you don't even have to work to figure out what the chords are for most songs.

In short, if you've got one person in your youth group who can play the chords 'E' and 'A' and who owns a capo, you can do a lot of U2 material live, provided you meet the criteria U2 have set up for doing so (i.e., it's billed as a worship service and not a concert, and all money collected at the service goes to an organization working to advance the Millennium Development Goals).

And know that if you've got questions, you can email me; I do my best to answer such questions promptly.

February 19, 2008 in Music tips (live), U2charist F.A.Q. | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 20, 2007

will you come to put on a U2charist with us?

I'm honored by invitations to help congregations host U2charists. If you're interested in having me do that as a consultant, musician, preacher, or other role that a lay person can fulfill, please feel free to email me. I am not at this point ordained, however, so I cannot serve as a celebrant at a Eucharist.

September 20, 2007 in U2charist F.A.Q. | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 06, 2007

what permissions do I need to use U2's music in the U2charist?

U2 and Universal Music Group, which publishes U2's music, have generously agreed to give blanket permission to those using U2's music in U2charists, IF absolutely every cent collected goes to relief for global AIDS and extreme poverty, as explained in more detail here, with some suggestions as to some good organizations to which your U2charist funds might go.

U2 are particularly concerned with extreme poverty -- for example, those living (and dying) on $1 a day or less, those who have no access to clean drinking water. The U.S. and Britain, for example, don't really have that kind of poverty. As important as justice and mercy for the poor in countries such as the U.S. are, giving funds collected at a U2charist for poverty relief in the U.S. does not meet the spirit of the agreement with U2 and Universal Music Group; please find a worthy recipient of what you collect to address extreme poverty.

September 6, 2007 in U2charist F.A.Q. | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 09, 2007

what are some good sites for MDG information and activism?

Justice for the poor will take a lot more than individual charitable contributions, and I believe that we who identify as Christians are responsible for our stewardship of the power and privilege as well as the money we have. If you're looking for websites providing information on the Millennium Development Goals and other issues surrounding justice for the poor and helping people to act on this information and exercise good stewardship of their power, you might find these websites helpful:

  • Bread for the World -- "Seeking Justice, Ending Hunger." Bread for the World is an American organization that since 1972 has helped Christians in particular lobby effectively to address the causes of hunger. This page is dedicated specifically to Bread for the World's work with the ONE Campaign.
  • The ONE Episcopalian and Episcopal Public Policy Network -- The Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) helps people use their voice to support public policy endorsed by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which has designated the Millennium Development Goals as our mission priority. Sign up for EPPN alerts (and no, you don't have to be Episcopalian to do so!) in your areas of interest and they'll notify you when legislation arises in that area and make it easy for you to email your senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress with YOUR views, whether you want to use their form letter or your own words. And don't miss this page of resources, including prayers and a liturgy of the Eucharist, for people of faith interested in engaging the Millennium Development Goals.
  • The ONE Lutheran Campaign -- with resources and info especially (but not exclusively) for Lutherans.
  • Oxfam International -- an outstanding website that provides news, analysis, and information on how to get involved to advocate for justice for the poor. I wish the ONE Campaign website were half as informative.
  • Make Trade Fair -- writing checks that make us feel generous while voting for people who and supporting practices that favor wealthy nations and make it impossible for people in developing countries to sell their products for a fair price places us in the spiritually dangerous position of holding on to power and privilege that preserve the gulf between rich and poor and keep us deciding, in effect, who lives and who dies. Oxfam provides the Make Trade Fair site with information on what the issues are and how we can change this profoundly unjust and dehumanizing situation.
  • The ONE Campaign -- I wish its website were better, but signing the ONE Declaration there is still one of the best ways for people in the U.S. to be alerted when legislation related to the Millennium Development Goals arises, and I have high hopes that the ONE Vote '08 site will be a positive influence in U.S. elections in 2008.

If I've missed a site that you find particularly helpful, please email me with information, and I'll be happy to consider it.

July 9, 2007 in MDG information and advocacy links, U2charist F.A.Q. | Permalink | Comments (1)

what is Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation?

Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (EGR) is an American organization that works to educate people in the U.S. about the Millennium Development Goals. They didn't start the U2charist -- among other things, the first U2charist was in 2004, and EGR incorporated two years later in 2006. EGR executive director Mike Kinman and EGR New England coordinator Paige Blair (both friends of mine from Gathering the Next Generation, the network for GenX Episcopalians and friends) have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of and energize The Episcopal Church the MDGs, and have made excellent use (with my enthusiastic blessing) of the U2charist to that end -- and hurrah for that!

July 9, 2007 in U2charist F.A.Q. | Permalink | Comments (0)

where should the money collected at a U2charist go?

U2 requires that ALL money collected at a service that uses their music goes to an organization furthering the Millennium Development Goals. Within that requirement, it's up to you to decide what organization(s) should get the money you collect. Here are some considerations that I personally use in recommending organizations:

The ONE campaign does not collect money from private donors ("We don't want your money; we want your voice"). Don't try to send them a check.

And in any case, I think that the spirit of U2's and the Universal Music Group's very generous permission to use their music in U2charists asks us to give money collected to an organization that actually does relief and development work in places outside the U.S. Only two percent of Americans' charitable giving goes outside the U.S., and those funds could be put to excellent use by organizations that DO engage in well-placed relief and development work elsewhere. Not all organizations that say they want to advance the Millennium Development Goals do that relief and development work, and some that do some work elsewhere still spend most of their money paying Americans to do things in America. ASK how much of their budget goes to relief and development among those in extreme poverty and how much goes to organizational overhead and salaries of staff already living quite well before you write that check.

Also, not all aid is helpful to people in extreme poverty. Some of my African friends talk about "the white hurricane" -- a destructive force of well-meaning but clueless people who sweep into an area, throw lots of money and effort into things that aren't really needed or may even actively disrupt community life, and then leave feeling much better about themselves, and Africans worse off than before. Don't give to "white hurricanes" if you can help it; before you designate an aid/development organization to benefit from a U2charist, do some research to see what the track record of an aid/development organization is with respect to forming real partnerships with local people and orgzanizations and directing funds to projects that increase people's abilities to profit from their own work rather than fostering cycles of dependence or make little difference in the quality of life for the community.

Here are some organizations that I have looked into and I think are good ones to consider for a U2charist collection:

  • Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD). Don't be put off by the name if you're not Episcopalian or even religious; ERD helps people absolutely without respect to their religious feelings and activities or lack thereof, and I am deeply impressed with ERD's record of cooperating with people local to the area where they work, funding microlending, microbusiness and other forms of development that help people to become self-reliant, and maximizing the amount of their budget that goes directly to aid and development rather than to overhead. With ERD, 92 cents of every dollar donated go to aid and development programs, and you can view their tax documents here in an admirable example of transparency. I recommend giving to "area of greatest need" rather than restricting gifts to one area, but if you feel more comfortable with a restricted gift, you can specify to what part of the world and/or project money goes, and ERD's website even tells you which funds further which Millennium Development Goals.
  • Oxfam -- an international organization with affiliates in many countries.
  • Five Talents -- an organization founded by conservative Christians that does outstanding work "empowering the poor by promoting innovative savings and microcredit programs, business training, and spiritual development."
  • Heifer International -- which provides animals and equipment to help communities sustain themselves with their own work, and that (like some of ERD's programs) gauges gifts in concrete terms -- one rabbit, a "Noah's ark" of useful animals, a bee hive, or a cow or share of one, for example -- that can be particularly helpful for children's groups to understand what their efforts are doing.

If you'd like to suggest another aid/development organization for this list, please email me information and I'll be happy to consider it.

July 9, 2007 in U2charist F.A.Q. | Permalink | Comments (0)

is the U2charist a gimmick?

Depends on how you use it, I'd say. Ideally, the focus on God's mission of justice for the poor and the care-full and thoughtful use of music and musical idioms that are meaningful to the congregation that a good U2charist reflects should be a consistent feature in worship, not a one-time or very occasional gimmick. But, to paraphrase my hero St. Paul, if hunger for a gimmick leads to the proclamation of Christ and Christ's mission, I'm happy.

(See also the U2charist FAQ entry "Is the U2charist a good way to get young people to come to my church?")

July 9, 2007 in U2charist F.A.Q. | Permalink | Comments (0)

who is Paige Blair?

The Rev. Paige Blair is a friend of mine from Gathering the Next Generation (GTNG), the network for "Generation X" Episcopalians and their friends. As I worked in 2003 and 2004 with the Without Walls ministry team to put together the first U2charist, held on April 17, 2004 in Baltimore, Maryland, I posted periodically to the GTNG email list about the service. Paige remembered this when she decided in the summer of 2005 to do a U2charist, so she queried the list about other liturgies, and I sent her one for use in planning her own, as this PDF of with full headers of an email from her acknowledges. As this PDF with full headers of an email from her shows, Paige assures me that she has never claimed to have started the U2charist, and is as puzzled as I am as to how people got that idea.

She has worked tirelessly to promote the U2charist over the last two years. I think it's extraordinarily generous of her to do so; if she were seeking to promote herself rather than God's mission, she could certainly have found an original concept to promote, but instead she saw potential in something that someone else created and lent her own considerable and very fruitful efforts to fulfill that potential. She deserves a great deal of credit for that, and one of the frustrating things about stories that, against her wishes, present her as the originator of the U2charist is that it essentially frames her for plagiarism (which she hasn't done; she used my work with my blessing, and has never claimed it as her own) and obscures the incredibly important role she's played in the spread of the U2charist. That's a rotten way to treat a gifted priest who has given so much to raise awareness of the Millennium Development Goals, in my opinion, and I'm grateful to all of the folks who have helped to correct some very damaging mistakes in the media along those lines. Give the woman her props, I say!

July 9, 2007 in U2charist F.A.Q. | Permalink | Comments (0)

will you give me permission to host a U2charist?

Sure, but you don't need my specific permission. All liturgical work I've done has been released under a Creative Commons license for general use. The only requirements are:

  • You're not selling or otherwise making money from a work derived from mine.
  • You give credit where appropriate. I don't expect or want people to interrupt the flow of a sermon or liturgy with an announcement that I wrote something that helped create what's going on, but I do expect that web pages, printed liturgies, projected liturgies that include credits, press releases, and so on will note sources used. (See the U2charist FAQ entry "why is it important to give credit to sources?" for more on this.)
  • You use the material to the best of your ability for purposes in harmony with those for which it was created. (For example, I'd be disappointed if I heard that someone was holding U2charists while preaching that it doesn't matter whether or not Christians strive for justice for the poor as long as we tell people how to get to heaven.)

I am always happy to hear people's stories about what they've done, what worked well, and what they learned from it -- feedback encourages people to share more -- but you don't have to get anything from me to host a U2charist.

Please note that U2 has their own requirement for people who want to use their music in a service: ALL money collected must go to an organization furthering the Millennium Development Goals. See the U2charist FAQ entry, "where should the money collected at a U2charist go?" for more information.

July 9, 2007 in U2charist F.A.Q. | Permalink | Comments (0)