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July 09, 2007

The Cathedral Rocks - Episcopal Diocese of Western NY

Published Sunday, April 15, 2007
by Laurie Wozniak

Three to four hundred people of all ages filled the pews of St. Paul's Cathedral on Saturday, April 14, for the diocese's first U2charist. U2charist is the term coined for an Episcopal liturgy in which the hymns are comprised of songs by the rock band U2.

U2's music resonates with folks in their 60's who recall the band's early hits, as well as with high school youth and college aged young adults. Many of the lyrics incorporate biblical references and the social justice themes for which Bono, the band's lead singer and songwriter, is well known.

"It's great to see the kids here and so involved," commented Beverly Fortune, a 50-something member of the Cathedral. "These are the kids we don't see in the news. And to see all the adults here too, it's wonderful!"

The idea for such a service was conceived by Sarah Dylan Breuer, who planned the first U2charist held in Baltimore, Maryland in April 2004. In July of 2005, the Rev. Dr. Paige Blair, celebrated a U2charist at St. George's Episcopal Church in York, Maine, where she is rector. The service met with great enthusiasm and St. George's soon found itself serving as a resource for other churches desiring to introduce U2charists in their locales.

The service hosted by St. Paul's Cathedral was organized by the members of the Niagara Deanery Youth Group. Samantha Cutlip, the college-aged advisor to the group, attended the U2charist held at The Episcopal Church's General Convention in Columbus, OH last June and introduced the idea to the youth. She worked with them to select the "hymns" and put together a large screen media presentation of images that reflected each song's message. Afterwards, it was the impression made by these images that many worshippers carried home with them.

"The pictures were really interesting, said Kelsy Waack, 10. Sitting alongside 11-year-old Schyler Mathias, Kelsy enthusiastically clapped to the beat of every song throughout the service. Both girls are members of Calvary, Williamsville.

Some of the images portrayed starvation and extreme poverty. To the Rev. Canon Barbara Price, rector of St. Peter's, Eggertsville, these images were "deeply disturbing, but a great connection to what the Millenium Development Goals are all about."

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), established by the United Nations, are eight goals that aim to wipe out poverty around the world by 2015.

Aaron Taube, a 15-year-old member of St. Peter's, Eggertsville liked the combination of the music and the images. "The sermon really related well to them," he said.

The sermon was preached by the Rev. Philip Dougharty, rector of St. John's Grace, Buffalo and diocesan MDG coordinator. "God has set this feast," he said. "And we're all invited. Some of us are already there."

A ripple of laughter ran through the pews when he said, "We've got our faces down in the trough!"

But the crowd sobered quickly with his next thoughts. "We've got our faces right down in the trough and some of us don't even know it. Two billion people in this world live on less than a dollar a day. One child under five dies every five seconds due to hunger and disease. And some of us think we aren't rich enough."

Jesus in his own time, Dougharty said, was concerned that people were making rules and regulations aimed at keeping others out of the feast. "And it's still done today. We don't want any foreigners. We don't want any poor folks here."

"What are you doing that may be keeping people out of the feast?" he asked. "You may not even be doing it consciously. Let's at least pick our heads up out of the trough and look around. Just quit consuming long enough to take a look at the two billion people."

"This planet should be a place of abundance for all creation. Can we make it happen? Maybe so." As Dougharty's concluding words echoed in the minds of worshippers, the music of U2's song "One" filled the air.

One life
but we're not the same
We get to carry each other
One

Symbolic of the entire service, these lyrics had been incorporated into the poster graphic that advertised the event and that was projected on screen during parts of the service. It also adorned t-shirts sold at the door and worn by the youth and others who organized the service. The artwork, which portrayed a broken heart and a broken world held together by four hands, each of a different color, was conceptualized by Matthew MacIntyre, 16, a member of St. Andrew's, Burt and the Niagara Deanery Youth Group.

The collection taken during the service totalled $1400. It will be donated to two charitalble organizations chosen by the youth. Millennium Promise works with villages in ten African countries to develope agriculture, health care, education and access to clean water. People Funding People is a small New Jersey based group that develops projects in Cameroon. The youth especially liked People Funding People, because it enables them to have some say in the specific project for which the funds they donate will be used.

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July 9, 2007 in U2charist in the news | Permalink

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