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May 20, 2008


As I've said before, there are lots of popular and cult (not occult -- I mean artists with a particular and strong but not huge following) artists besides U2 who have written music in rock, blues, punk, country, soul, and other genres that work very well in services of worship.

Courtesy of songs for the journey, here's a perfect example: a Nick CAVEspers -- playlist of songs by Nick Cave (whose work I admire tremendously) for worship. So check it out:

The Nick CAVEspers.

May 20, 2008 in Music from other (non-U2) artists | Permalink | Comments (6)

May 15, 2008

offertory hymns for U2charists

The first U2charist was held before the start of the ONE campaign, and therefore the song "One" wasn't used in the service; it wasn't connected in people's minds with social justice nearly so much as with bitter breakups. But since the ONE campaign, and especially since U2's Vertigo tour, in which "One" was the song played with the band's most explicit appeal to audiences to support the Millennium Development Goals, "One" has become a must for U2charists. I use it as the offertory; it seems appropriate to play the song while people are singing ONE campaign pledges in particular.

It takes a long time, though, for a good-sized congregation to fill out those cards, so it's a good idea to have at least one other offertory hymn on hand. My favorite for that purpose is "Yahweh," from How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. And "Yahweh" is a song that ANY congregation with one member who plays acoustic guitar (just playing D - G - Em - A throughout works) can do. U2 themselves do the song with acoustic guitar and minimal accompanying from other instruments when they do it live (leaving drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. standing in front of a little ten-key MIDI keyboard which he plays with one finger to generate synthesized cello tones -- but I digress). And the lyrics of "Yahweh" are explicitly about offering what we have, where we live, and who we are to God.

So those are my two top picks for offertory hymns, and they're such strong favorites of mine that I think I'll hold off on listing others for now. But have I forgotten any of your favorites? Give me a shout to let me know!

May 15, 2008 in Playlists/song choices | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 11, 2008

opening hymns for U2charists

I think it's important to have the opening hymn be a high-energy song. Especially if you're not going to be having the congregation singing preludes first, it's also good for it to be a song with an intro that starts relatively quietly and builds (e.g., "All Because of You" asks people to jump in too quickly, I think). Some songs that I've found work well as opening hymns for U2charists include:

  • "Pride (In the Name of Love)" -- especially if you're doing it live and extend the chimey harmonic guitar intro
  • "Elevation" -- especially if you start it with an extended call and response in which the lead singer sings, "the goal is ..." and everyone sings/shouts "SOUL!" (listen to the mix of "Elevation" playing as the band takes the stage in the Elevation: Live in Boston and U2 Go Home DVDs to get an idea of how the music would sound -- and, by the way, as long as you've got one person who can play a tamborine, you can do this without a band)
  • "Where the Streets Have No Name" -- I prefer to use it as a communion hymn, but I've always wanted to do it as an opening hymn in a church with an organ, with the organ playing the opening chords before the guitar comes in for the intro
  • "Beautiful Day" -- works well because it gives some time for energy to build before the chorus. Drawback: the verses are too low for a lot of people (especially women) to sing, and the chorus and bridge are too high for many men to sing (this is particularly true if you're going from recordings, and therefore can't change the key).
  • "I Will Follow" -- fun because its opening riff is so iconic. I do like to use this one as a dismissal, though; I picture it as sending people forth like the angel at the end of the Gospel According to Mark, with "if you walk away, I walk away" as the congregational response.

May 11, 2008 in Opening hymns, Playlists/song choices | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 08, 2008

guitarist hint: Jekyll & Hyde pedal

I've had the opportunity to try out a guitar effects pedal that provides overdrive, distortion, or both: Visual Sound's Jekyll & Hyde. It's fabulous. On fairly gentle overdrive (the "Jecyll" side of the pedal) it's wonderful for that warm tone in "One" or "Pride (In the Name of Love)" after that chimey harmonic intro, and the distortion side (the "Hyde" side) will give you as much as you need for riffs in "The Fly" or the slide work on "Love and Peace (Or Else)."

I admit that this information is useful to guitar geeks only, in all likelihood, but I couldn't resist sharing it. Non-guitarists, don't panic; the vast majority of information here is for those planning U2charist services -- not necessarily just for the musicians. :)

May 8, 2008 in Guitar tips (electric), Music tips (live) | Permalink | Comments (2)

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)