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)

June 30, 2007

when and how did the U2charist start?

Sarah Dylan Breuer contributed six meditations weaving themes from the music of U2 with biblical allusions and sources from St. John of the Cross to Desmond Tutu to the book Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog, which came out in 2003. The book both responded to widespread interest in the spirituality of U2's music and ignited a new wave of enthusiasm, and very quickly, Dylan was receiving queries, letters, and sometimes CDs from people who ad read her meditations from the book and found her via

Dylan, who had been a U2 fan since the early 1980s, had long wanted both to bring the kind of energy she experienced at U2 concerts to settings of explicit and intentional Christian worship and to help church leaders become more aware of places outside of church where people were experiencing God's presence and connecting that with work for social justice. With the success of Get Up Off Your Knees, Dylan found herself wondering whether the momentum generated by the book could be broadened and deepened in a way that could both energize worship and excite people with a vision of God's mission of justice and reconciliation in the world. She decided that a service of Eucharist using the music of U2 as service music (e.g., the Sanctus, the Gloria) as well as hymns might do both -- and in any case, as a U2 fan, she thought it would be a fun experiment. She decided to call it a 'U2charist.'

Dylan was a part of Without Walls, a network in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland for sharing wisdom, resources, and encouragement for innovative liturgy and 'emerging church' styles of building communities of Christian worship and praxis. She took the idea of designing and hosting a U2charist to Without Walls, where it was received with immediate enthusiasm. The Rev. Ken Phelps, now rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Sunderland, Maryland, offered to officiate, write the Eucharistic prayers, and find a lead guitarist, bassist, and drummer for the music. Kathleen Capcara, well known throughout the church as a trainer for the Godly Play approach to children's formation and a genius with PowerPoint, offered to do the visuals and write the Prayers of the People. The Rev. Deacon Melissa Timmerman offered a fabulous and flexible worship space at the St. Mary's Outreach Center (SMOC) in Baltimore for the service. Dylan offered to choose the music, do lead vocals for the band, and preach, as well as write some prayers for the liturgy.

After months of rehearsal, the U2charist was ready for launch, and the first service was held on Saturday, April 17, 2004, starting at 8:00 p.m. Songs used in the service were:

"The First Time"
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
"With Or Without You" (instrumental -- used as background during prayers)
"Desire" (instrumental only -- used as background during the sermon)
"God Part II" (forming part of the creed, with some new lyrics written for the service by Sarah Dylan Breuer)
"When Love Comes To Town" (used in the Confession)
"Mysterious Ways" (used in the Absolution)
"Elevation" (used in the Sanctus)
"Where the Streets Have No Name" (hymn during Communion)
"All I Want Is You" (hymn during Communion)
"Beautiful Day"
"I Will Follow" (used in the Dismissal)

June 30, 2007 in How the U2charist began, Playlists/song choices, U2charist F.A.Q. | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack