Thursday, August 17, 2006

Reflections on a U2Charist

By Rosie Chinea

Love is a temple
Love the higher law…
One life
With each other
One life
But we’re not the same
We get to carry each other
Carry each other

- One by U2

What do these lyrics mean to you? Is it theology? Does it speak to your spirituality? Is it popular culture? Or, is it a combination of theology, spirituality and popular culture? What can these words elicit from someone at a concert? How about someone in a Church? These are the questions that impelled me to attend an U2Charist at Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal Church, on November 15, 2005, in San Francisco, California.

What is an U2Charist? It is the intermingling of U2’s music and The ONE Campaign's message to make poverty history, embedded within a liturgy. Since I am a huge U2 fan, have a passion for social justice, and, since I was taking a course on the sociology of religion, I found this opportunity to attend an U2Charist opportune for my spiritual, social, and intellectual well-being.

We began the U2Charist by all processing into the sanctuary to U2’s song Where The Streets Have No Name, played by a teenage rock band. The energy was simultaneously somber and empowering. Images of poverty and street name signs in San Francisco were shot onto large screens on each side of the altar. Walking with the community towards the altar, listening and singing to the music, and watching the images on the screens elicited a sense of solidarity with the entire human race and empowered those present to pursue social justice causes.

The sermon, based on
Ezekiel 36:23-28 and Matthew 11:2-5, given by Rev. Matt Warren, elicited members within the community to reflect on “carrying each other” in this world. He encouraged the congregation to reflect on world and local issues, to build relationships, and to not sit still but to carry out change for the enhancement of the human community, like Oscar Romero, Mother Teresa and Rosa Parks. “Christianity is not a noun but a verb.” Christ relies on us to do God’s will here on earth. It is up to us to “carry each other” and make things happen. For the kingdom of God to be realized here on earth we must come together as the “One” body of Christ and carry out the necessary changes for the betterment of society.

U2’s music, popular culture, something that continually both reflects and shapes people, within the liturgy, allowed for the people to more deeply connect to each other and to God. The sacred can be experienced from within the profane since religion and popular culture are so tightly intertwined. Images such as, the twin towers, hurricane victims, and the immediate poverty in the San Francisco area, elicited members’ affective and moral bond to their Episcopal community and to the human community at large.

The U2Charist elicited people to unify, see the good with each person, and called for all to help in the creation of making the Kingdom come alive here on earth. This liturgy challenged those present to commit to “carrying each other” toward the goals of eliminating world hunger and hatred and embracing love for one another and God.

To go into the intricacies of the U2Charist I attended would not do it justice. For me, it was a moment of grace. To be with a community on fire with their faith, open and already participating in issues of social justice, and singing my favorite music by a band that has a powerful message of creating heaven on earth, was a moving experience.

Rosie Chinea is the campus minister at at Aquinas Newman Center in Albuquerque.

[Note: The poster pictured above is from a recent U2Charist service & Bread for the World benefit in Macon, Ga.]

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