It may be true that houses of worship are having trouble recruiting younger people to attend Sunday services, but one Methodist church in Florida is doing something rather novel to turn the tide thanks to U2.
On Sunday, August 23, the First United Methodist Church of Pensacola hosted a “U2charist,” instead of a Eucharist, complete with many of the spiritual and uplifting songs that the band has created throughout its illustrious history.
Lest you think this is some weird gimmick, the U2charists – and there were two of them, at 11 in the morning and 6:30 in the evening – were fully blessed by the church hierarchy, and the band itself!
"It's definitely something different," the Reverend Geoffrey Lentz, associate minister at the church, told the Pensacola News Journal. "But U2's music is so deeply spiritual that I think the corporate worship setting is the perfect place for it."
The church in Pensacola isn’t the first to host a U2charist. The first such event was developed by the Episcopal Church in 2003 and there have been a few here and there since. Each is modeled on a proper church service, including prayers, a sermon and the distribution of communion.
U2 fully supports the concept – Bono has often spoken about religion and spirituality and the effects they’ve had on his life – and doesn’t even charge the churches licensing fees for the music. All the band requests is that those hosting U2charists make a donation to charities working on eradicating global poverty, a cause near and dear to Bono’ s heart.
What was on the playlist in Pensacola on the 23rd? Many U2 classics, such as "Where the Streets Have No Name," "With or Without You," "One" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." "Beautiful Day" served as the opener.
"It's exciting for the oldest Protestant church in Pensacola to have a cutting edge worship service," said Lentz, a self-described big U2 fan.
"The song (‘Beautiful Day’) focuses on finding hope in desperate situations," he said. "My message is that even though the world has bad things going on in it, there is hope in the dove that brings the olive branch."
One First United Methodist parishioner thought U2 themselves would be making an appearance.
"I thought Bono was playing here," she told the Journal. "I had never heard of anything like this, so I'm looking forward to it."
U2 will indeed play in Florida, in Tampa on October 9. The band is currently resting up after finishing the European leg of its tour. The U.S. shows begin in Chicago at Soldier Field on September 12.