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U2 Songs in Church
A church New Years Eve event that substituted U2 songs for hymns and worship choruses not only drew local attention but also some local seekers to church.

This letter is a response to the article, Bono's Songs Replacing Hymnals in Churches.

I just read the article on titled, "Bono's Songs Replacing Hymnals in Churches," and your poll question that read: "Would you be willing to have your church substitute hymns and worship choruses with U2 songs?"

… this past New Years Eve we had a "God and U2" event. It got lots of local attention.

Just a thought—maybe the poll question should instead have read: "Would you be willing for your church to substitute hymns and worship songs on occasion?"

I say that because I voted yes, and noticed I was a minority, but it occurred to me people voting might think U2 songs, and only U2 songs, would be very hard to take, but an occasional church service of U2 songs might not be as radical!

At our Anglican Church (St. Thomas Anglican) in St. John's, Newfoundland, this past New Years Eve we had a "God and U2" event. It got lots of local attention. Attached is an article the local paper printed in advance. The event received some negative comments, but mostly positive. About 400 people attended, and for some it was their first time in a church!

John Paul Westin, the Rector at St. Thomas' (my husband is also a clergy at the same church) noted the article about U2 services on your website was interesting but failed to mention that U2 services have been going on in Sweden since 1998 where he first experienced them, which is part of the reason we decided to try one such event at our church.

Unfortunately, you can't change the question now, but I wouldn't be surprised if people do not to vote in favour of changing to U2 songs instead of hymns!

Elaine Young is the Atlantic regional director and Canadian director of The Marriage Course and The Marriage Preparation Course at Alpha Ministries Canada.

U2 Songs to Ring Out at St. Thomas

U2 in church is not an obvious choice. But anyone who's heard lead singer Bono opine about Third World debt or listened intently to the album "The Joshua Tree" knows an evangelical-like zeal surrounds the words and actions of the Irish rock band.

Christian faith and the Gospel have long been at the heart of U2's music and Bono's activism.

On New Year's Eve, St. Thomas' Anglican Church will hold a service featuring U2 songs as hymns. The congregation will sing along with music piped in on the church's stereo system. Rev. John Paul Westin will also give a sermon on the ties between U2's music and the Gospel.

"U2's music connects with people. Topics like redemption, grace, mercy—all the sorts of things that religion is interested in." Westin says. "Most people don't know the connection."

He says the aim of the service is to attract U2 fans of all faiths who don't necessarily see the connections between the band's lyrics and the Gospel.

"I see Bono as a preacher-prophet figure. I want to show how U2 has grasped the message of the Scriptures," Westin says.

Christian faith and the Gospel have long been at the heart of U2's music and Bono's activism.

The money raised from collection will go to Debt AIDS Trade Africa (DATA), Bono's personal organization that aims to raise awareness about humanitarian crises in Africa.

The service, beginning at 6:30 p.m. will feature 12 songs from throughout the band's 30-year career. These include "Forty," a song off the 1983 War album, was inspired by Psalm 40 and the 2004 track "Yahweh," the Hebrew word for God. The lineup will also feature "Where the Streets Have No Name," "Window in the Skies," and the appropriately-titled "New Year's Day."

Using U2 music for church services is not a new idea. Westin says churches in England, Sweden and the United States have done similar services in the past

David Whalen is a freelance writer based in St. John's, Newfoundland. He can be reached at

Originally published in The Telegram, December 28, 2006.




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