From Columbus: U2charist Draws Enthusiastic Crowd

Episcopal News Service. June 13, 2006 [061306-7-A]

Carol E. Barnwell, Communication director of the Diocese of Texas

The Bob Dylan-inspired "Love Rescue Me" blared from the loudspeakers in the Columbus Renaissance Hotel ballroom as more than 700 worshipers gathered for the U2chairst in recognition and support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on the evening of June 13.

The louder-than-usual prelude did not deter Episcopalians of all ages from attending a joyous celebration in response to the Episcopal Church embracing the goals set forth by the United Nations: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, ensure environmental sustainability and create a global partnership for development.

The U2charist, which rallies around the MDGs and the ONE Campaign, features the music of the Irish rock band U2 and its lead singer, Bono.

The Rev. Paige Blair, deputy from the Diocese of Maine and an U2charist advocate, said she was "overwhelmed" at the response of the crowd and invited worshippers to let the Holy Spirit move their bodies to the music and move their lives. Participants did just that, on their feet, dancing and clapping to the opening hymn, "Mysterious Ways," which reminded people "to touch is to heal, to hurt is to steal. If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel…"

The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina, challenged the large and enthusiastic group to "be a witness" for Christ.

"Come to the Christ in those who struggle, to the Christ in those crying out to be cared for, to the Christ in children who must never go to bed hungry again," he called out to loud responses of "Amen!"

He paraphrased the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston who has said that the most important question Episcopalians will answer is, "What witness will we make?"

"It is time for us to do something unexpected and wonderful; it is the moment to practice what we preach!" Curry quoted Charleston, to which he received a standing ovation and cheers.

Curry went on to say that the MDGs were an act of Gospel-based discipleship, "a way for us to discover life again as a Church … a compelling vision of the world God intended from the beginning."

North Carolina Deputy Meg McCann could not agree more. "The MDGs are so important …we have to celebrate them and pray about them," she said.

[thumbnail: Some of the more than 700...]