So I attended the U2Charist today, at the invitation of Pastor Clay Thomas. It took place in First Preby’s Fellowship Hall.
The Hall was crowded, with what I would guess an attendance of 200+, maybe 250. I’d also guess that the median age of the worshippers was 50 or 55, but with enough children, youth and under 50’s to make it feel less geriatric.
The seats were comfortable, and the audio-visual presentations were outstanding. It was clear that much hard work had gone into the planning of the U2Charist.
U2 music is great and the lyrics are powerful, and this helped to make the message clear.
Yet it was hard to get away from the thought that this was a “performance”, rather than an act of participatory worship. Some of the music was followed by applause, when hearty “Amens” might have been more useful.
And this was clearly a non-singing congregation. Nor would the worshippers “boogey”, which I desperately wanted to do! We needed a non U2 song which would have us on our feet, singing and dancing!
This is partly because Protestant ( e.g. Baptist, Methodist, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterian) worship is so very “front centred”. There was next to no congregational participation.
(Say what you will about Episcopal Liturgy, it demands congregational participation).
I also encountered the dreaded Protestant “children’s moment”.
The children came forward, very conscious that their role was to be cute. The message was underwhelming. Using that sing-songy voice which children despise, the speaker used words which no child could understand. This could have been a moment for “Godly Play”.
I plead for the abolition of children’s sermons! 99.9% of them are awful.
But there were great moments. Pastor Clay Thomas preaches so well. He has a tentative humour which is lovely. And his sermon was thoughtful, and thought provoking as he meditated from the Scripture (Matthew 9:1-9).
And the invitation to Communion was welcoming and embracing. None could resist the invitation to “Eat this Bread and Drink this Cup”.
We were served real bread and grape juice.
(Episcopalians use fake bread and fermented wine).
One day we shall each use real bread and fine wine!
And that (un-stated) was the core of Pastor Thomas’s message. G-d offers true bread and intoxicating wine to we the disciples of Jesus; so that we may be agents of sustaining bread real food) to a hungry world; and tipsy joy to the hopeless.
It’s all about grace. That clearly is at the heart of Pastor Thomas.