U2 Church Final

Church and rock concerts don't usually mix. But on New Year's Eve a Houston church will host a communion service set to the music of U2. They call it U2-Charist and it's one of the many ways local churches are changing the way people think about worship. Laurie Johnson reports.

The nave of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in the Museum District is usually filled with the sounds of the choir and the quiet shuffling of peaceful congregants.

But on New Year's Eve, throw your preconceived notions about church out the window.

Rev. Genevieve Razim calls the U2-Charist an exquisite combination.

"You know we have the incense, all the candles and at this time of year the creche will be out — the nativity scene. The place will be filled with poinsettias and all the best of our rich liturgical tradition will be present. And so combining that with this music — it's really rich."

Razim says it's a traditional Episcopal service in every sense — except for the music. And she says this kind of worship experience isn't really a new concept, but is something Christians have been doing since the time of the Apostle Paul.

"For people who have always loved this music and connected to it and somehow it spoke to them in another way that all the other pop music didn't the U2Charist is an opportunity for Christians to say let me tell you about this unknown God you've been worshipping. So in a sense the church has always been doing this, it's not a new thing."

Rock music seems like a better fit for the Montrose church ecclesia with its young hipster congregation. Worship leaders there are known to toss a bit of Coldplay into the mix...sometimes playing barefoot and slightly dishevelled on stage. But unlike what you might expect at his church, Pastor Chris Seay says they incorporate a number
of ancient and traditional elements into their worship.

"We sing most often hymns that are most often ancient and historic hymns that we're singing. My brother Robbie also writes some great music, but many are very ancient prayers. I think the point is I think a lot of churches become obsessed with let's try our best to be different and in doing so fail to find their own unique voice and what they bring. And so if you listen to pipe organ music and you love it, then God bless you, play more of it and find all the people that do, and I think we can all hear something sacred and beautiful in that."

Seay says the goal is not to be contemporary, but rather to be authentic. So for some people that might mean rocking out to  U2 while taking communion...for others it could be singing ancient hymns while sipping a latte.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...