History > 2009 > UK > Faith (I)
Church of England
attempts to broaden appeal
with songs by U2 and prayers for Google
Christian services that feature DJs,
songs of the Irish band U2
and prayers for the chief executives of Google and Wal-Mart
are being promoted
by the Church of England.
The Daily Telegraph
Published: 9:00PM BST 13 Jun 2009
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones,
Religious Affairs Correspondent
The ideas for alternative-style worship are part of an initiative
launched by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to appeal to the
They are set out in a new book compiled by the Church's Fresh Expressions
programme, which aims to boost church attendance with more relevant and exciting
However, traditionalists have criticised the unorthodox services
as "pointless" and "shallow", and have warned that experimenting with Church
tradition would do more harm than good.
One Holy Communion service promoted in the book, called Ancient Faith, Future
Mission, begins with the congregation being shown a video clip from the YouTube
website about a United Nations anti-poverty campaign.
Worshippers are told that "our planet is messed up" and that "things are not
They are then asked to approach the altar and rub sea salt on their fingers to
represent tears, before walking around and meditating at eight "prayer stations"
representing themes such as "gender equality" and "environmental
A psalm is recited in "beat poetry" style to the accompaniment of African Djembe
drums, and prayers are said "for the corporate world, for influential CEOs who
oversee billion-dollar industries".
The prayers continue: "We pray for John Chambers of Cisco Systems, Bill Gates of
Microsoft, Dr Eric Schmidt of Google Inc, H Lee Scott Jr of Wal-Mart Stores and
others who have already made commitments to justice."
Among the alternative services explored in the book, which is co-edited by the
Rt Rev Steven Croft, the new Bishop of Sheffield, are so-called "U2charists",
services in which the congregation receives communion but sings the songs of the
Irish rock band U2 instead of traditional hymns.
The services, which include such songs as "Mysterious Ways", "One", and "I Still
Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", have been pioneered at St Swithin's church
The book also features Transcendence, an event held in York Minister in which
traditional Latin chant is set by DJs to hip hop or ambient dance music and
video images are projected onto the walls.
The Rev Sue Wallace, who has pioneered the event by blending modern technology
with ancient prayers, says that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Many of the services promoted in the book feature physical activity and symbols
alongside traditional sermons.
In chapter of the book, Archbishop Williams says: "The Bible is full of stories
about God communicating through act and sign as well as language ... Far from
being bound to communication through clear information economically expressed in
words, our society is still deeply sensitive to symbols and inclined to express
important feelings and perceptions in this way."
The Fresh Expressions initiative was launched by the Archbishop in 2004 to
combat the significant drop in churchgoing that has been seen in Britian over
recent decades. In the past few years the decline appears to have steadied.
Church leaders are particularly concerned about the loss of younger people, who
are abandoning the pews at a greater rate than their older counterparts.
The Rt Rev Graham Cray, who heads the Fresh Expressions initiative, said that it
was vital that the Church explored new ways of engaging with modern culture.
"We have to reconnect with a very large percentage of the population that has no
contact or interest in traditional church," he said.
"It is important to offer spirituality to people who are offered a multi-choice
lifestyle and who think that the last place they'll find it is in church."
He said that the new services were carefully designed for specific communities
and stressed they was not supposed to challenge traditional worship.
However, the Rev David Houlding, prebendary at St Paul's Cathedral, bemoaned the
Church's attempt to widen its appeal.
"All this is tosh. It's just a passing fad, irrelevant, shallow and pointless,"
"There's no depth to it and it's embarrassing because it'll make people think
that we're eccentric and silly."
The Fresh Expressions initiative has spawned churches for surfers as well as
commissioning priests to work in night clubs and skateboard parks.
Church of England
attempts to broaden appeal
with songs by U2 and prayers for Google, DTel,