Tampa churches join U2, ONE in fight against poverty, AIDS

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Tampa churches join U2, ONE in fight against poverty, AIDS

Oct. 12, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
tparham@flumc.org    Orlando {0559}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

TAMPA — A baby girl bounced on the shoulders of her father as the band played the distinctive opening beats of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” propelling the crowd to its feet.

Jen Packing-Ebuen, a member of Watermark Church, shows off her t-shirt after the Oct. 1 U2charist service at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa. The service highlighted the fight against the global AIDS epidemic, extreme poverty around the world and what one person can do to make a difference through the One Campaign. Photo by J.A. Buchholz, Photo #06-447.

The scene could have been a bar, a club or even the Ford Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Instead it was the sanctuary of Hyde Park United Methodist Church Oct. 1 where U2charist, a service to highlight and fight the global AIDS epidemic, extreme poverty around the world and what one person can do to make a difference through the ONE Campaign, was taking place.

Calling all Americans — one by one

ONE is a coalition of more than 70 non-profit, advocacy and humanitarian organizations that was started by 11 aid groups, including Bread for the World, CARE, DATA, World Concern and World Vision, according to the ONE Web site. More than 2 million people have signed ONE’s declaration to eradicate poverty, and more than 3 million people have supported the group by buying and wearing white ONE wristbands. Many actors and musicians support the group, including the rock band U2 and its lead singer Bono, who has become a prominent advocate in the fight against global AIDS and poverty.

The group’s goal is to encourage and empower Americans to rally other Americans — one person at a time — to fight AIDS and extreme poverty around the word. One of the coalition’s basic beliefs is that if the U.S. allocated an additional 1 percent of its budget toward providing basic needs, like health, education, clean water and food, beyond what it already gives toward global health and poverty initiatives, the world’s poorest countries could be transformed. One percent is approximately $25 billion, according to the ONE Web site, and less than one percent of the federal budget is currently marked for fighting global AIDS and poverty.

The U2charist is an Episcopal (Rite III) Eucharist service that features U2’s music and a message about God’s call for people of faith to rally around the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Every nation in the world has endorsed the MDG to eradicate extreme poverty and global AIDS. Many churches and denominational bodies, including the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church, have also endorsed them. Bono is the global MDG ambassador.

Created by Sarah Dylan Breuer*, a liturgical consultant in Cambridge, Mass., U2charists are used to reach congregations and the larger community, specifically young people. The service, the music and U2’s message are about global reconciliation, justice for the poor and oppressed, and the importance of people caring for their neighbors — a core value much like the Wesleyan tradition of the world as each person’s parish.

The music and the message
The service was a joint effort between three Tampa churches — Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church and St. John’s Episcopal Church — and the band included musicians from each.

After finishing its opening song the band roared into its version of “Pride” (In the Name of Love) as pictures and a brief synopsis of the lives of Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman flashed on large screens in the sanctuary.

The Rev. Vicki Walker, minister of outreach at Hyde Park United Methodist Church, welcomed the estimated 580 people gathered with a bit of kindly advice that would help those with sensitive ears get through the service.

“We have earplugs available,” she said, reaching into the pocket of her robe and displaying the earplugs. “The ushers have them. We don’t want people to have hearing damage from being in the house of the Lord.”

The U2charist band included members from the three Tampa churches coordinating the U2charist — Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church and St. John’s Episcopal Church. Photo by J.A. Buchholz, Photo #06-448. Web photo only.

Those assembled laughed but quickly leapt to their feet as the band turned up the volume for its renditions of U2’s “One,” “Vertigo” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

The Rev. Geoff Kohler, associate pastor of Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church, delivered the message from Matthew 10:7-10.

Kohler challenged each person to follow the example of Jesus Christ and answer yes to the question, “Will you stop trying to live significant lives and will you love others into significance?” He said doing so would set the tone for the rest of each person’s life.

Kohler shared the story of a friend who used to live in an affluent suburb outside Cincinnati and answered that question by moving to the inner city of Philadelphia to open a Laundromat so people in the neighborhood wouldn’t have to get on a bus with dirty clothes and travel five miles to do their laundry.

“He gave himself over to the question,” Kohler said. 

The Rev. Bernie Lieving, congregational care pastor at Hyde Park United Methodist Church, led the congregation through the recitation of the Nicene Creed. Angela Bond and Christie Henson then shared a spoken word/interpretative dance piece titled “Hello Humanity” in which the speaker encounters addiction, disaster, disease, hunger, sickness, struggling single parent families and deferred dreams.

While the band played “Love and Peace of Else” an offering of $5,200 was collected. It will be forwarded to Bread for the World, an organization founded in 1974 that seeks to increase poverty-focused development assistance to Africa and other parts of the world.

U2’s “With or Without You” and “Yahweh” were played during communion, led by Father Douglas Remer of St. Johns Episcopal Church, and the song of celebration was “All Because of You.” The Rev. Dr. James Harnish, senior pastor at Hyde Park United Methodist Church, closed the service with the benediction.

The last song of the night was a video of U2 singing “Beautiful Day.”

After the service, Kohler searched his heart and mind to find the exact words to describe what he was feeling.

“I thought it was excellent, brilliant,” he said as he shook hands and hugged those in attendance. “I enjoy the music of U2; I understand the lyrics.”

Kohler said it’s also important for different denominations to come together because “we’re all part of the body of Christ.”

Harnish agreed. “The service was a dramatic way to bear witness to our common faith in Christ and our commitment to be his servants in the world,” he said. “Obviously, there’s more strength when we work together than when we do things separately.”

That’s the idea that propelled Eric Johnson. A member of Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Johnson was credited with bringing the idea of hosting a U2charist to the church. He said he first heard about that type of service about three months ago after reading a local newspaper article.

Johnson said he took the idea to the church staff and they immediately embraced it. He said he was blown away by the service and what it represents.

“I think it was awesome,” he said as several people stopped to shake his hand. “I’m so happy with the way it turned out. The energy of the band and the sermon … it was all what I hoped and more.”

Johnson said U2’s music fits so well because of the group’s lyrics, spirituality and message. “I think Bono is truly a prophet,” he said.

Teens show their support for the fight against global AIDS and poverty and the music of U2 at the U2charist Oct. 1 at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa. Photo by Linda J. Beavers, Photo #06-449. Web photo only.

It’s a message that appealed to the teenagers in the audience. Thirteen-year-old Kelly Wilkerson, a member of Hyde Park United Methodist Church, said she thought the music and the message were motivating. Jordane Wolovich, 13, who was visiting the church said her favorite part was the band’s version of the U2 smash hit, “Vertigo.” And Mary Krantz, 12, who has been attending Hyde Park United Methodist Church, said the service made an impact on her. “It made me realize we can make a difference,” she said.

Walker said portions of the service brought her to tears. “My faith must be put into action or my faith is dead,” she said. “Faith without works is dead.”

Jen Packing-Ebuen, a member of Watermark Church, said she was glad so many people appeared to connect with the service’s message. “Everyone can connect with the MDG,” she said. “Poverty, global economics, the lack of jobs are all related and are all important issues.”

Harnish said MDG are something Christians should support. “I’m afraid that most of us in America are so comfortable and so narrowly focused on ourselves that we easily fail to see the needs of the world and our part in both the problem and the possible solutions,” he said. “One of the ways that Christians, particularly in the Wesleyan tradition, should be unique is that we see ‘the whole world as our parish.’

“The gospel is clear that the Kingdom of God transcends every boundary of nation, race, culture, economics or politics. One of the sad things about so many Christians in America today is that they make a direct connection between their Christian faith and their loyalty to their nation when our first loyalty should be to the Kingdom of God, coming on earth as it is already fulfilled in heaven.”

Becoming informed, learning more

ONE’s Web site reports that 1 billion people live on less than $1 a day — approximately one sixth of the people on the planet. Every day 30,000 children die from preventable consequences of extreme poverty — one every three seconds. Every year 500,000 women die from complications of pregnancy, most of them exacerbated by poverty.

In 2000 leaders from 189 nations, including the United States, agreed to cut extreme global poverty in half by 2015. A total of 189 world leaders unanimously adopted the Millennium Declaration. The declaration led to the articulation of the MDG to be achieved by 2015.

Individuals interested in learning how to write a letter encouraging their representatives in Congress to support the MDG should visit http://www.bread.org/take-action to access offering-of-letters-resources.

More information about ONE can be found at http://one.org. To learn more about the MDG visit http://www.millenniumcampaign.org/.

* This article originally credited the creation of the service to the Rev. Paige Blair, an Episcopal priest. e-Review learned this was inaccurate and made the correction 7/26/07.


This article relates to Church and Society.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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