By Phoenix Tso , Contributing Writer
Westborough – “Tonight, God is with us in Westborough, on Main Street, and “where the streets have no name.” ”
So pronounced Pedro Silva, student minister at the Congregational Church of Westborough, UCC, which hosted U2charist this past Friday evening, at a youth-oriented worship service featuring U2 songs as hymns.
At least 75 people, including students who attend the Congregational Church, four other youth groups from the central Massachusetts area, and a smattering of adult congregants, filled the pews to listen to readings and sermons from the church leadership, and to sing along with such U2 hits as “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “One.”
Attendees also donated money and family items to Families in Transition, a group that helps homeless families find housing. All told, the church received $500 in monetary donations and $350 worth of baby products and family items for the organization. Participants also brought food items, which went to the Westborough Food Pantry.
“This is an opportunity to come together “in the name of love,” and promote outreach, community, and unity of spirit,” said Rev. Elaine Gaetani, associate pastor at the church and the event's chief organizer.
The ecumenical Protestant service featured a performance by the U2Charist band, headed by vocalist Lisa Durkee and saxophonist Willie Sordillo, as well as readings and sermons delivered by Gaetani, Senior Pastor Paul Sangree, and four youth group members.
With their spiritual-sounding lyrics, U2 songs have long been used in Christian services, with the first official U2charist taking place in Baltimore, Md., in 2003, and since then, spreading to other churches around the world.
When asked what she thought of the event, youth group member Melanie Borglund, who also did a scripture reading during the service, said, “I's not a huge fan of U2, but I know their music, and I like that this type of service brings modern music to a religion that is a few thousand years old.”
Silva, who led the congregation in prayer, also appreciated this event connecting U2's music and worship: “The idea of U2 is that it's secular music, but the spirituality is in those songs and works with something like the Eucharist. It shows that the spirit is everywhere, even in our music.”
The event's focus, however, wasn's purely spiritual. According to Gaetani, “U2charist is also about fostering communion with all people, particularly those on the margins.”
This idea was not lost on youth group member Danielle Sharkey, who also did a scripture reading.
“This event is really cool because other youth groups are here,” she said, “so there's an opportunity to share our experiences with them.”
The communion aspect also extended to charity, which is a requirement for every U2charist event. U2 allows churches to use their songs free of charge, as long as their events benefit the less fortunate in some way. In the call to worship, Gaetani underscored this aim, asking people to “recognize the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, diaper the baby, [and] shelter the homeless,” while participants followed through with their donations.
Sordillo formed the U2charist band after a tornado hit central and western Massachusetts last year, killing four and injuring 200.
“I was helping out a UCC church in Monson, who were trying to meet people's basic needs after that disaster,” he said. “Somebody there told me that I should form a band and put on a U2charist concert to really benefit those people. Every time I play, I help people, even if they'se not the same ones.”
Along with the spiritual and charitable aspect though, Sordillo, who also leads jazz worship sessions at Boston's Old South Meeting House, keeps in mind the entertainment factor of the songs he chooses.
“We used to play “Beautiful Day” to end the service,” he explained, “But recently we changed to this song instead [“When Love Comes to Town”]. It really rocks the house.”
To view a recording of the Congregational Church of Westborough's U2charist service, Westborough TV replays the church's services on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 7 a.m., on Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m., and on Wednesday at 9 p.m.