In August 2005, Michael A. Smith, rector at the Christ the King Episcopal Church, began incorporating U2 songs into his church services the second Saturday of each month. Since then, he's received media coverage from the Arizona Daily Star, along with nationwide coverage through The Associated Press. The church brings in a band that plays the songs; band members are Ben Sorenson, Jeremy Knight, Rick Wedel, Ruben Ramirez and Dustin Jones. Smith says he plans to bring the service into a weekly rotation. His service always begins with the song "40," progresses into "Gloria" for, appropriately, the gloria, and then goes into either "Grace" or "Kite" post-communion. For the Aug. 12 service, the song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" will be featured to reflect John 6:37-51. Christ of the King Church is located at 2800 W. Ina Road. For more information, call 297-2551.

Tell me a little bit about your U2 liturgy and how you decided to start doing this.

The Episcopal Church tends to have trouble making its message known and relevant; it has much to offer, but there's a lot of expectation about what you come in with in terms of knowing what church is and how to get on board with it. So (things) happened in two steps. One morning, I was driving, and I don't remember what radio station (was on), but a disc jockey here in town was mocking some college in Vermont ... offering a course in U2 lyrics, and the disc jockey was making fun of that like it was ludicrous. I was like, "Well, you've not read the lyrics." ... In a Sunday morning forum, we were discussing the difference between sacred and secular. So I, just as an example, threw out the song "Mysterious Ways" in there, because there is some imagery in there that seems to come from St. Francis and Clare. And the conversation ensued, and was, "Gosh, what would people think if we ever did a service with that music?" And then the first service we pulled off was in August of 2005.

How do you think U2 makes the Episcopal Church more relevant?

Well, it may not make the Episcopal Church more relevant. I mean, (U2) is a voice that has the ear of a lot of people, and there is much in that voice that is faithful and prophetic and faith-based. ... You know, a lot of what's being said in those lyrics is what we would say is at the core of our faith.

Do you think that U2 broadens the appeal to a lot of different generations and a lot of different groups of people?

Well, I know it spans generations. I mean, I was 19 when I heard my first U2 song and became a fan, and I was still in college. I have 83-year-olds who are learning and appreciating and enjoying the music and the liturgy. The question about whether ... (it's) really a bridge to help people. ... I can't tell you that it's doing that, but it seems to be relevant liturgy that people are responding to, and (we're) now trying to get the word out that it's something we're offering. The newspaper coverage helped to do some of that.

Have you noticed a spike in attendance since you were covered?

The last Saturday night was the first service since the Star coverage. Probably 30 first-time visitors were there to see. But a few of those were others from other Episcopal churches who were just curious. But a lot of them were people who were fans of U2 and what Bono stands for, and (some) were just some interesting musician types who were there to see if we were pulling it off, or if we were making fools of ourselves. We pulled it off decently. We'll see if the trend continues. ... The service will go weekly in the fall, but it won't be all U2 at all the services. The second Saturday will stay the rock 'n' roll U2 thing, and the other Saturdays--we're trying to (create a) sort of world-music-synthesis liturgy. So U2 would have a place, but so would anything else.

Do you sing during the services?

Do I sing personally? Yeah, I do. The band is loud enough that it's hard to tell. This last Saturday was the first time where I could hear the congregation singing. You could watch them singing, but it's loud enough, and, you know, we keep toying with the arena sound versus helping the congregation sing. But it's pretty loud, which is what it's supposed to be musically.

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