a reflection by parishioner Bob Melvin
Bob will be one of the musicians playing during our U2charist at 9:45am, June 10.
The service music will include selections of pieces by the band U2.
We invite you to come and support the work of Episcopal Relief and Development!
It would probably help to admit right at the top that I am incapable of objectivity where U2 is concerned. I’m sure we all have something similar in our lives: certain authors, certain fast food, the Steelers. I have to admit, I struggled writing this. The way I experience U2 is not the way I experience other music. They’re like air. Or wallpaper. An element present in so many other facets of my life than just the turntable (or cassette deck or CD player or careening through the aux cord—I’ve been around).
For the unfamiliar, a quick primer: Four Dublin teens meet in 1976 and form a band. They conquer the world, give themselves nicknames like Bono and The Edge, never have a real job, and remain together more than 40 years later. Some people don’t like this because they’re tired of this guy’s face, and that is why we can’t have nice things. (I told you I lacked objectivity here.) If you don’t know them from this song, or this song, or this one (I particularly like this one), you may know them from their tireless work for causes like Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and the ONE Campaign, which uses international advocacy to battle extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.
The Joshua Tree is U2’s fifth album, released in 1987. It was, as it was with many others, my introduction to the band. It was also my first favorite record. I was in 8th grade in Miami, a skinny kid running around with fat laces in my shoes, and I fell hopelessly, endlessly in love. I've bought it countless times in countless formats, and I've grown up and sung its songs with bandmates of my own. I still have that first cassette in my desk drawer. It's still a liturgy. And I still love it with all my whole heart.
It’s not even that the music resonated with me in a “churchy” way; I had always gone to church. I had just never heard these colors before. The yearning for love and justice and soul. The suspicion that they were all always intertwined. That they in fact may all be the same thing. Searching for the baby Jesus under the trash. Bono said once that U2 relies more than most bands on “God walking through the room,” and that still moves me profoundly. We were born to be loved—to reach for something greater than ourselves.
Incredibly, the band’s original lineup is still intact—a feat tried and failed by most bands. (Including every one I was ever in.) They are still thick as thieves, still consider themselves a street gang, still embrace the unknown next thing while reluctantly reckoning with legacy. Still small. Still intensely Irish. And possibly the best tourists America has ever had. Just watch (or rewatch for the millionth time like me) their halftime performance at the Super Bowl after September 11. It’s an astonishing display of created community by four men who committed to creating community a long time ago, and who consider themselves America’s biggest fans. That yearning, that desire to know and to be known—for me, that’s what U2’s music sounds like. It sounds like home.