Pastor finds what he is looking for: U2

ASHLAND – It wasn’t the traditional ringing of the bells, opening prayer and Gloria Patri that had parishioners at the Federated Church of Ashland clapping and cheering yesterday morning.

It was letting congregants rock out to Bono in their pews that had everyone all jazzed up.

Church member Jim Strouse, who accompanied a playing of U2’s “Forty” on the piano, said he was surprised when the Rev. Jason Rutherford pitched him the idea of incorporating the Irish bandleader’s music and mission into Sunday service.

“I thought whoa, I didn’t expect that!” Strouse said.

Infusing a rock star vibe into the Christian worship services, Rutherford called out for his congregation to recognize the musician’s spiritual lyrics and humanitarian mission.

“This rock star who’s doing this religious work, he came to an intersection with the truth of God,” the reverend told his flock. “Bono exemplifies someone who is speaking out and it’s a good thing.”

Part of Rutherford’s Modern Day Prophet sermon series, the special service featured a local acoustic guitarist strumming U2’s “One” melody and the reverend preaching about the rock star’s story and how others could take action.

The service, which was broadcast on Cable 8, drew praise and remarks like “that was wonderful” from about 80 parishioners in attendance, who said they were inspired by their reverend’s call for reflection.

The service was special for 28-year-old Phillip Williams, who has seen the band live about 40 times and trotted around the country from Boston to Phoenix last year, following the band on tour. He said their hit “One” – played by Ashland High School senior Keith Scotland on the guitar during the service – is particularly compelling.

Williams said a powerful message is embedded in the lyrics, which speak about unifying for humanity’s sake: “One love/one blood/one life/You got to do what you should/One life/with each other/Sisters/brothers.”

“Over the years, it’s become a theme song for social movement,” Williams said, pointing to the white One armbands and global campaign to eradicate world hunger. “Things are actually happening.”

Naming biblical prophets like Micah, Amos and Moses during his sermon, Rutherford spoke about how people can learn both from God’s model disciples and more modern peacemakers about how to act righteously.

“They used words, as prophets do today, to remake the world,” said 35-year-old Rutherford, a Mississippi native who grew up listening to U2’s popular “Joshua Tree” album.

“I really like to jog to ‘Where the Streets Have No Name,’ ” said Rutherford, whose favorite band lyrics are in the lines of “Grace” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

While a fan of his music, Rutherford said it was also Bono’s outspoken charitableness and inspiration to others that made the musician a prophet.
– Source: By Danielle Ameden, Ashland Daily News, Feb. 12, 2007