Paige Blair is ready to rock. The place is packed. Bono’s voice blasts from the stereo. Blair, clad in black, ears studded with six earrings, leads the 300-strong crowd in… the evening’s first hymn.
Reverend Blair, 36, is an Episcopalian minister—and a big U2 fan—who heard in hits such as “Vertigo,” and “Gloria” sentiments she found compatible with Christianity. “U2’s music is undeniably spiritual in its call for justice,” she says. So she had a revelation: “What if we did a service and all the music was U2?”
In July 2005 she held the first “U2charist” (her twist on eucharist, or communion) at St. George’s Church in York, Maine, where she preaches. The evening service has become a highly popular offering. “It brings in younger people,” says parishioner Sarah Duquette, mom to three teens. “Frankly, they need it most.” Reverend Blair has shared her rockin’ service with churches of many denominations from Nebraska to South Africa. One stipulation: When members pass the plate, proceeds go to charities fighting poverty and AIDS, the goals of U2 singer Bono’s ONE Campaign. So far U2charists have raised $60,000. And how does Bono feel about having his music sanctified? “If they play it in church, great. If they play it in the streets, great,” he says. “As long as they play it and get the message.”