"I am a singer and a songwriter but I am also a father, four times over. I am a friend to dogs. I am a sworn enemy of the saccharine; and a believer in grace over karma. I talk too much when I'm drunk and sometimes even when I'm not."
-- Bono, 2001 Harvard graduation speech
'Our North Star': Tribute to Rev. Jack Heaslip
February 25, 2015
It’s a sad week for the U2 family, and we mourn together with them in the loss of a very significant member. Although Reverend Jack Heaslip was highly influential and well known in the band's tightknit community, many people have not heard of him.
Jack was there from the beginning. Way back at Mount Temple Comprehensive, a nondenominational “experimental” high school in Dublin, he was both counselor and teacher, and an especially important mentor for the boys who would come to be known as U2. Neil McCormick, lifelong friend of the band, in his book Killing Bono, describes Jack as “a gentle, thoughtful, soft-spoken, bearded man with strong spiritual leanings.”
Students were drawn to Jack because of his friendliness, creativity and artistic outlook on life and faith. McCormick recalls in Exploring U2, edited by @U2 staff member Scott Calhoun: “I can remember him reading in class from Leonard Cohen and overseeing sex education classes so explicit that it caused one nervous girl to faint. And it is an openness that is reflected in Bono’s own faith and its practical interactions with the corporeal world.”
Eventually transitioning out of his role as career counselor at Mount Temple, Jack became an Anglican clergyman, ministering to a congregation of his own. Along the way, he nurtured a deep friendship with U2 and came to be their “traveling pastor,” providing spiritual direction and care for the band, their families and hundreds of crew members as they trekked across the globe together on multiple tours. Clearly, Jack was a strong personal influence on Bono, officiating at his wedding with Ali, baptizing their children and burying Bono’s father.
Despite his high-profile position with the band, Jack lived outside the spotlight, focusing on personal relationships and congregational care rather than fame and media attention. However, in a rare recording from 2001, he prayed for the band and crew before the opening show of the Elevation tour in Miami. As Bono introduces Jack, he invites everyone to gather around the front of the stage for a word of blessing. Jack’s words are inspiring:
Next time we hear this music, there will be people everywhere, which will transform everything. And the great deal what I feel about this tour is what is going to happen to the people who will come here, who are going to be touched by this album, and who already have been touched by the album (and the albums over the years). So, I thought of a psalm, Psalm 61, which has pretty pretentious words, but then they were used by Jesus himself about himself, so, I suppose we could do no better than that really. [Editor’s note: he was actually citing Isaiah 61.]
It starts with, "The spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." And I felt that what we want God to do tonight is to pour his anointing. And that’s not just a dab on the forehead, that’s a rich anointing of his oil. We’re told the oil would flow down from the top of your head -- and in my case into your beard -- and down your front and make a mess. But that’s the richness of God’s anointing. And what I felt God wanted me to do today was to pour out, in his name, an anointing on everything to do with this tour -- every body, every thing. We think of the band, but we think of every piece of equipment and everyone who works that piece of equipment, everyone who packs up, everyone who drives a car, everyone who does the catering, everyone who is responsible for technology, every joint of wire, every plug, every soffit, every light.
So we ask for that anointing to be poured out by the power of his spirit. So we simply say: Come, Holy Spirit, and reign. Pour out your rule and anointing on this tour. Let nothing be an obstacle. Just melt away anything that is not of you, so that your power can flow without interruption. We claim your blessing and your anointing, because we ask it in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Psalm 116 has a nice response. The question is how do you respond to the blessing of God? And the answer is, celebrate and drink a toast to God. So ... to God!
Pastor Jack is toasting with God in eternity now. We offer our sympathies and condolences, along with our love and prayers, to the Heaslip family and to the U2 community.
From the fans he never knew he had, those of us who have also felt his pastoral presence through concerts and albums, we agree with the liner notes from Songs Of Innocence and offer our thanks and fond farewells “To Jack Heaslip, our North Star.”
(c) @U2/Neufeld, 2015.