A year ago, on April 19, 2015, Bono and Eugene Peterson met in person for only the second time in their lives, though their friendship has been long in the making. They met in Peterson’s home in Montana, on the edge of Flathead Lake, to talk about their mutual interest in the Psalms and the quality of honesty in life and art, and to continue on a journey of friendship. David Taylor brought them together with the help of some friends and, with filmmaker Nathan Clarke, produced Bono & Eugene Peterson: The Psalms, a 20-minute film for Fuller Studio, a new e-resource by Fuller Theological Seminary that will use the film in its debut launch online on April 26, 2016.
Taylor, associate professor of theology and culture at Fuller and director of Brehm Texas, an initiative of Fuller’s Brehm Center for Worship, Theology and the Arts, wanted to interview Bono and Peterson and capture a conversation in which they could, as Taylor described, “bear witness to the ways that the Psalms have transformed their lives—personally, professionally and otherwise.” He hopes those who watch the film “will encounter the God of the Psalms as a God of hope, healing, justice, grace, goodness, power and truth, and be inspired to read, pray or sing the Psalms themselves.”
Taylor also said he thinks the film might help those who’ve been to one of U2’s Innocence + Experience concerts in 2015 “understand why U2 rains down on their audiences fragments from the Psalms that are taken from Eugene’s translation, The Message.”
But because of this new film, we now know Bono’s experience singing the Psalms goes all the way back to his childhood spent in Finglas and, presumably, to the church his Protestant mother, Iris, attended. Bono has said his father would drive him and his brother to the Church of Ireland’s St. Canice’s Church so the brothers could attend while his father either waited outside or went to the Catholic St. Canice’s across the street. In the Anglican St. Canice’s, Bono would have first heard and sung “The Lord’s My Shepherd” from the Church of Ireland’s hymnal, which included the popular metrical paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm by Francis Rous, set to the tune Crimond.
(Artist credit: Clyde McLennan / www.smallchurchmusic.com)
Bono won’t go into all this detail in the film, but he will do something better: he’ll give an a cappella performance of the first verse of the hymn while sitting at the Petersons’ table with his friends.
Taylor told me that although Bono was “frightfully intelligent when it came to the matter of the Psalms,” all throughout the afternoon “he seemed utterly at home with the Petersons.” He was generous and appreciative of every person in the room, “without any need to assume a persona.” As Bono left to return to Vancouver, where U2 was in rehearsals for the start of the tour, “he hugged Eugene and [his wife] Jan, and he kissed my wife on the cheek.”
I’ll have more from David Taylor to share with our @U2 readers after the film is out on the 26th. Here is the official trailer: