Belfast Telegraph

Van Morrison has religious experience during LA service

By Ivan Little

Van Morrison - who recently said he wouldn't touch religion with a 10-foot pole - has surprised members of a spiritual centre in Los Angeles by turning up at a service... and singing one of his most famous songs.

Footage of Morrison's soulful rendition of Have I Told You Lately That I Love You has been posted on YouTube by members of the Agape International Spiritual Centre, where the Belfast singer was introduced as "our brother".

During the song, a casually-dressed Morrison repeatedly said "what an adventure".

He received a standing ovation from the congregation and thanked them and the founder of the centre Dr Michael Bernard Beckwith, who revealed that Morrison live-streamed the centre's services from his home in Northern Ireland and listened to its weekly radio programmes.

Before his appearance on stage with Agape's band, he was filmed sitting among the congregation at their huge centre in Culver City for the service, which lasted more than two hours.

"He's a member of Agape," said Dr Beckwith, who set up the centre in 1986 as "a movement that would take a stand for love, for peace, for being a beneficial presence on the planet".

The name Agape comes from the Greek for unconditional love.

Dr Beckwith, a former Methodist, said: "Agape's vision is fuelled by the love of God, the One, indefinable yet unmistakable presence whose vehicle on Earth is the human heart and soul.

"My aspiration is that every individual who is touched by the vibration of Agape is inspired to cultivate a heart of love as wide as the world."

According to Agape's website, the centre's "active teaching and practice of the New Thought-Ancient Wisdom tradition of spirituality has expanded into a trans-denominational movement and community of 9,000 local members and one million friends worldwide". But Agape's methods and teachings haven't been without their critics on the internet, who claim that they are a cult.

A year ago Morrison sang at the funeral service for his 94-year-old mother Violet in St Donard's Parish Church in east Belfast, which he made famous in a number of his songs.

His parents were married in the church in 1941.

Mrs Morrison had at one time been associated with the Jehovah's Witnesses in the city.

Morrison, who has written several songs about religion and mysticism, was once briefly linked to the Scientology movement, and on the liner notes of a 1983 album he "thanked" its founder L Ron Hubbard, but he later distanced himself from the controversial organisation.

In 1989 Morrison recorded a duet with Cliff Richard - Whenever God Shines His Light - and the two famously appeared together on Top Of The Pops.

In an interview with the Irish Times before his Cyprus Avenue concerts to celebrate his 70th birthday two years ago, Morrison said of religion: "I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole.

"In one of my songs I do now, 'politics and religion, superstition go hand in hand'.

"That's my take on it, but nobody knows that song, you know, because they don't play it on the radio."

Morrison said that he separated religion and spirituality, adding: "Spirituality is one thing, religion... can mean anything from soup to nuts, you know?

"But it generally means an organisation, so I don't really like to use the word, because that's what it really means.

"It really means this church or that church... but spirituality is different, because that's the individual."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph