It turns out that Darlene Zschech, whose song "Shout to the Lord" my church loves to sing, is covering "Walk On" on her first non-worship, studio album. This inspires me to type out a reflection involving U2 and Darlene Zschech I have had in my head since All Saints Day 2001.

At the seminary where I got my M.Div. (BUSTH), we read a book called Celebration and Experience in Preaching by Henry Mitchell. It is about the experiential and participatory nature of African-American preaching, which I had the privilege of hearing a lot of in our chapel. The book is at church, so I can't cite accurately, but one idea from it has stuck in my mind for the intervening 12 years, and basically it was this:

The preacher must be the first one off the diving board into the pool of ecstasy, or nobody else will ever believe it is safe to jump.

In any vocation, I guess you gradually acquire specific personal lenses through which you often look to evaluate what's going on; and this idea, as challenging as it is to me, has become one of my lenses: Is anyone in the pool, and how did whoever's up front do at inviting them to jump in? (A somewhat similar lens from my other seminary, SWTS, was acquired when the then-liturgy professor bellowed at a diffident student presider in "play church" class, "Take CHARGE of the thing!!")

OK, that was the background, here's the reflection. I know enough about worship music (i.e. music found at places like Worship Together, or Integrity, or Vineyard Music) to have heard about a sort of worship music tour that was coming to our area in October 2001. A group from my church went to what was in essence a 2-hour worship service with maybe 3000 people, and I had on my Henry Mitchell lens throughout (though I also worshipped, of course.)

Now, the presider I was really waiting for was Darlene Zschech. People who know a lot more than me had told me "she's the real thing; she's the most gifted worship leader of our generation" and so on, and I wanted to see it for myself. They saved her for late in the evening, of course, so for the first hour plus, a series of people whose names I have to admit I didn't really recognize led us. It took most of them a few songs to get people in the pool, but they all did a good job.

Then Darlene Zschech came out, and you could feel the atmosphere in the room change. Not only did she "take charge of the thing," but it was crystal clear that unlike everyone who had preceded her, she was already where she wanted us to be. Where it had taken most of the leaders a few songs to jump off the diving board, she came onstage already swimming. I didn't especially care for most of her repertoire (I'm personally more of a Passion or that sort of often-British modern worship type - or chant, or really substantial hymns), but I had to admit that by the middle of her first song, the assembly was in the pool. This impressed me; at that point, I'm not sure I'd ever witnessed anyone enable that corporate leap so naturally and smoothly.

Two weeks later I saw U2.

Probably most of you can describe the Elevation Tour entrance: house lights on, totally low- key, mild "hey everybody" waving from the band. Also typically, as Bono neared his mike he knelt and crossed himself. Getting to his feet, over beats 2, 3, and 4 of the final bar of the intro tape he cried out something - perhaps "lift us up," perhaps just one of those glossolalic Bono yells. And the moment the band hit the downbeat of "Elevation," 20,000 people were in the pool.

Perhaps that will sound like an exaggeration; it isn't. I'm not saying they accomplished it every night, but they did that one. I have a recording of the concert, and it almost seems to me sometimes that you can hear it, hear something happen, at that moment.

I didn't think about Darlene Zschech and liturgical presiding at the time (I was in the pool!) but the next day was All Saints and I thought about it a lot. I thought about "take charge of the thing." I thought about pools that have big signs on them reading "Christian Church Liturgical Gathering; All Welcome" and how few people jump in those. I thought about what a presider does and what Bono was doing. I thought about the real meaning of that high-church hobby-horse "liturgy is the work of the people" (which I do believe is a great and powerful truth; however, just saying so can't make it happen).

And as good as she is at what she does, I thought, more than once, with a big grin on my face: "Darlene Zschech, eat your heart out."

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