This is a follow-up post after discussing whether or not readers are provided training and how appropriate or not that is. As well as comments at that post, you can read insights here, here, and here.
The ministry of proclaiming the Scriptures, the Word of God, in the Christian assembly is one of the most significant ministries, and appropriately involves ongoing training and formation. Traditionally this is a minor order, or a person is instituted to this ministry.
In training you may have some points which you can add in the comments. You may also disagree with some of the points made here; the value of them being made, then, is that these points provide a starting point for reflection.
A community has a translation standard and a community Bible or book of the readings (often the readings are organised into a bound book of the Revised Common Lectionary readings)*. If your community is seeking an agreed standard, my recommendation is NRSV. It is hopeless if a community does not have a standard; you can end up with the reader reading a different text to that which the preacher is using!
- The reader needs to understand the text s/he is reading. If the reader does not understand the text, if the reader cannot express the meaning of the text in a sentence or two, then s/he has no real hope of conveying the meaning of the text by reading it aloud. If the text is complex a good commentary may help, praying with the text, being part of a Bible discussion group that works through the text, or, as part of the preparation, checking/studying the text in a dynamic-equivalent type of translation or a paraphrase may help. [The Message provides a significantly different way of presenting the text into English.]
- Many find marking a practice text helps: keywords, where to vary pace or your volume, pauses, important words to emphasise, places to breathe in a long sentence. Check pronunciation of names, places, difficult words; note them.
- Practice reading aloud. At home. And then at church before the service.
- Ignore the microphone. Many people seem to give the impression that they think the microphone will turn quiet, mumbled, rushed, monotonous reading into great and powerful oratory. It does not. Read aloud as if the microphone isn’t there. Project. Although we obviously do not want exaggerated pomposity worthy of a Monty Python church skit, for most people, you cannot read too slowly; you cannot vary pitch, pace, and volume too much; you cannot be too emotionally expressive. Video yourself and see that what you think was over-the-top hyper-dramatisation was actually merely interesting, comprehensible reading.
- Check height of lectern, light,…
- Don’t be nervous. Swallow so your throat is lubricated. Breathe. Come up. Take your time – what feels long and slow for you feels normal for the gathered community. Bow. At the lectern, pause. Breathe. Swallow. Begin as prepared. At the end of the reading pause… then use the normal response that concludes the reading and wait for the congregation’s response to you before you begin to leave the lectern.
- Being videoed from time to time is a wonderful way to enrich this ministry of yours.
*Some suggested Books of the Revised Common Lectionary readings (NRSV):
- Revised Common Lectionary in Nrsv: Sundays and Festivals : Principal Service Lectionary of the Church of England
- Readings for the Assembly: New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), Emended: Revised Common Lectionary: Cycle A
- The Gospel of the Lord – Gospels for the Principal Services – Years a, B, and C, and for Principal Feasts and Festivals