HOME>  Tips for Readers of the Word: In order to read a passage well, you first need to understand it.

Tips for Readers of the Word: In order to read a passage well, you first need to understand it.

Start: August 19 2018
End: November 25 2018


If you read in church you might
find the following tips from a workshop I ran recently useful. Feel free to
share with other readers.


Scripture is central to our
worship at mass. Therefore to read in a church we must prepare properly for it.


The following tips will help
readers carry out their assignments.


In order to read a passage
well, you first need to understand it. You need to have a general comprehension
of what the passage means. Is this a triumphant passage proclaiming the glories
of God? Is this a poetic, meditative passage reflecting on pain and
persecution? Is this God speaking to man or man speaking to God? Is this a
story or a letter? What is God seeking to communicate to us in it? Spend at
least a few minutes ensuring that you understand it. If this is an unfamiliar
passage to you, and you have difficulty understanding it, it may be useful to
do a little bit of research or discuss it with someone.


Practise, practise, and
practise: Don’t memorise every word of the reading – just the beginning and the
end. Once you have a basic understanding of the passage, you will need to
practice reading it. This will help you understand its flow, and to ensure that
you know how to pronounce every word. Because you will be reading out loud, you
will need to practise out loud. Read the passage from beginning to end -- at
least 5 or 6 times -- until you are confident that you will be able to capture
its flow.

As you practise, learn which
words or phrases you will need to emphasize, find natural places to pause and
look for places where you will need to increase or decrease volume. Practise
varying your tone and pace, but be careful that you do not become an actor
delivering a drama presentation. This is not Shakespeare. Your task is to read
the scripture in a way that aids understanding but without drawing attention to
yourself. You have succeeded well if people are drawn to the word of God and
take no notice of you. Make sure you practise those difficult words enough
times that you will not hesitate on them during the reading.


Dress appropriately. Do not
wear anything that might prove a distraction (such as shirts with slogans or
logos). Read the passage through at least a couple of times on Sunday morning
to ensure your memory of it is fresh.

Also, check that the microphone
is switched on. Please do not start to read when the sound system is off. You
would have lost the attention of half the congregation.


Before you get to the altar,
clear your mind of irrelevant thoughts, distractions and tensions. Stand tall
without slouching. Make eye contact with the people you are reading to. As
often as possible, raise your eyes from the script to look at the people. Read
ahead a little bit so you can make eye contact at moments you know what the
next few words will be. Try to keep a good, natural pace. The tendency will
probably be to read a little bit too quickly. Please avoid that. Through it
all, remember that you are reading for the benefit of the congregation. Pause
for a moment at the end of the passage before saying your words of conclusion:
“This is the word of the Lord.” Head back to your seat, but do not rush.


Here are a few common mistakes
that you should be aware of.

Too Fast!

Try not to be nervous. This
causes people to read too quickly. When in doubt, slow down.

Not Enough Preparation

Do all you can to prepare
properly. God’s word deserves our best efforts. If you are halting and
stumbling and mispronouncing words, you are not serving your congregation as
well as you could.



Preacher Voice

Remember you are not preaching.
Leave that to the priest. Use a projected, but natural voice. Be you. Read to
people like you want them to understand, not like you are teaching them.

Too Quiet

The key to good vocal
projection is to take a good breath (not gasp!) before your first word. Read
like you are trying to help the man sitting at the back to hear you without
amplification. Speak fully and confidently.

Without Feeling

Do all you can to “feel” the
text as you read it. Having prepared so well, you will already understand much
of what it says.

Too Much Feeling

While you want to “feel” the
text as you read it, be careful that you do not become an actor performing a
drama recital.

Reading God’s word is to call
people to action, so read as a town-crier. You have something to say and you
can expect the listeners to give it attention.



Here are a handful of passages
that are useful for practising.


How will you read the first 2
verses? How might David have spoken them? How did Christ speak them? Are you
reading as David or as Jesus? What kind of transition will there be between
verse 2 and 3? What kind of transition will there be between verses 5 and 6?
What tone will you use in the final words of verse 31?


How will you transit from verse
2 to 3 and then from verse 6 to 7? Will you pause at the end of verse 7 between
“who says to Zion,” and “Your God reigns?” How will you speak the words
“Depart, depart” at the beginning of verse 11?


Paul uses lots of big words,
long sentences and Old Testament quotes. How will you read all the questions in
verses 1, 2 and 3 without making it sound forced? How will you read the
exclamation in verse 4? Will you vary your tone or voice in some way between
verses 10 and 11 to indicate that you have moved from Paul to an Old Testament


How will you indicate that in
verse 3 there is a loud voice from the throne without over-acting that voice?
How will you pace the list of sins in verse 8 so that each one receives
emphasis and it doesn’t all blend together? How do you pronounce; “carnelian,” “chrysolite,” “beryl” and
Can you pronounce “the twelfth amethyst” without stumbling over
it (it’s actually quite difficult!)?