Saturday, June 29, 2013

Grace Church Lector's Guide

Thank you for using your gifts and talents to serve as a lector at Grace Church.  You are an integral part of our service of praise and worship to God. Following are some thoughts on how you can make the readings come alive for your audience.
The schedule for readers is in the bulletin each Sunday; a month in advance.  If you are unable to read on the Sunday assigned to you, please extend the courtesy of informing the office and if possible finding another Lay Reader to read for you on that Sunday.

Before the Service
The readings for each Sunday can be found at  If you do not have access to a computer, call the office and ask for the readings.  If you are unable to practice before the service, please arrive at church early enough so you can review the readings and the psalm.  
If you have not been a lector before, get out a Bible and practice reading in front of a mirror or try reading to your family. This is also a good way to practice some of the techniques listed below.
When approaching how you will read the text aloud, reading meanings rather than words. There is no magic formula, but using these techniques will help you improve your skills.
1. Become familiar with the reading. Get the feel of the content and style of the selection. It may be helpful to read the passage before and after your reading to get its full meaning and context.
2. Think about its meaning. What is the author saying on the surface? Are there any underlying messages? What are his feelings about his message? What feelings does he want to communicate to his audience? What parts does he want his audience to remember?
3. Study the words. Check the dictionary or a concordance for the exact meaning and pronunciation of any unfamiliar names and words.
4. Mark your copy of the text as an aid to expression where pauses and stress might be used.
a. Underline each word or phrase to be stressed.
b. Underline twice parts that have greater stress.
c. Pauses can be indicated by a slash (/).
During the Service
When reading the lessons, use this form:  A reading from; insert the name of the book of the Bible, for example "A reading from Revelation."   At the conclusion of the lesson pause briefly before saying "The Word of the Lord".  
Decide ahead of time how the psalm is to be read. For information, consult the BCP pp. 582-584. Please make sure your selection is appropriate to the psalm and simple enough to explain. There are three general approaches:
  • Unison
  • Alternating verses
  • Splitting verses at the asterisks
The second and third approaches are most frequently done with the lector reading one part and the congregation the other. However, it can also be done with men and women alternating verses or the two sides of the congregation. Another option could be the congregation (and the lector) reading one part, and the choir the other. Be aware that the terms can be confusing to the congregation, and that it may be best to describe the pattern without using the term. For example:
After the first lesson, announce that the psalm will be found in the bulletin, if in the prayer book, give the page number and how the psalm is to be read, for example "Please read Psalm ___ found in your bulletin. I will read up to the asterisk and the congregation will complete the verse."
Establish your own personal ritual to use before you start to read. Pause, take a deep breath, and slowly exhale, knowing you are in control. Look around at the congregation.  The purpose of this is to help you get centered. If you are uncomfortable making direct eye contact with the audience, a useful technique is to look around, but gaze directly above their heads.
If you make a mistake or mispronounce a name, don't get rattled. If it changes the meaning of the text, correct it. If it doesn't, gloss over it and keep going. Probably no one will notice it anyway.
There are six tools you can use to make your reading more interesting and varied: volume, speed, tone, emphasis, eye contact and enthusiasm. When you read, try to read as if you are normally talking to someone and telling a story. Use a "talking" voice rather than a "reading" voice. Make some parts a narrative, some parts intense, and accent some parts with a dramatic silence.
1. Volume - Your voice should be loud enough to carry to the back of the room. A good technique is to pick out a person in the back of the room and pretend you are reading to them. You can start loud, but later tone your volume down. As you are reading, put a little more emphasis on verbs and words that show action.
2. Speed - A common mistake is to read too fast because of nervousness. Read at a moderate speed, fast enough to move along, but slow enough so your audience can understand you. A good technique is to sometimes slow down just a bit to emphasize a particular part of a sentence, especially an ending. You can also slow down if you want to enunciate a word so the audience will understand what you are saying.
3. If you are reading a narrative with a quotation, or another person starts to speak, pause for a moment, change the pitch of your voice and your tone before reading the quotation. Pause at the end of the quotation to let the audience know the quotation is finished. Then return to your normal narrative pitch and tone.
4. Tone - Tone gives your voice melody, and can be like the spice in a good dinner. Tone is a combination of pitch, quality, and strength. You want just enough to make the taste interesting, but not overly strong. Vary your pitch enough so that you don't read in a monotone. You can also change pitch and volume slightly when two people are talking during the narrative so the audience can distinguish between the two.
5. Emphasis - For more effective reading emphasizes verbs and nouns. De-emphasize articles, especially "a" and "the". You can use emphasis by inflection, by force, by change in voice quality, by means of pitch, and by means of pause.
6. Eye Contact - Periodically, as you are approaching the end of a statement, read far enough ahead so that while you are finishing orating the sentence, you can look up and make eye contact with the audience. Once you have perfected this technique, while reading, you can occasionally direct your gaze to the left, right and center audience, and make direct eye contact with them or look just above their heads. You can also read ahead if you are coming to the bottom of a page and the reading continues on the other side. If you read ahead, you can turn the page and continue the verbal reading without a pause while you are turning the page.
7. Enthusiasm - Have enthusiasm for what you are reading! Prepare to read by looking at the passage before and after the lesson to get a sense for the passage.  Get excited about the message you are reading or the story you are telling. Enjoy the process of reading it. This enthusiasm and enjoyment will reflect in your voice and pass on to the audience.

Revised 4/22/2010 by Ken Lyon to reflect current practice.
Revised 6/2013 by Ken Lyon to update lectionary link