Here are some tips to help you read that Bible passage clearly and confidently.
You have generously accepted the request to proclaim the Bible passages at a wedding or funeral (or graduation or other special event). Someone who trusts you asked you to do this favor for all the others who will be there.
- As early as you can manage, before the special event, prepare yourself:
- Do your personal, spiritual preparation. Pray about this: Someone important in your life has entrusted you with a solemn, special task. Pray in gratitude for the love between you and the people who asked you to do this.
- Indeed, God has entrusted you to speak the Word of God to the People of God. This is not meant to scare you; God counts on normal people all the time, and on heroic people once in a while, to get the Word out.
- Accept this truth: Some, not all, of those who hear you will "get something" from the reading. Preachers know this about their sermons. In their hearts, people will take what they need to hear from your words, and that will vary from person to person. Some might need desperately the sense of comfort and confidence that's contained in what you read. A few are pondering life-changing decisions, and hearing your proclamation may steer them in a healthy direction. You don't control this. But you can help make it happen by how carefully you do your job.
- Find your material: Get the text on paper. Print the .pdf image from one of the Notes pages on this site, or photocopy the pages from your church's lectionary.
- Get smart about your material. It doesn't just mean what it appears to say. Read the Notes page on this site about your passage. (Links are in the top, center of this page). The Notes pages are designed to show you what the original author was trying to do when writing the passage. That's how you'll know what you're talking about.
- Mark up your copy of the material, so you can see where you want to pause, to change volume, to look up and face the congregation.
- Rehearse with somebody you trust, someone who cares about church and liturgy as much as you do, and who cares about the people who asked you to do this. Without letting your auditor see the text, read it to him or her like you plan to read it at the wedding or funeral. The listener should be able to say back something intelligent about what you just read.
- Be practical and be elegant:
- Churches are pretty elegant places. If your friends chose a church for their wedding, you know it passed the critical judgment of the mother of the bride. There's almost no wasted decoration in a modern church. Everything fits, including the elegant leather-bound book of Scripture passages on that marble pulpit. We call that book the "lectionary." That's elegant because the church reveres the Word of God, and wants it to have authority in the lives of those who hear the Word. So get practical about that book and resolve to use it elegantly.
- Participate in the wedding rehearsal and make it clear to the priest or deacon running that show, and to the wedding party, that one recitation of your reading is part of the whole rehearsal. You will already have mastered the text (see above). This lets you test the acoustics of the church. It may add some desirable gravity to the rehearsal.
- If not at the rehearsal, then twenty minutes before the ceremony, find in the lectionary the page with your passage. Mark it with a ribbon or with a Post-It sticky note. Write the page number in ink on the palm of your hand.
- If none of the above is practical, then, twenty minutes before the ceremony, slide a printout of the .pdf page of your passage into the lectionary at a place where you can find it easily. You want the congregation not to notice your effort to find the page. It should just seem natural, so nothing distracts them from what you're going to say.
- That means when its time for you to read, you cannot walk into the sanctuary carrying a tacky paperback copy of Together for Life or an even more tacky Xerox printout.
- In the pulpit, speak more slowly than you think sounds natural. Many occasional lectors just read too fast. (Check your own experience as a listener.) You're not going to lengthen the cermony unduly.
- In the pulpit, exaggerate your high and low tones of voice more than you think sounds natural. It won't sound unnatural to the congregation. The acoustics and public address system mute your highs and lows, so you have to compensate. If you don't, you'll sound flat (Check your own experience again).
- Wear sensible shoes. You may have to walk a long distance on a marble floor and up marble steps in an otherwise silent church. Don't invite unnecessary drama.