These folders are free in any
quantity if they'll be of help
to you lectors.
Just write!

Illuminations. (r)
...to make the readings
of the lessons comprehensible
and interesting

P.O. Box 514036, Milwaukee, WI 53203

The reason lectors read at all is simple: the are (1) supposed to transmit the words and thoughts in the lessons, and (2) they are supposed to do so, if it is possible, in a way which makes the reading come to life and have meaning.

Of course, they must be comprehensible.

Some lectors in the Episcopal Church start by looking at the text with suspicion, as if they have never seen it before. And sometimes they haven't. But they go bravely ahead in a flat "reading" voice, reading about 30% faster than they ought to. They plow through commas, periods, paragraphs, without taking a note of them. If an unusually difficult Old Testament word gets in the road, it gets mangled. They pick up speed, come to the end suddenly, and finish on a rising inflection.

And the congregation gives silent thanks.

There's a better way:

PACE: Read at the "rate of comprehension." This isn't nearly as fast as you think. Give the holy words a chance to sink in.

USE THE "CONVERSATIONAL VOICE". One of the first things we have all learned in school was how to read to the teachers aloud. That's where the trouble started, because the "reading voice" we learned was orificial and stilted. It didn't carry any meaning.

Read as if you were telling your people something they were hearing for the first time. You're reading the Holy Word, and not a list of specifications.

PUNCTUATE. PUNCTUATE, PUNCTUATE; PUNCTUATE! Commas are put in print to indicate a pause without which the meaning would not be clear. So pause. Give it a good, long pause. A period takes an even longer one. And a paragraph calls for enough time to allow the people to assimilate the content of what you have just said.

REST. There's a musical symbol called a "rest". It's used for effect. And you can get a lot better effect if you use a "rest" now and then. The Bible is full of good dramatic happenings - and profound ideas. When you read one, wait. Give it a chance to sink in.

REHEARSE. When you get your assignment, it may be only five minutes before you are going to read. Go over your assignment; but as you do, articulate silently. Run through it at least twice. If you get your assignment the day before, go through it two or three times aloud. Read for meaning and emphasis.

DELIVERY. Read to one person - not all of them. Select somebody in the back row and, with your voice only, read to that one person. Read as if he or she had never heard the Word before, and might not again, and it were up to you to bring him or her into the Church.

But don't let the others get the idea that you're not including them. Look up from time to time, and directly at individuals in the congregation.

TAPING. Get a tape recorder, and read to it under circumstances as near to those in the church as possible. The effect may be terribly discouraging, because all of us think that we have an excellent voice and delivery. And maybe you don't. But the experience will give you humility.

PRACTICE. In time, with practice, you'll get a lot better. Remember that you read the Word of God. Give it your best. Try to make it sound as if it really is the Word of God.

CONCLUDE: When you have finished reading the lesson, pause a little to let it sink in. Then say either "The Word of the Lord" or conclude with the words "Here endeth the reading(Epistle)."

USING THE ILLUMINATIONS. Each text is introduced with a short explanation (or illumination) applying to the text. Its purpose is to get attention, stimulate interest, and make the text comprehensible and memorable. The introduction flows directly into the text, and it is not thought necessary to cite chapter and verse.

If you would like a longer treatment of the subject, we recommend the book
Your Voice, God's Word by the Rev. William Sydnor (Morehouse-Barlow,
ISBN: 0-8192-1438-8). It is excellent.

This small booklet is an adjunct
to our principal work

Illuminations. (r)
...to make the readings
of the lessons comprehensible
and interesting

"Illuminations" is a subscription service which helps make the reading of the Sunday lessons much more comprehensible and interesting to other people.

It provides lectors and lay readers with carefully-written short introductions to the lections to get attention, put the reading into context, and make the meaning clear.

Each introduction comes on a perforated sheet, ready to be torn out and distributed. No editing or copying required.

You may want to see how this plan can bring a new dimension to the reading of the Sunday lessons. Just write today for a free copy of the current quarterly issue. Put it to trial use at no obligation.

The Living Church Foundation

P.O. Box 514036
Milwaukee, WI 53203

Some of the people who founded "Illuminations" are:

Dr. Massey H. Shepherd, Jr.,
formerly Hodges Professor of Liturgics at
the church Divinity School of the Pacific,
was co-founder of Illuminations, and its editor for 13 years.

Fr. Antoninus Wall,
formerly President of
the Dominican School of Theology at GTU

Mr. Alan Conner,
formerly newspaper editor and
member of the board of directors of
The Episcopalian,
was founder of Illuminations.

Mr.J.H. Carpenter,
formerly President of
Colgate Palmolive International

The Rt. Rev. John S. Thornton,
Bishop of Idaho

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On 10-14-99, The Living Church Foundation gave me their kind permission to create this page by duplicating my old printed copy of their very helpful booklet.

This page last updated on 5-14-2000.
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