Train your lectors in this one most effective skill

Train your lectors in this one most effective skill

posted in: liturgy | 2

Every year on the Third Sunday of Advent, I brace myself for disappointment. This day is called Gaudete Sunday, which means Rejoice Sunday. Every year, the readings emphasize rejoicing. And my favorite reading is from Year C, Philippians 4:47. It begins:

Brothers and sisters:

Rejoice in the Lord always.

I shall say it again: rejoice!

And inevitably, I end up cringing inside. Almost always, the lector reads this amazing reading in a flat, unemotional tone that sounds as though they are reading financial data from an Excel spreadsheet.

Disinterested, monotone reading happens most Sundays in most parishes. It is especially apparent on days like the Third Sunday of Advent when the message of the reading is as much about the mood as the literal content.

This is a real problem. The assembly cannot hear the message of the proclamation if it doesn’t speak to their hearts.

Free Download: “NINE STEPS TO BECOMING A BETTER LECTOR”

How your lectors can do better

There are many ways to help your lectors improve, but there is one way that is head-and-shoulders more effective than any other:

Train lectors to locate and announce the most important phrase.

Every lectionary reading has a “most important phrase.” Sometimes the phrase is obvious. Sometimes it is obscure. Sometimes there might be more than one important phrase. Note that the important phrase in a reading is not necessarily a full sentence.

In all cases, it is paramount that the lector pick one, and only one, phrase to emphasize. If they were doing Bible study or a dramatic reading, the lector would have more options and could possibly emphasize several phrases. But on Sunday, standing before the assembly, the lector has a very brief moment to convey a message to the hearts of the assembly. That message has to be honed, precise, clear, and unmistakable. The listeners have to get it the first time (the only time) they hear it. (This is even truer for streamed liturgies during which listeners have many more potential distractions.)

On Sunday, standing before the assembly, the lector has a very brief moment to convey a message to the hearts of the assembly. That message has to be honed, precise, clear, and unmistakable. Click To Tweet

The way the lector discovers the most important phrase is through prayer and practice. By spending time in prayer, asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the lector will be opening their own heart to the message God wants conveyed. And then by practicing out loud at least six times or more, the most important phrase will become apparent.

Different lectors might discover different phrases to emphasize. So the lector the 8 a.m. Mass may focus on a different phrase than the lector reading the same reading at the 10:30. That’s okay. The proclamation of scripture is not like math. There can be more than one correct answer.

Let’s try this out

For example, what would you choose as the most important phrase in the Philippians reading for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year C?

Brothers and sisters:

Rejoice in the Lord always.

I shall say it again: rejoice!

Your kindness should be known to all.

The Lord is near.

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,

by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,

make your requests known to God.

Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding

will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Post your answer in the comments section below. It will be interesting to see if everyone chooses the same phrase or if the choices are all different.

Once the lector has identified the most important phrase, they need to practice their reading several more times, out loud, in such a way that the phrase stands out. They can try things like adding a block of silence before and after the phrase, making full eye contact as they announce the phrase, changing the pace, or changing the volume, and changing the emotion level.

Getting your lectors to focus on the one most important phrase in their reading will not completely transform them into the best proclaimers they can be. There are many other skills they need to master. But if they can first master finding and announcing the most important phrase, the assembly will leave the liturgy having truly heard the word of God.

Free Download: “NINE STEPS TO BECOMING A BETTER LECTOR”

Image credit: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels.

2 Responses

  1. paula vasey
    | Reply

    The Lord is near.

  2. Jacqueline (Jackie) Dwyer
    | Reply

    I’m torn between “Rejoice in the Lord always” and “The Lord is near.”

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