Dr. Shirley's Resource Pages

Notes for Lectors

Lectors have the responsibility of reading the Scriptures in the Worship Service :
The Lessons and Psalm at Morning and Evening Prayer.
The Old Testament, Epistle, and Psalm at the Eucharist,
They may also be asked to lead the Prayers of the People at the Eucharist

Preparation of the voice Preparation as a Lector Preparation of a particular Reading
Before the Service The Reading Liturgical Presence
Introducing the Reading The Books of the Bible Ending the Reading
Leading the Psalm Leading the Prayers

Preparation of the voice

Develop and practice breath control.

  1. Practice breathing and speaking or singing with the muscles of the abdomen rather than the chest.
    Breathe in - push the belly down and out to full inflation; hold at full inflation for a few seconds; breathe out by contracting the belly muscles and bringing the belly back in slowly; rest a few seconds at empty; breathe in again. Keep the belly muscles firm while breathing in and out slowly.
  2. When the muscles are toned and working smoothly, choose a note at a comfortable pitch, and speak or sing it at a steady loudness and pitch while breathing out. Aim to breathe slowly and smoothly, not rapidly or jerkily.
  3. If possible, practice reading aloud from the Lectern in the Church, with a friend sitting towards the back of the pews. Can you be heard clearly?
  4. If a microphone is to be used, learn how to use it correctly - the person in charge of the sound-mixer should be able to give you some help with this

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Preparation as a Lector

Practice reading the Scriptures aloud.

  1. Read a few verses aloud each day - not necessarily from the Sunday readings, but as part of a habit of daily Bible reading and study.
  2. Think about the meaning of the passage, and let the voice reflect the meaning and feel of the text.
  3. If there are unfamiliar or difficult words, slow down, take them a syllable at a time, and repeat them a few times until they no longer give trouble.
  4. If the meaning of a word is not clear, look it up in a good dictionary or Bible Dictionary.
  5. If names are unfamiliar, use a Bible which has pronunciation helps. Practice saying the name aloud until it comes easily to the tongue.
  6. There are some words which are potentially troublesome. Special care should be taken when encountering them :
    • statutes (laws and commandments) / statues (sculptures)
    • immortality (eternal life) / immorality (immoral behavior)
    • The word "bow" has two different meanings, according to its pronunciation. When pronounced "b-Oh" it can refer to "bow and arrows", "rainbow", "bow, as in ribbons and bows". When pronounced "b-ow" it means to bend before, or make obeisance to someone. When encountering this word in a reading, glance ahead, to be sure of the context, and decide how it should be pronounced.
    • The word "show" is spelled "shew" in the Authorized (King James') Version. Both spellings are pronounced "shohe"
    • The word "saith" is pronounced "seth" (similarly to "said") - not "say-eth"
    • The word "err" is pronounced "er" rather than "air". See the hymn "God moves in a mysterious way" for "err" as a rhyme for "interpreter"
    • The word "the" is usually de-voiced ("e" pronounced "uh"). "The" is only pronounced "th-ee" before a vowel or for exceptional emphasis of the following word
    • The word "a" is de-voiced - pronounced "uh"

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Preparation for a particular Reading

  1. Whenever possible, find out in advance what portion of Scripture you will be reading.
  2. The readings are listed in the back of the BCP (Book of Common Prayer). There are two sets of readings - one for use at the Eucharist (and also generally used for Morning Prayer on Sundays when there is no Eucharist), and one for use with daily Morning and Evening Prayer.
  3. It is useful to read the sections : "Concerning the Lectionary" - page 88 of the 1979 BCP and "Concerning the Daily Office Lectionary" - pages 934-935 of the 1979 BCP
  4. The purpose of your reading is to convey the meaning of the passage, so you need to understand the passage, and to understand it in its context. If you do not understand the passage, consult a Bible Commentary and/or your Clergy.
  5. The Readings generally use the RSV - the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
    The RSV can be downloaded from the InterNet, in several file formats suitable for word-processing to give a large-print copy, or a copy for reading practice. Check with your clergy, or with the person leading the Service, as to which translation to use
  6. Consider whether the passage is self-explanatory, or if it should have a few words of introduction to set the scene.
  7. The Churches of the High Plains' Team Ministry have books of suggested introductions for each of the readings.

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Before the Service

  1. Consult with your clergy as to whether or not you should wear vestments, and whether you should walk in the procession. If you will be seated in the congregation, ordinary street clothes and well-polished shoes are appropriate. If you will be seated within the sanctuary, cassock and surplice are appropriate.
  2. Check that the Lectionary Book is on the Lectern, open at the right page.
  3. If leading the Psalm, check that a Prayer Book, open at the right Psalm, is on the Lectern.
  4. Position yourself in the congregation so that you will be able to move smoothly to the Lectern when it is your time to read.
  5. Be sure that you know when your reading comes in the order of the Service, and be prepared to move to the Lectern promptly. If you are in a large building, you may start moving from your seat as the previous reading comes to its conclusion
  6. Consult with your clergy as to whether or not you should genuflect, reverence the Altar, etc. on approaching the Lectern.
  7. Make sure that you know how you will introduce the Reading
  8. At Trinity, Portales, there is usually also a book with suggested introductions to the Readings.

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The Reading itself

  1. Reading should normally be done from the Lectionary Book on the Lectern.
  2. It is better not to use Bulletins, Pew-Sheets, or other formats - there are sometimes typos or alterations to the text with the commercially-prepared Pew-Sheets.
    However, for readings by children and Junior Lectors, it may be easier to use a large-print copy.

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Liturgical presence - the general stance, pace of speech, eye-contact

  1. Posture should reflect the serious nature of reading the Scriptures in Public Worship.
  2. Try to be alert but not stiff; relaxed, but not slouching.
  3. Read with vitality. Use emphasis as appropriate. Vary the voice to reflect the message of the text, but avoid being overly dramatic. There is power in the word of God, and you are the instrument of speaking that word to the people
  4. Try to project the voice and speak to the center back wall or row of the congregation.
  5. If using a microphone, be sure that you know how to use it, and position yourself so that the microphone will pick up your voice correctly. Be careful of sibilants (letters such as "s" which can give a hiss), and plosives (letters such as "p", which give a puff of air onto the mike). A cardioid mike with a breath screen is best for close-up speech
  6. Try to have occasional eye contact with the congregation. Practice reading and remembering a complete sentence, to enable you to glance up at the congregation while still completing the sentence.
  7. The pace of speech should be quite a bit slower than that used for normal conversation - your hearers are further away, and there are more potential distractions.
    The longer the building, the slower the tempo.
    Slow down by using longer pauses between words, rather than by dragging out the individual words
    Pause at commas and other punctuation marks, and where the sense of the text calls for a break.

    eg. "O Lord, we beseech Thee, mercifully to hear us . . "
    should be read as
    "O Lord, . . . . we beseech Thee, . . . . mercifully to hear us..."
    "O Lord we beseech Thee mercifully . . . . to hear us....."
    (The Lord hears mercifully, not we that are beseeching mercifully)

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Introducing the Reading

  1. If the Lectionary gives a choice between a full reading and an abbreviated reading : The longer reading is for use at the main Service.
  2. If the reading consists of several sections, with parts skipped over : the bridge passages may be included in the reading if wished.
  3. Announce the Reading as "chapter ..., beginning at verse ..." rather than listing all the sections.
  4. If the Reading begins with pronouns, it is recommended to substitute the names of the people involved, so as to give better sense to the Reading, or to use an introduction which will explain who the persons are.
  5. If using an introduction, make clear where the introduction ends and where the Scripture starts.

    eg. A Reading which begins "They said to him . . . "
    could be read as "The Israelites said to Moses . . .", "The disciples said to Jesus . . ", etc.
    "The setting for the Old Testament Reading is at the time of the Exodus, when the Israelites were questioning Moses. (Pause)
    A reading from the Book of Numbers, chapter . . . beginning at verse . . . (Pause)
    They said to him . . . "

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The Books of the Bible are introduced in various ways

"A Reading from ....
the Book of -
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations
the First Book of - Samuel, Kings, Chronicles
the Second Book of - Samuel, Kings, Chronicles
the Song of Solomon
the Book of the Prophet - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
the Gospel according to - St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, St. John
the Acts of the Apostles
the Epistle to - the Romans, the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, Titus, Philemon, the Hebrews
the First Epistle to - the Corinthians, the Thessalonians, Timothy
the Second Epistle to - the Corinthians, the Thessalonians, Timothy
the Epistle of - James, Jude
the First Epistle of - Peter, John
the Second Epistle of - Peter, John
the Third Epistle of John
the Revelation to St. John

It is incorrect to say "the Book of the Second Kings", "the Book of John", "the Book of First Timothy"

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Ending the Reading

  1. At the end of the Reading, pause, then say "The word of the Lord." and wait for the people to reply "Thanks be to God" before stepping away from the Lectern.
  2. CAUTION : it is better not to use the ending "Here endeth the Lesson", because some of the congregation are likely to reply "Thanks be to God"
  3. Consult with your clergy as to whether or not you should genuflect, reverence the Altar, etc.
  4. Return to your seat at a normal smooth walking pace.

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When leading the Psalm

  1. Announce both the Psalm and the page number, and pause for a moment to let people find the page. It is a good idea to announce both the Psalm and the page number twice. This gives time for people to hear what is said, and to find the place in the Prayer Book
  2. If there are visitors, children or the elderly present - take extra care to announce page numbers clearly, and pause to let them find their place, without making it obvious that one is waiting for them.
  3. Remember to alert the congregation to the way in which the Psalm will be read.
    see the section "Concerning the Psalter", pages 582-584 of the BCP.
  4. The most familiar way of reading the Psalm is by "Responsive Recitation" by half verse, in which the leader reads to the asterisk of a verse, and the congregation completes the verse.
    This way is best introduced as
    "Let us read Psalm ..., page ... responsively by half verses. (Pause) Psalm ..., page ..."
  5. With responsive recitation, if the first line is so long that it goes onto a second line : pause for breath, if necessary, before reaching the end of the first line, and carry through the end of the line to the next line without a pause, so that members of the congregation are not misled into jumping into the reading.
  6. Try to avoid using the word "together", which is ambiguous - it implies "in Unison", but is not clear.

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When leading the Prayers of the People

  1. The Prayers should be led from a place in the congregation where all can hear easily. This may be from a front pew, at a central kneeler, or kneeling at the Altar Rail.
    If in doubt, ask your clergy, or the person leading the Service.
  2. It is helpful to give the page number clearly before beginning the Prayers.
    If using Rite II, give both the Form and the page number. In this case, it is helpful to give both Form and page number twice, to give people time to find the place.
  3. The pace of speech should be much slower than that used for normal conversation - the longer the building, the slower the tempo.
    Slow down by using longer pauses between words, rather than by dragging out the individual words.
    Pause at commas and other punctuation marks, and where the sense of the text calls for a break.
  4. If using Rite I - Pause and wait before starting the paragraph at the top of page 330, so that the people may add their individual petitions and thanksgivings. If you are not comfortable with the timing for this, discuss the matter with your clergy.
  5. If using Rite II, if you are not comfortable with the timing of the periods of Silence, discuss the matter with your clergy. Be aware that at the conclusion of the Rite II Prayers, the concluding Collect or Doxology is added by the "Celebrant" - this means the Priest who is celebrating the Eucharist, not the Lay Minister.

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Dictionaries at :
Cambridge Dictionaries Online | | Dictionary.com | | The Free Dictionary | | Merriam-Webster Online | | Webster Online | |

Text files of the Bible, and other resources, at :
bibles.net | | Bible Gateway | | Blue Letter Bible | | Christians Unite | | Online Bible | | World-wide Study bible - many versions and helps

The Lectionary Pages : download the Lectionary Readings in RSV or NRSV versions

Bible commentaries and other helps at :
Christ Notes | | Crosswalk

Text files of the BCP at :
Justus Site : many versions available

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Copyright © 2004 Shirley J. Rollinson All Rights Reserved

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Last Updated : June 12, 2017

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