Suggestions for the oral proclamation of Scripture

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Improve public reading with practice and feedback. And don’t be afraid to overdo it a bit.

Speech coach Christine Parton Burkett offers the following ideas for fresh delivery of familiar readings:

• Allow ample time and opportunity to practice an assigned reading -- days or weeks -- so the Scripture can percolate into your mind and voice.

• Practice aloud with an ear for difficult pronunciations or sound combinations and appropriate pauses. Pauses shape units of thought into digestible bits of the ongoing narrative, allowing the hearers to imagine and, as did Mary, to ponder these things in their hearts.

• Read the assigned lection in a variety of translations, languages, etc. Offer lay leaders resources for commentary on the text when appropriate.

• Consider setting up small-group reading sessions to explore texts aloud and give lay readers a chance to hear feedback.

• Explore different ways to read familiar texts aloud, such as a reader’s theater, with more than one voice. Set scenes as dialogue between characters.

• Overdo. The drama in our heads often fails to carry to the congregation. Try broadening each vocal gesture, reading the Scripture a bit over-the-top, and have someone videotape the reading. What feels awkward and overwrought to the reader is often just right for public reading.