Guidelines to Reading Scripture

Reading scripture during church can be a wonderful gift to the community and to yourself. There is an opening up process that is beautiful. Below are some tips:

1. A fabulous resource about reading scripture is here: http://revpatrickcomerford.blogspot.com/2008/01/reading-scriptures-in-public-worship.html

“Do you believe that when you are reading Scripture in public worship you are proclaiming the Word of God? Those reading the Scriptures must understand the significance and privilege of their task.

But sometimes, as I watch people reading Scripture during the offices or the liturgy, as I listen to the ways in which they read, or as I watch their body language, I ask myself whether they really believe they are presenting the Word of God to those present, that it really is the Word of God, and that they are not just ciphers who have been asked to read but are engaged in ministry.”

2. Pray. Pray for the meaning of the scripture to speak through you. Pray for the scripture to be made clearer to you. Pray both before and after you read the scripture. Even when you are practicing.

3. Read your scripture ahead of time. i.e. Practice.  Read it out loud. Make sure you know how to pronounce all the funny names and places (if they are there). This website is a help and not horrible: http://netministries.org/Bbasics/bwords.htm . If it is a Jewish name/word, do a website search for pronouncing Hebrew names/words. You can always ask! Practice reading the scripture several times. If there are hard names/words, practice until they roll off your tongue.

4. When you read the scripture, remember that it isn’t about you. It is not your interpretation. You are a channel for the Holy Spirit to move through to provide a surplus of meaning to those who are hearing the word. Move your ego out of the way.  You should become a transparent leader.

5. Remembering that men and women are made in the image of God, make your language about God as gender neutral as possible. Where it says “he,” you can typically substitute Lord or God. This will not change the meaning and will provide a valuable lesson especially for the young women in the congregation. It is a good reminder that in the Hebrew Scriptures, where it says LORD is where it was typically God’s name (the holy tetragram), not where it actually means a dominant male leader typified by Lord. Lord with the lowercase is where it actually refers to God as Lord. When you read Hebrew scripture, for gender neutrality, you can switch LORD to Yahweh or Jehovah. Jehovah, interestingly enough, was a word that developed from the holy tetragram in which they just inserted vowels. This principle depends on your faith community and the standards which it holds.

6. Hold the Bible when you read from it if you can. It is a sacred instrument. A sacrament.

7. Read from the Bible, not a piece of paper. Some Bibles have small print. If you need to, print the scripture out in a bigger font and put it into the Bible. You can tape it in using temporary tape! But hold that Bible and love it!

8. Read slowly.

9. Read clearly.

10. Use the microphone properly.

11. Use the lectern properly (if it is adjustable).

12. Be expressive, but not dramatic.

13. Pay attention to personal decorum. (Pull up your pants before you read!)

14. And remember, mistakes happen. We are not God!

15. Look at people as you read. This will also slow you down.

16. If you are reading any book but the gospels, people typically sit. When reading the gospel, invite people to stand. “Please stand as you are able for the reading of the gospel.”

17. Start your reading with “A Reading from ________.” i.e. A reading from Luke. Or A reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Or A reading from the Revelation to John. Or A reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

18. End your reading with a moment of silence.

19. Then close with (pick one—my favorite is “Holy Wisdom, Holy Word”):

         a. Holy Wisdom, Holy Word 
                   People respond:  Thanks be to God.

         b. God’s Word for God’s People 
                   People respond: Thanks be to God.

         c. This is the word of the Lord. 
                   People respond: Thanks be to God.

         d. This is the Gospel of the Lord. 
                  People respond: Thanks be to God.

20. After the scripture is closed and the reader has returned to his/her seat, it is ideal to have another moment of silence. Consider intentionally breathing in and out before picking up the next piece of the service.

Shalom,
Terri

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2 thoughts on “Guidelines to Reading Scripture

  1. I love this instruction. It is different for different communities. In our community you dont know that you will be reading until about 2 minutes before the service starts. Still many of these suggestions are really helpful.

    Thanks!

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