Lectors have an important ministry. They read the first lesson at Mass —and the prophecies at the Great Vigil just before the First Mass of Easter. The task is easy, but it requires some preparation.
The first step in preparation is to read, mark, and inwardly digest the following:
Lectors are responsible for reading so the last person in the back of the church can hear and understand what is being read. This means projecting the voice with plenty of energy, reading slowly, and articulating clearly. Here are some additional important responsibilties:
Find and practice reading the text assigned. Unless otherwise indicated, we use the Revised Common Lectionary version at High Mass. The text appointed for the day can be found on the Lectionary Page of the Episcopal Church.
If you are a new lector, arrange with Owen Burdick, our choirmaster and organist, to rehearse the reading in the church before the date assigned. Experienced lectors may not need to rehearse, but rehearsals are strongly recommended for those who have not served as lector in the past.
3. ERRORS HAPPEN
Before Mass, be sure to check to make sure that the day’s lesson is the same as the one you rehearsed. Sometimes the lesson printed in the Sunday Bulletin is in error, so be sure to check the book of lessons in the sacristy before Mass to familiarize yourself with the printed lesson you will read. In the sacristy, the Master of Ceremonies will be happy to help you find the proper page in the book of lessons.
4. LIFE HAPPENS: HOW TO ARRANGE A SUBSTITUTE
If you are unable to serve on the date assigned, please arrange a substitute from the roster of other lectors. Your should notify the head lector of the substitution with as much advance notice as possible. If your substitute needs to rehearse in the church, he or she should make the necessary arrangement with Owen Burdick.
Phone numbers and e-mail addresses can be found in the Parish Directory. Copies of the Directory are available in the undercroft of the church or from the Parish Administrator (but not available on the parish web site because of privacy concerns).
5. LAST MINUTE PROBLEMS
If you have a last minute problem and must miss Mass on the day you are scheduled to read, please call the undercroft phone (202-xxx-xxxx) and ask whomever answers to tell day’s Master of Ceremonies that you can’t be at Mass. A last-minute substitute will be arranged.
Tips for Lectors
The church space is large and resonant. It’s excellent for music and singers, but a challenge for readers. It is not equipped with amplifiers and loudspeakers. But lectors’ voices need to reach and be understood by worshipers in the back row diagonally across the nave from the lectern. Here are some tips for readers who want to be heard and understood under those circumstances:
1. WHERE TO SIT
Sit in the first pew to the right of the center aisle. The Master of Ceremonies will bring you the book containing the lesson to be read and escort you to the lectern.
2. DON’T RUSH
When you take your place at the lectern to read, remember that you are among friends. Don’t rush into your text: stand there silently for a few seconds to get comfortable. Let the congregation look you over so they can see that you are perfectly at ease and in complete control of the moment.
3. SPEAK LOUDLY
Breath deeply, keep your chin up, and use your diaphragm muscle to speak strongly. The Cleveland Clinic tells us, “The diaphragm is the most efficient muscle of breathing. It is a large, dome-shaped muscle located at the base of the lungs. Your abdominal muscles help move the diaphragm and give you more power to empty your lungs.” Use your diaphragm to project your voice over the lectern, all the way to the rear of the church.
3. SPEAK SLOWLY
Otherwise, reverberation will muddle the sound of your voice.
4. ARTICULATE ALL YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY
Be especially careful with, little words like “of,” “in,” and “and.” For example, if the text reads “bag of wind,” don’t drop the f and pronounce the text as “bag uh wind.” Pronounce words carefully and correctly. For example, saith is pronounced like seth, not say-ith.
5. EMPHASIZE CONSONANTS
Give special attention to final consonants. Otherwise they will be covered up by the reverberation of preceding vowel sounds.
6. USE PAUSES
Pauses help you interpret and emphasize key points in the text.
7. REMEMBER: NO NEED TO RUSH
Speak slowly and steadily all the way to the end of your text. Resist the urge to speed up as you near the end.
8. AT THE END OF THE TEXT, STOP AND PAUSE
Let the text sink in for three or four seconds, then say “The Word of the Lord ,” to which the congregation will respond “Thanks be to God.” Close the book, give it to the Master of Ceremonies, and return to your seat.