Does it matter that I prepare ahead of time to read a Scripture Lesson
Yes. I believe that it does.
The scriptures are given a prominent role in Anglican liturgy. The church’s worship services are full of scriptural phrases and sentences. This prominence reflects the Anglican church’s emphasis through the centuries on the primacy of the scriptures. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching , for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 – NRSV). If we are to respect this prominent role, we should understand the role of the Reader, or “Lector”.
The Reader as Prophet
In a scriptural context, a prophet is a person whom God uses to deliver a divinely inspired message to an individual, a group, a people, a church, or even to nations. Any person who reads the divinely inspired Scriptures aloud to a congregation is therefore doing the work of a prophet. It is known that people have been converted by hearing the Word of God read during the worship service. Certainly this part of the liturgy is meant to be an occasion for the revelation of God’s truth and purposes for His people. Through reading and the work of the Spirit, the worshipping community and each member of it are led to an encounter with the Word of God.
The Reader as Servant
The call to be a reader is a call to be a servant of God and the congregation. It is also a call to allow the reader to be used by the Holy Spirit in worship. Hence the thought of being called to do the work of a prophet in a servant role builds faith, courage and gratitude as well as prevents the reader from being fearful or proud.
The Reader as Representative
Christians gather at worship to hear the Word of God proclaimed and in listening to the Word to be drawn closer to Jesus who is the Word of God. They express their joy and gratitude for God’s past and present healing acts of redemption, to offer God glory and praise, and to be a sign of faith to the community in which they live. When Christians gather to worship God, parish readers speak on behalf of the congregation and speak also on behalf of God to the congregation, as they recount and extol the qualities and deeds of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—as recorded in Scripture. Therefore, the reader speaks as a representative of the whole parish.
The Reader as a Person of Prayer
A reader’s prayerful preparation will bring special blessings upon the congregation and him/herself. When preparing for each reading the reader prays that the Holy Spirit will enable her/him to speak the Sacred Scriptures with clarity, confidence and authority. The reader also prays that the hearts, minds, and wills of the reader and the congregation will be open to receive God’s message in the reading.
The Reader as Learner
Reading effectively in a worship service requires knowledge and skills that many parishioners have not had reason to develop previously. For example: skill in reading aloud before a congregation; skill in using a microphone; knowledge and familiarity with the Bible; and the structure of the liturgy. Hence a reader is a learner, whose effectiveness can be strengthened by teaching, coaching, practice and feedback and thereby do his/her best with the gifts God has provided.
There is no substitute for proper preparation for both the reading of the Bible and for leading the Prayers of the People. With proper spiritual and practical preparation, God will be served and the congregation will receive maximum benefit from your efforts. Pray for guidance and understanding at the beginning of your preparation. Seek to understand what God is saying in the readings for the day by reflection, and by using whatever commentaries and books are available. Do not hurry, let God speak to you.
Eternal God, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning, grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen. (The Collect for Proper 32, – BAS)
It is wise to pre-read the passage aloud to find the pace, rhythm and voice inflections most appropriate for the passage. Check pronunciations of difficult words with a Bible dictionary. It is also helpful to locate the reading in the Bible, and to insert a removable yellow sticker note, or some such marker, before and after the passage to be read.
Sit in a location that is near to the lectern, so that the flow of the service will not be interrupted as you move to the place from which you will read or from which you will lead the prayers of the people. Before turning the microphone on or starting to speak, adjust the microphone position if necessary. After the microphone is positioned properly, turn the microphone switch to “On”.
Let the Spirit Work
Having prepared well, we can be confident that the listeners will “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.”