St Alban North Harrow

Reading in Worship

This short guide is designed to set new Readers on the right track but may give some help to those who have been doing it for years. Whether new or experienced, the reading of scripture in our worship is a vital ministry in the life of the church. Learning how to read better will enrich our worship and gives readers the opportunity to learn more about the Christian Faith.

Preparing to Read

Preparing to read is essential. We do have a rota, and so if you’ve not yet engaged with our iKnow church system you may not receive a reminder that your duty is coming up, so please do check the rota when it’s produced and make a note in your diary. It can make you feel discouraged or embarrassed when you make mistakes because you don’t know how to pronounce something, or if the reading is complicated and you don’t know what it’s about, and so realise it's likely it wasn't clear to anyone else. Preparation will bear fruit, both in good readings and also more confident readers.

How to Prepare

Our readings are printed on our Service Sheet and come out on the Thursday or Friday before the Sunday. You can access them in advance of this via a feed from Almanac. You can subscribe to it to add it to an electronic diary here. There's also this great resource which presents the readings in a form specially designed for reading aloud.

When preparing to read for the first time we suggest you set aside 20-30 minutes to prepare; so if you don’t think you’ve got enough time to do that between Friday and Sunday morning then please ask Shirley Clements, our administrator, in advance as she will know what is coming up. 

  1. Preparation: A good way to prepare is as follows. Read the passage out loud to understand it. Go to the Bible, read the four verses before and after the reading to get the larger context. Read the passage out loud again, placing thoughts/ideas or sequences together. Read it out loud, listening to yourself to hear if you are reproducing the authors intention. Note if your reading of the passage makes sense, shows emotion if indicated, reveals character if noted, shows parenthetical ideas, comes alive as if you were the living author or character. Read the passage aloud in front of a mirror, delivering the thoughts/emotions of each section. Sit down and read it out loud in a relaxed way, becoming familiar with what the words mean to communicate. Read it out aloud one last time, focusing upon the thoughts and intentions of the passage. 
  2. Pronunciation: Be sure that any difficult words are sufficiently practiced so you are used to saying the words correctly and easily. Familiarity keeps you from having to think about it later! You can find out how to say Biblical words at
  3. Prayer: Before and after the Scriptures, pray. Ask God to help you to be an effective proclaimer of His Word and to help you to understand the reading. What you believe about the scriptures will say more than the technique you use.

Practical Points

  1. Please be faithful to the rota: we as a church give out a certain message to visitors about the importance of our worship when a reader does not turn up and someone has to be recruited to read unprepared at the last moment.
  2. Sit in the seat next to the ambo when you are reading, and move to your place the moment the priest says Amen at the end of the Collect. Remove your mask during the collect and before you move.
  3. Move with dignity. Always read from the lectionary book-please don’t bring a piece of paper with you as this rustles on the recording. Do practice before the service reading from the lectionary if it helps.  
  4. Try to look at the whole congregation before beginning. Pause. Announce the reading just as written in the lectionary book (e.g. A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans’). Please don’t announce the chapter and verse as these are printed on the service sheet. (You can announce it at our midweek Eucharist).
  5. After the reading, pause a moment, look at the congregation and then say “This is the Word of the Lord”. Wait for the congregation to respond, and then return to your place in the congregation: please make sure that is near to the front.

 Effective Reading

  1. Pace. Reading fast is the biggest mistake beginners make. To get a good idea of how to pace a reading, please listen to David Suchet reading the bible: If you can, ask someone to judge your speed when you are preparing for the reading.
  2. Diction. Good diction and enunciation is important, especially for those who have hearing difficulties. Often people complain about the volume of reading but in reality it is often the lack of clarity.
  3. Microphone. Practice using the microphone before the service starts. There is no need to touch the microphone during the reading as it will have been set before the service starts. Although there is a microphone in place that does not mean that you should not project your voice to the back of the church. You may need to stand on the box if you are shorter, so have a go at doing that before the service.
  4. Expression. Be expressive with the tone and mood of the text. Let the text guide you for the tone. If you have prepared then you will have some sense of the tone of the text. Monotone speaking will create boring readings. Worship should be lively and that begins with lively readings. It’s rare, but occasionally people can go too far the other way, which can also take the focus away from scripture and into the realms of farce! If you’re uncertain, just ask the Vicar. Read to the punctuation and if it does not make sense then use your own pausing to ensure clarity.
  5. Mistakes. Perfection is not expected: in fact there is a saying that ‘Excellence casts a dark shadow’: if all our readers were like David Suchet we’d never get anyone to volunteer as they would never feel good enough! So please do not worry at all if you make a mistake. Just stop and reread the verse. It is not necessary to say “Sorry” or “Excuse me”: in fact that will draw attention to you rather than the scriptures. Just keep going with the reading with confidence, knowing that God is blessed by faithful, rather than perfect worship. If you can accept that it’s normal to make mistakes, this should help reduce any nerves you might have. It might be a great help to follow the text with a finger as you read so that when you look up you can be sure of finding your place again.
  6. Ending. At the end of the reading pause for a few seconds and then say “This is the word of the Lord” The emphasis should be on the WORD and LORD.

This guide was adapted from one produced by the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth.