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This page last updated 3 August 2004
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Letters to AO

EVERY WEEK WE PUBLISH a selection of letters we receive in response to something you've read at Anglicans Online. Stop by and have a look at what other AO readers are thinking.

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Letters from 26 July to 1 August 2004

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Good sound systems do not make good readers

ONE LETTER THIS PAST WEEK (July 25) brought to mind an issue that seldom is mentioned in most churches: sound reinforcement, a.k.a., microphone dependence.

At our church I was one of the key people who was called upon to survey our needs. I have some experience in running both front-of-house and monitor systems for national acts and know the equipment needed to do the job. I've had good teachers in this and in something else I offer the church (in addition to my musical talents), which is lay reading. All the fine equipment in the world won't make up for marginal reading skills.

I have no formal training in reading, mind you, but some good critiquing by peers and a bit of coaching by a retired acting teacher. I cannot emphasize enough the benefit of good preparation by reading and rereading aloud, especially when one is called upon to read one of the Pauline epistles. Pacing and phrasing are so important here. With Paul, you'd BETTER practice your reading! Though I am a layperson, I believe that part of my trust as a reader is to help make the scripture come alive, show its key point. One can only do well at that through a thorough reading and rereading, some thought, and time in prayer.

The other side of that coin is making one's self heard. Yes, we have top-drawer sound reinforcement gear. But that's still no excuse for poor reading habits. Regardless of whether the mic is stuck in my face or not, I try to speak to the back row of pews when I read. I learned to read in a church that didn't have sound gear and one's voice had to carry by itself. I suppose being a good singer helps with projection, and good diction is part of good singing. No, I'm not perfect at it, but more often than not I do receive compliments on my reading. There's not a whole lot to it, really. I just do my homework, and speak as if there is no microphone.

R. Frederick
St. Andrew's Episcopal
Panama City, FL USA
26 July 2004

Find a lay preacher in your congregation

THE BATCH OF LETTERS (July 25) about preaching and preachers was most interesting, and I agree that seminaries should put greater emphasis on teaching the mechanics of public speaking - breath control, projection, emphasis, and so on. I applaud those seminaries that have the wit and wisdom to employ acting teachers to do just that.

However, there is another solution, especially for parishes that have Rectors who did not receive proper voice training; there is someone in each congregation who can preach as well as, if not better, than the incumbent.

I have a theory that each congregation is a complete body of Christ, so all the gifts are present. Each congregation has teachers, preachers, healers, administrators, and so on. Unfortunately, we also have a tendency to expect our incumbents to fill all those roles, and that's unfair. No one person has all the gifts, so why not check around and do a gift inventory? Where is it written that one has to be ordained in order to preach? With more and more lay people getting involved in the liturgy, this is a logical step.

Of course, in many parishes, the problem could be getting the incumbent to let go!

Rene Jamieson
The Cathedral Parish of St. John
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
26 July 2004

What I want from a sermon

AS A PEW SITTER and not a preacher, I would like to comment on what I want from sermons.

First you have to be able to hear and understand the sermon. One church I was in had wonderful accustics -- for music. Any spoken sentence that wasn't paused regularly got blurred by the resonance. Even good speakers got caught on that. But few guest preachers would ask about the acoustics in advance. All too often I would get to the end of the sermon and think, 'I think he made some good points. I wish I had been able to understand them.'

Second it's got to be designed for HEARING. I've also heard sermons that would have been great to read. But they were so dense that I got lost early on. Or half way through a story I would realize that without a detail I had missed at the beginning, this wasn't going to make sense, and the detail was never repeated.

Third, it does have to have good content. The first time I took my then 15-year-old to Christ Church, Canon Jeremy Peake preached a very long, involved sermon. I worried about what my son would think. Afterwards, asked if the sermon had been to long, he replied, 'It wasn't long. It was interesting!' Soon he was coming to Christ Church with me. The 14-year-old still went to the Methodist church with his father. The two teenagers regularly argued about sermons over Sunday dinner. What a compliment to both preachers!

MarthaJeanne Barton
Christ Church
Vienna, Austria
28 July 2004

Earlier letters

We launched our 'Letters to AO' section on 11 May 2003. All of our letters are in our archives.


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