Above are photos of the the Sanctuary of Fátima, also known as Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, in the municipality of Ourém, in Portugal. I am lucky enough to live a 40 minute drive away from here.
You may have been asked to give a reading in church this coming Easter time. My newest online course teaches you how to read aloud from the Bible.
Whether you're Bible reading, reading from a Prayer book or doing any other religious reading - it will require the same skills as reading aloud any other good literature.
Although I talk about Bible Reading, these same rules apply to any religious reading from any religion anywhere in the world.
The Bible is made up of 66 different books. These books are made up of poetry, drama, letters, songs and much more and each makes beautiful use of language.
To read aloud from the bible with conviction you have to read the words as though you had written them yourself.
You need to say the words as though they come from inside you - as though you were the first person to think of these particular words in this order.
The words have to become part of you and so you must fully understand what the words mean. You can't guess! If you're not sure about any of the words look them up in a dictionary. You must also be sure in your own mind what meaning and mood you want to put across.
Reading aloud from the bible is all about sharing something which evokes a feeling in us. It could be a good feeling, a sad feeling or a feeling of anger. How often have you read a sentence in a magazine or book and said to the people you are with, 'hey, listen to this' and then continued to read out loud to them what you've have just read to yourself?
When we read something we're interested in, we want to share it with someone.
When you're bible reading you should sound as though you are reading a story to the congregation. It will be a wonderful and exciting bible story so you will need to use your voice to convey this.
Once you've decided on your what you'll be reading aloud from the bible you need to practice it out loud as often as possible. Your voice needs plenty of variation in it and so you need to vary the four 'P's' - Pace, Power, Pitch and Pause.
If your bible reading is to be read in a church, the sound is likely to echo - especially in big old churches like we have in Dorset, England. To compensate for this you need to slow the pace down. Churches can be very grand buildings so you'll have to give the words time to travel to the person sitting at the back of the church. One of the easiest ways to slow your speech is to open your mouth wider, this also helps the sound to come out.
Try saying the following out loud:
"Writing a speech is not as difficult as people first think. As long as you have an introduction, a middle and a conclusion you'll have a speech. Remember to write the speech in language that the audience will understand. When you practice make sure that you practice out loud and remember to underline all the important words."
It should take between 20 and 25 seconds - any faster and it's too fast, if it's much slower your audience will fall asleep waiting for the next word.
Although in general, the pace needs to be slow, if you're reading a particularly exciting or angry passage, speed up a little to convey this change in mood.
A good way to control the pace when reading aloud from the bible is to make sure that you open your mouth wide enough for the vowel sounds and that you sound all the consonant sounds in a word. Exercises for doing this can be found here.
Another way to slow down when reading aloud from the Bible is to pause on each comma or full stop.
When you're reading aloud from the bible you need to speak loud enough so that people can hear you. Don't be frightened by the sound of your own voice. If you're too quiet the listeners will have to strain to listen to you and you'll also give the impression that you think that what you have to say isn't important.
If your voice is going to sound interesting you must alter the pitch (high or low) of your voice to suit the mood of the reading. In general terms a voice which is low in pitch gives a feeling of seriousness and authority - think of a giant talking. The opposite to this would be a little fairy talking with a tiny high pitched voice. This would sound very sweet but wouldn't be very authoritative.
Remember though, that a voice that is always at the same pitch is very, very monotonous. Even if you want your reading to sound serious you will need to raise the pitch of your voice on exciting and important words.
I can't over emphasize the importance of the pause. If you're giving a sermon or reading aloud from a bible or any other religious text, the listeners will need time to take in what you've said. Hopefully you're going to say or read something that should make them think.
They need time to do this. If you just carry on without a break they'll be considering your last thought while you have started on the next thought.
Pausing also gives you the chance to take a breath and perhaps give your audience a quick glance to see if they're understanding what you are saying.
Any type of religious speech - homily, bible reading etc. needs to be spoken with feeling, understanding and warmth. Not everyone who is listening will agree with you but if you can sound enthusiastic (without going over the top) and interesting they will at least listen to you.
If you're speaking inside a Church or similar building remember that the bigger the space you're in, the louder and slower you'll need to speak.
When you are bible reading remember to look up at your listeners on the important words. This is particularly important in large churches as it will help your voice to carry. If you find the print a little small to read with ease, copy your bible reading out onto a piece of card with larger text. This will give you more confidence.
If you find it difficult to look up a lot please make sure that you at least look up at the very beginning and at the end of your bible reading.
Ending your Reading
You can end your reading with the words 'This is the word of the Lord' if you wish.