Lutherans in the Twin Cities

The ministry of reading Scripture publicly

If being honest, most worshippers would admit that, while listening to a familiar epistle, they have sometimes thought to themselves, “That text is more boring than I remember.” And yet, perhaps it’s not the text; maybe it’s the reader.

It’s that exact concern that has led well-known Twin Cities actor Mark Rosenwinkel and the Rev. David Buuck, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Minnetonka, Minnesota, to offer a lectionary reading training titled “Bringing Scripture to Life — Presenting the Word with Power and Pathos.”

“Being a reader during worship is a ministry,” Buuck told Metro Lutheran, “and it should be taken seriously.” Lectors have a responsibility for interpretation before the congregation, he explained.

“Some people are afraid that they are inserting themselves into the text” if they read it with feeling and purpose, Buuck explained, though he thinks there is also fear of making a mistake if one looks up or adds emphasis. “Some people just read it straight, and that also is an interpretation,” he said. Unfortunately, sometimes such a reading can leave the listener feeling the text is lifeless.

At a winter workshop at Bethel Lutheran, Rosenwinkel told participants, “The text says [Jesus] raised his voice. Do we raise our voice when reading this text? Why not?” He asked if it wasn’t truer to the text to emphasize this reading by exclaiming the words as Jesus exclaimed them.

Buuck added, “Jesus’ stories were so great that people were transfixed by them. We should imagine that we are at the Renaissance Festival with some texts.” Other texts, like Isaiah 55, sound like a carnival barker is delivering the lines, he added.

Buuck and Rosenwinkel first met when Buuck was a pastor in Cambridge, Minnesota. Rosenwinkel came to offer a dramatic presentation of Martin Luther. Buuck, who was then on the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Minnesota North District’s worship committee, realized that lectors would benefit from training in reading Scripture publicly. When he contacted Rosenwinkel about his idea, Rosenwinkel said he had been having the same thought.

As an actor whose appearances have included Guthrie Theater, Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, and Mixed Blood, Rosenwinkel stresses preparation for lectionary reading. First, read the text aloud in advance. Second, breathe deeply before public reading to relax the voice. And, importantly, choose an action verb that explains what you want to do to your listeners — warn them, comfort them, or chastise them,” said Rosenwinkel.

“There are a variety of types of texts,” said Buuck, with Rosenwinkel quickly adding, “and they shouldn’t be read like the telephone book.”

The pair is approaching 100 such presentations, most averaging two dozen people. For further information, contact the Rev. Buuck at pastordpb@aol.com. The next scheduled training will be at St. Peder’s Lutheran Church (ELCA), in south Minneapolis on October 24.