I was interested to read Neil Winton's post t'other day, and follow through to this post from Bill Boyd - both of them on the importance of reading aloud in the development - and the proof - of literacy skills and understanding of texts. They coincided with my own leading of a short workshop for adults who read aloud - or might want to read aloud - in the context of a church service, and because I'd been thinking about my teaching days after reading the blogs, I think I hit the ground running in a way I might have forgotten about.
Of course, a big hurdle in reading the Bible - in any version - is the sheer complexity of much of it. And perhaps nothing catches out the unwary reader in quite the same way as Paul's letter to the Hebrews, parts of which have begun to appear in the lectionary right now. With my sights firmly on the person who will have to tackle this next Sunday, I decided to base my teaching on just such a passage. The first sentence was five lines long, with crucial punctuation and a wandering "because" that belonged firmly, but to the unwary surprisingly, to the principal clause which followed later in the sentence. (Gosh: that sentence I've just written would be murder to read, huh?) It was great to see pennies dropping about changes in meaning if you got the "because" in the wrong tone of voice, or the destruction of meaning if you came to a halt before the end of the sentence; about the cause of this last fault in the shortness of breath of someone who doesn't know about support and voice production.
The best moment came when we were all ready to have a go at this passage. We'd talked a bit about the difficulty of church acoustics and the deaf lady who always sits in the back row, but working on that in the smallish confines of the church hall kitchen (for there were aspiring liturgists working in pairs in the main hall and we would have disturbed their composition) had its problems. Reader, I solved it. I shut each participant in turn inside the kitchen while the rest of us crammed onto the landing and listened from there. The effect was dramatic, as each in turn sought to communicate meaning to others they couldn't see, realising that a dropped voice or a slurred syllable would be lost and with it most of the sense.
I hope they enjoyed it. We were all pretty loud and hilarious by the end of the session, and everyone had had the chance to offer their take on what was going on. I felt a sense of satisfaction. It was, in fact, a bit like being the teacher ...