Choral Speaking for Advent Readings

This information about choral speaking came from Gerry Hendershot during our October 2016 roundtable on Advent and Christmas planning resources.


My contribution to the discussion of Advent planning was “choral speaking” of lectionary readings.  I learned about this liturgical practice in a course at Wesley Seminary in DC taught by Frederika Berger, then a professor of liturgical arts.  It was once very popular in schools and churches in the U.K., and is still popular in some parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia.

There are many styles of choral speaking, but all comprise scripted and rehearsed performance of a poetic text by multiple readers. Here is a short example:

As the example shows, a few readers with a little practice can create a dramatic effect.

We have done choral speaking of Advent scripture at Pilgrims (www.churchofthepilgrims.org) about eight times since 2001.  I have been the director during those years and have honed a process that works for us. Here is a script that illustrates how the lines of scripture passage can be divided, assigned to speakers, choreographed, and spoken.  The format is cryptic, but I explain it to the readers.

I have found that we can do successful choral speaking at Pilgrims with as few as four readers, and as few as two short rehearsals—one after worship the week before, and another before worship on the Sunday of performance.  If your congregation is small, like Pilgrims, it may be difficult to line up readers the first time.  But my experience is that once they do it, they are eager to come back.  After doing it a few years, we have a “stable” of willing readers.

Choral speaking is one way to include poetry in liturgy.  With my partner Nancy Arbuthnot at Western PC in DC, we promote use of poetry in liturgy, education, and spiritual formation.  Our web site is www.verseandvision.org and we have a Face Book page.

You Can Do It

This month, our blog series is actually a vlog series – a video blog, that is! We’re calling it “The NEXT Few Minutes.” Over the next several weeks, we’ll share with you short, 2-3 minute videos from a variety of folks around the country with the hopes they spark your own imagination. We hope you’ll learn about some trends, ask questions, and think deeply about the practice of ministry in your own setting.

Denise Anderson, pastor of Unity Presbyterian Church in Temple Hills, MD, and co-moderator of the 222nd General Assembly, and her daughter Layla consider passions. Where has God placed fire in your belly? Instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing, what is God especially equipping you to do? Join the conversation by commenting on this blog post or on our Facebook/Twitter pages!

To see all of our videos in our “The NEXT Few Minutes” series, check out our playlist on Youtube.

Viewing the Rules Through the Eyes of Love

This month, our blog series is actually a vlog series – a video blog, that is! We’re calling it “The NEXT Few Minutes.” Over the next several weeks, we’ll share with you short, 2-3 minute videos from a variety of folks around the country with the hopes they spark your own imagination. We hope you’ll learn about some trends, ask questions, and think deeply about the practice of ministry in your own setting.

Krystal Leedy, associate pastor for campus ministries at University Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX, considers Robert’s Rules of Order and Presbyterian polity. How might parliamentary procedure enable you to make a difference in your church or denomination? Join the conversation by commenting on this blog post or on our Facebook/Twitter pages!

To see all of our videos in our “The NEXT Few Minutes” series, check out our playlist on Youtube.

Urgency Over Anxiety

This month, our blog series is actually a vlog series – a video blog, that is! We’re calling it “The NEXT Few Minutes.” Over the next several weeks, we’ll share with you short, 2-3 minute videos from a variety of folks around the country with the hopes they spark your own imagination. We hope you’ll learn about some trends, ask questions, and think deeply about the practice of ministry in your own setting.

Ken McFayden, academic dean and professor of ministry and leadership development at Union Presbyterian Seminary, considers anxiety and urgency in the church. What is your sense of urgency? What urgencies do you hear from others in the church? Where do we find common ground in these sources of urgency? Join the conversation by commenting on this blog post or on our Facebook/Twitter pages!

To see all of our videos in our “The NEXT Few Minutes” series, check out our playlist on Youtube.

Building Communities, Not Programs

This month, our blog series is actually a vlog series – a video blog, that is! We’re calling it “The NEXT Few Minutes.” Over the next several weeks, we’ll share with you short, 2-3 minute videos from a variety of folks around the country with the hopes they spark your own imagination. We hope you’ll learn about some trends, ask questions, and think deeply about the practice of ministry in your own setting.

Jen James, a christian educator in the National Capital Presbytery, asks what would happen if we spent more time considering what happened outside of the church walls instead of church programming. What if this year, our churches committed to making healthier communities instead of building up our own programming?  Join the conversation by commenting on this blog post or on our Facebook/Twitter pages!

To see all of our videos in our “The NEXT Few Minutes” series, check out our playlist on Youtube.

A Community Knit Through Song

This month, our blog series is actually a vlog series – a video blog, that is! We’re calling it “The NEXT Few Minutes.” Over the next several weeks, we’ll share with you short, 2-3 minute videos from a variety of folks around the country with the hopes they spark your own imagination. We hope you’ll learn about some trends, ask questions, and think deeply about the practice of ministry in your own setting.

Eric Wall, assistant professor of sacred music and dean of chapel at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, reflects on the role of music in church. What do you believe God is doing through song? Join the conversation by commenting on this blog post or on our Facebook/Twitter pages!

To see all of our videos in our “The NEXT Few Minutes” series, check out our playlist on Youtube.

Success in the Church

This month, our blog series is actually a vlog series – a video blog, that is! We’re calling it “The NEXT Few Minutes.” Over the next several weeks, we’ll share with you short, 2-3 minute videos from a variety of folks around the country with the hopes they spark your own imagination. We hope you’ll learn about some trends, ask questions, and think deeply about the practice of ministry in your own setting.

Chris Chakoian, pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Lake Forest, IL, considers what it means to be successful in the church as part of NEXT Church’s series “The NEXT Few Minutes.” What is it Jesus really wants from us in the church? What is it he hopes for us as we move into the future? What does success look like in your context? Join the conversation by commenting on this blog post or on our Facebook/Twitter pages!

To see all of our videos in our “The NEXT Few Minutes” series, check out our playlist on Youtube.

A Public Profession of Faith

This month, our blog series is actually a vlog series – a video blog, that is! We’re calling it “The NEXT Few Minutes.” Over the next several weeks, we’ll share with you short, 2-3 minute videos from a variety of folks around the country with the hopes they spark your own imagination. We hope you’ll learn about some trends, ask questions, and think deeply about the practice of ministry in your own setting.

Jeff Krehbiel, pastor of Church of the Pilgrims in Washington, DC, reflects on faith in community as part of NEXT Church’s video series “The NEXT Few Minutes.” What might a public profession of faith look like for you? Who or what are the “Caesars” in your life? Join the conversation by commenting on this blog post or on our Facebook/Twitter pages!

To see all of our videos in our “The NEXT Few Minutes” series, check out our playlist on Youtube.

Creating Safe Spaces

This month, our blog series is actually a vlog series – a video blog, that is! We’re calling it “The NEXT Few Minutes.” Over the next several weeks, we’ll share with you short, 2-3 minute videos from a variety of folks around the country with the hopes they spark your own imagination. We hope you’ll learn about some trends, ask questions, and think deeply about the practice of ministry in your own setting.

Nancy Myer and Kim McNeill of University Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, NC, share thoughts on effective child protection policies. How can you best educate your entire church on child protection? What might be the part of your church’s policy that is hardest to grasp or remember? Join the conversation by commenting on this blog post or on our Facebook/Twitter pages! And learn more about University Presbyterian’s policies on their website.

To see all of our videos in our “The NEXT Few Minutes” series, check out our playlist on Youtube.

Transformation Through Tradition

This month, our blog series is actually a vlog series – a video blog, that is! We’re calling it “The NEXT Few Minutes.” Over the next several weeks, we’ll share with you short, 2-3 minute videos from a variety of folks around the country with the hopes they spark your own imagination. We hope you’ll learn about some trends, ask questions, and think deeply about the practice of ministry in your own setting.

John Wilkinson, pastor of Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, NY, considers how tradition informs our present living. How can we access our great tradition in ways that are approachable and honest? What would such transformation look like? Join the conversation by commenting on this blog post or on our Facebook/Twitter pages!

To see all of our videos in our “The NEXT Few Minutes” series, check out our playlist on Youtube.