Priests Need Early Public Speech Coaching
Marie-Chantal Peeters, Pietermaritzburg – I enjoyed the Good Preaching Needs Learning and Listening by Kelvin Banda OP, and congratulate Fr Matlala, whom we see preaching in the picture illustrating this article, at his ordination earlier this year.
On the subject of preaching I have a strong opinion which I have voiced in “private” more than once: Good preaching starts with speech coaching at a very basic level at the beginning of the priest’s formation.
Many of our priests in their training do not receive and are not made aware of the basic bricklaying principles of good articulation and bringing the message of their preaching in an audible way.
When I voice this to some more senior authorities, the reply is feeble: “For many of our priests, English is not their first language”.
Yet, if our Church considers preaching an important part of the ministry of a priest, and the congregation is expected to listen and to learn, then the priest’s formation would need to include speech-coaching; preferably at the onset of their formation, not three years down the line or when they are ordained as deacons.
I recently coached a French-speaking nun to deliver a thank-you speech in English for her community. From nearly incomprehensible English speech, we could, in a week’s time of daily rehearsals, come to a superb result.
It was one-to-one coaching, an effort on her side and mine. But it confirmed that good speech coaching, even speech therapy (let alone basic drama lessons), at the beginning of formation could make a world of difference to some preachers.
When the preaching is audible, let us then expect the congregation to listen and learn.