This is a pet peeve that I haven’t written about before, so it must be your lucky day!
Worship is a communal act. I have nothing against generalizations, such as when a pastor speaks of “back-to-school chaos.” I am not going back to school and I don’t have children who are, but I recognize that that’s where a lot of people — perhaps even the majority — of parishioners are focused. I’m perfectly comfortable not having every pastoral reference relate to my own personal life. However, I find that I really chafe when a worship leader tries to have my feelings for me in the midst of the liturgy, which usually comes as co-dependent little asides during readings.
Just give the reading. Seriously. Just give the reading, prefacing it, if you like, with some context or information that will help illuminate its meaning. Do not interject an “I’m sure you all feel this way after having heard that” remark after you give it; respect the worshipers enough to allow them to have their own reaction. If YOU found the reading extremely painful, it’s okay to say that. If you really have to. Extraneous chatter in between liturgical elements disturbs the flow, interrupts the worship experience, and communicates anxiety and lack of preparedness/experience and depth, so I advise training yourself out of that habit (even the over-explaining habit, eg, “This is the time in the service when we do this… this is the moment that we do that…” commentary).
I recently heard a young, new minister give a reading in a service and follow it with a kind of “Gee whiz, I know that was hard for you all to hear” comment, and it was incredibly condescending. As I quietly rolled my eyes into my lap, I remembered that this happens not infrequently, and I wrote myself a mental note to Alert the Pigeons.
It would also be a good idea for all of us to try to avoid using a tone of voice that sounds like what would happen if Lucy Van Pelt was called to ministry. You know what I mean? That over-enunciated, slightly bossy, precocious voice? It’s not a female thing, it’s generally a youth and inexperience thing. I promise that the big dummies in the pews are actually very intelligent, thinking people who don’t need such a precious rendering of the text as they are patiently tolerating from some of you. They are church folk and they know how to listen, and they listen generously. Stop trying to TEACH them with every word, and try just feeling connected in your body and emotions to what you are saying. When the reader gets out of his or her head and mouth and into the soul, it’s better for everyone.
As Ma Ingalls said, “There’s no great liturgical irritation without some small recompense in being able to blog about it.”