Liturgical Environment Ministry: One Parish's Experiences (Part I: Pray the Process)

April 15, 2008

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This is Part I of a 2-part article.


March 1992! A New Parish in El Dorado Hills, California! A Pastor with a vision is chosen, Msgr. James C. Kidder.

EasterfireGather Your People, O Lord! Who are we? What is our mission? Where will we worship? The community was formed using a collaborative, consensus model to answer these questions. We became Holy Trinity Church. By May 1998 the worship space was ready for dedication and liturgy. The six-year process was truly faith formation at its best. The community was solidified in love, hospitality, knowledge, and appreciation.

easter lightThe Paschal Mystery, as the source and summit of our life was, and is, the guiding principle. A plan for liturgical traditions and expressions that would best suit Holy Trinity was formed by the Parish Liturgy Committee. The plan calls for liturgical ministers to augment the essential symbols of liturgy with reverence, elegance, and simplicity, and to be aligned with the universal Church in the spirit of Vatican II.

Holy Trinity ChurchThe architecture and basic permanent visual art symbols were now in place and ready for the seasonal work of a liturgical environment ministry. Fifteen creative parishioners willing to pray, study, and proceed within the best guidelines available formed this ministry. The work flowed as a natural extension of the whole parish mission and plan.

Phil Horrigan’s articles on EnVisionChurch, “The Environment and Art Committee: A Parish Ministry,” “Ten Key Principles for Arranging the Worship Environment,” “A Checklist for Environment & Art Ministers,” and “Touchstones for Environment & Art Committees,” so validated our process that I refer you to his articles to understand this part of our parish experience. Thank you, Phil!

Assessment time!

We sat in our new worship space to pray and visualize. The first major decisions were to:

Ferns by font»  Replace the theatre style red velvet rope safety barriers along the floor level baptismal pool with lush green ferns to better amplify the life giving waters of baptism, as well as to be a safety barrier. We replace the ferns during Lent with bare Manzanita branches to represent the desert and still serve the safety mandate (slide 5). All are removed for ease at Easter Vigil baptisms.(slide 6)

»  Use several large potted indoor plants for the narthex, chapel, and nave to make it feel more furnished and welcoming.

Joseph & Mary»  Recommend carved wooden statues be chosen, with a priority placed on one of Mary. We now have statues of the Holy Family representing the Presentation of the Lord placed close to the baptismal pool, which enriches the symbolism of the area when parents present their children for Baptism.

»  Place two banners on the two pillars framing the sanctuary space on each side of the altar and use one space for a major floral arrangement behind the presider’s chair.

The banners would be modern and simple, highlighting the season’s liturgical color, without words, directing the eye to the altar and liturgical action. We would use design elements already present in the permanent art.

The banners would be designed and made by the members of the environment & art ministry.(slides 9-12)


We developed a ten year plan for seasonal environmental art. We are now in year ten. The goal was to make three different worship environments for each liturgical season to coincide with each of the Lectionary years A, B, and C. The plans are always open to future change and further development.

We branched into other areas of the nave, narthex, and plaza to set the seasonal moods as we made the first banner sets. (slides 13-15)

We used the wall behind the choir for another symbolic banner to balance the baptismal pool on the right of the nave. We added clerestory banners. (slide 17)

Outdoor BannerWe extended our seasonal art expressions to the narthex and added two sets of banners to the outdoor plaza light posts.

By the third year, we negotiated a budget that was ours to manage. We request donations for floral at Christmas and Easter. With this income, we are self-sustaining.

We negotiated storage space as the parish education and social centers were built. Our need for storage has grown as we make banners and accumulate floral containers and symbolic objects for our environments.

The ministry at present has about twenty members. Participation at any one seasonal set-up or banner making workday is between six to ten persons. We have a plant care crew that rotates monthly.

Our policy regarding ministry members is to:

»  Give plenty of notice on work times and meetings.
»  Respect one another’s ideas and time.
»  Not overwork anyone.
»  Have enough persons who know what to do so no one is indispensable.

The ministry has retained over half of the original group and has had many talented and energetic persons rotate in and out these ten years.

The positive feedback we have received has been gratifying and energizing. The work has generated compliments and questions from parishioners and visitors. As word has spread, we have been invited to branch out, which is the subject of Part II of this article.

Renee Healy is a member of the Liturgical Environment Ministry and former Parish Liturgical Coordinator at Holy Trinity Church in El Dorado Hills, California, U.S.A. She is also a retired teacher and an artist.

Read PART II of this 2-part article.

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