Selecting a Liturgical Design Consultant - Part 2
September 17, 2008
This is Part 2 of a 2-part article. Read Part 1
The wise parish knows its first task when considering a building or renovation project is to acquire the services of a liturgical design consultant. This person will help a congregation not only design a wonderful space, but she/he will deepen a parish’s love of the Lord through its liturgy.
In Part I, we looked at the first steps needed to hire a liturgical design consultant. They include:
I. Forming a search committee
II. Investigating church/diocesan policy
III. Checking available resources for candidates
IV. Selecting preliminary candidates
V. Sending a letter of inquiry
So to continue…
VI. Read proposals and select for interview.
After narrowing the list of candidates, the search committee will need to look carefully over the materials sent and check references. Does this candidate seem to have the qualifications and skills you seek?
After reading the proposals, the search committee selects no more than four candidates to interview. More than four will guarantee confusion.
VII. Check references.
Some committees check references before interviews, some after. Either way, you need an outside source to help evaluate the candidate. When checking references, ask questions such as:
» What did the consultant do for the project?
» How did the consultant help you meet your needs?
» How did he/she work with your committee/pastor/architect/others?
» How did he/she deal with conflict?
» What about the consultant did you appreciate most?
» What difficulties did you encounter?
» As a result of the consultant’s work, how has the parish as a whole benefited?
Take clear notes to share with other search committee members.
VIII. Interview the candidates.
Plan the interviews within a short period of time. For example, two days are better than two weeks. Or simply take one day for all interviews. Stretching the process too long will result in forgetting the first candidates.
After you select your interview candidates, remember to inform those you do not choose of your decision. They will appreciate knowing their status.
In preparation for the interviews, find out if the candidate needs any A-V equipment or other materials.
Be sure to negotiate in advance any reimbursement for travel expenses the candidate may incur.
Schedule each interview for about 30-60 minutes. Be a gracious host. Give specific directions to the interview site. Have your group in place and ready to meet the candidates. Ask one person to greet her/him at the door. You may want to offer refreshments, especially if the candidate has traveled any distance. Be sure to allow enough time between interviews so that one candidate can pack up materials and depart before the next one arrives. Thirty minutes between interviews is optimal as it also allows the committee to debrief and take a break.
Have the list of interview questions on paper so everyone can take notes. Decide in advance how the interview will proceed. Will you begin with prayer? Will only a few people ask the questions? If you are asking for a presentation by the candidate, schedule it first, with questions later. Often many of your questions are answered during the presentation.
Ask the same questions of each candidate to compare their answers. The interview process should be understood as confidential, and details (i.e. fees) should not be discussed outside the committee.
Here is a sampling of questions to ask.
» Tell us about yourself. How did you become a liturgical design consultant?
» What experiences do you have with projects similar to ours?
» How will you help us?
» What kind of services can you provide?
» How do you provide liturgical formation for the parish?
» What is the relationship between the liturgical space and liturgical renewal?
» How do you work with large committees, volunteers, and professionals?
» How will you help us make our decisions?
» How will you deal with conflict? With those who do not want change? With those who are upset/angry?
» How do you approach tradition? How do you approach change?
» What is the most important part of the work you do?
» Where do you feel are you greatest gifts as a liturgical design consultant?
» What is most challenging to you in this work?
What is your fee structure?
Allow time for the consultant to ask you questions, as well. An interview is intended for both parties to determine whether you want to work together.
As you interview, also think about these things:
» Does this person seem to be a person of faith, or is this simply a job?
» Are they listening to you?
» Can I trust this person?
» Does this person seem willing to collaborate with others?
IX. Candidate Selection.
Make your final selection as soon as possible after the last interview. Ultimately, this has to be a person you are comfortable with, who listens to you, and whom you can trust. Look for someone who will share your vision.
Try to avoid only looking at the “bottom-line” when selecting a consultant (or any other professional). You seek a professional whose task it is to help you create a sacred space for generations to come. In relationship to the entire budget, their fees will account for a very small percentage. And a good consultant will save you money by helping you avoid costly mistakes later in the process. So, seek the best person for your project.
Most importantly, find someone who will challenge you beyond what might be expected or what might be comfortable. John Buschemi, a well-respected liturgical design consultant and artist, is right when he says, “A liturgical design consultant is concerned with imaging a future” rather than simply repeating the status quo. (“Liturgical Design Consultants: Their Tasks” – from EnVisionChurch, March 7, 2007)
And after contacting your chosen candidate, inform the others of your decision. Those not selected deserve that kindness.
This may seem like a very complex process. In truth, it is the model to use when selecting the architect, artists, contractors, and other consultants for your project.
Gale Francione is secretary of the Association of Consultants for Liturgical Space and a liturgical design consultant living in Davenport, Iowa, USA.
Photo: detail of photo by Mike Jenssen of a window of the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Gaytee Studios, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
READ OTHER ARTICLES BY GALE FRANCIONE: