The Environment and Art Committee: A Parish Ministry

November 12, 2007


A Ministry

Advent decor with prayer flagsAs with other more established, and perhaps more recognized ministries in the parish, the work of those responsible for the liturgical environment is a ministry of the Church. It is also a ministry for the Church. All liturgical ministry serves the action of the liturgy, and the ministry of the environment is no exception. The art and environment of a place of worship is an integral part of the experience of our communal prayer, and can contribute to the beauty and richness of our encounter with the mystery of God among us. This implies that for those who are engaged in this ministry it is not just a task, it is a source of their own spirituality, and an expression of their love of the Church, the Body of Christ.


»  Includes people who do things like climb, sew, clean, mend, shop-- the schleppers!
»  Includes people who create and design -- people with this gift need to be recruited.
»  Includes people who are visual, who have an eye for color, scale, shape and texture.
»  A key person is the liaison with the parish liturgy commission or worship coordinator.
»  Includes volunteers who may not be able to come to meetings but are available for the work sessions, the set-up and clean-up times.


»  Have regular meetings and keep minutes for future reference.
»  Members need to be accountable for assigned tasks.
»  Have a system of communicating the necessary information to those who need to know about the changes or modifications to the environment, e.g. ushers, music ministers, presiders, maintenance staff, etc.


»  Develop a long-range plan for the whole of the liturgical year, and a short-range plan for immediate needs.
»  Include a periodic review and evaluation of needs and resources.
»  Include an inventory of supplies, appointments, vessels, vesture, etc.
»  Develop a method for making decisions.


Assign someone to discover resources that would help the committee: web resources (e.g., EnVisionChurch), publications, workshops, art exhibits, arrangements in other churches, interesting installations in places other than churches, which show good use of space and interior decorative ideas.


»  How is the E&A committee included in the parish system/structure?
»  How are its members acknowledged and supported?
»  Is there equal funding for professional development?


»  How is information shared with the parish staff and the other ministry groups?
»  Develop some bulletin inserts that would help the parish to understand the importance of the liturgical environment, and from time to time publish some “notes on the environment” for particular seasons.


»  It is important that the committee is clear as to its role; when a new committee is established it is important that it develop a description of that role.
»  Does the E&A committee initiate the ideas for the environment? Do they implement the ideas of some other group?
»  Are the members included in the discussion for the planning and arrangement of the environment? (They should be!)


»  The committee needs to develop ways to enhance its ministry.  One way is to include a time of prayer and scripture reflection at every meeting.
»  The committee should always begin with the scripture of the feast or season before discussing the environment that will complement that respective feast or season.


Develop an evaluation form and use it 2 or 3 times a year; ask members of other committees and ministries to help your ministry by offering their comments.


»  The E&A committee needs a budget!
»  Begin with an inventory of supplies; keep the good stuff and trash the rest.
»  Designate someone to track the allocated budget as it is used for the year; the parish business manager can help with this.
»  What is an annual expense, what is an investment for future and repeated use?
»  A recent survey of a few parishes indicated that they had an average annual budget of $2,000 – $2,500. This did not include the flowers for Christmas and Easter, an expense that was funded by special collections.
Other sources for $$$: memorial donations, commissioned pieces, donated items, etc.
»  Worthy items of art are always an investment both in value and in beauty.


Neff, Christina. "The Parish Environment and Art Committee." E&A Letter, February 1994.

Mazar, Peter. To Crown the Year: Decorating the Church Through the Seasons. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1995 (especially “Getting Started,” pp. 2-39).

Mazar, Peter. School Year Church Year : Customs and Decorations for the Classroom. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2001.

McNorgan, David. Preparing the Environment for Worship (Preparing for Liturgy). Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press (Novalis), 1997.

Philippart, David. Clothed in Glory: Vesting the Church. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1997.

Ryan, G. Thomas. The Sacristy Manual.  Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1993.

Chinn, Nancy. Spaces for Spirit: Adorning the Church. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1998.

Philippart, David. Basket, Basin, Plate, and Cup: Vessels in the Liturgy. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2001.

Hardiman, Pamela T. & Niemann Josephine. Raise the Banners High!: Making and Using Processional Banners Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2002.

Rev. Phil Horrigan is the Director of the Art and Architecture Department in the Office of Divine Worship, Archdiocese of Chicago.

Photo credit: artist - Lucinda Naylor, photographer - Mike Jensen


Building and Renovation Projects: A Conversation in Four Parts

Ten Key Principles for Arranging an Environment for Worship

The Hospitable Environment for Liturgy

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