A Checklist for Environment & Art Ministers

March 17, 2008


Banners bu John BuscemiWhat are some basic questions and actions that an Environment & Art committee might use to assist with the task of deciding on and then arranging the liturgical environment? While some of the issues noted might seem obvious, it is important that Environment & Art committees develop a good method for their work, which will help keep everyone on track, make the workload easier, and make for fruitful and beautiful outcomes.

1. Begin by asking: what is the liturgical season? What is the primary focus that the environment will serve?

2. What is the liturgical event that is being celebrated? For example, Sunday Eucharist? A parish celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation? Palm Sunday? This information helps to direct and “contain” the work of the committee.

3. What are the underlying concepts? Images? Stories – biblical, human, liturgical? These are rich sources for inspiration.

4. What do these (see no. 3) begin to look like? This is the point when the committee begins to visualize the environment for the whole space.

5. What resources do you have? The parish might have an inventory of items that can be reused, although don’t use them simply because they are available. Rather, use them because they are still good and will work well.

6. What resources do you need? Who will provide them? Where will you find them? When will they be ready?

7. How much will you do? How little will you do? It’s important to know when to stop decorating the space; there’s always next year, so don’t exhaust your imagination all in the same season.

8. What is appropriate? What is unnecessary? This is the “quality” question; make sure that each component of the environment is suitable and worthy.

9. What materials will be good? What colors will coordinate well? What textures will be suitable? Be sure to pay attention to the existing architectural styles of the space. There are certain characteristics of every space that can influence the scale, design and placement of items in the environment.

10. What areas will be affected in this scheme? Do a “landscape” (a floor plan) to show connections and to respect the entire space. Use a floor plan sketch to mark where things will actually be placed.

11. What ritual actions will be affected by the items and arrangements of the environment? Remember that liturgical rituals, the actions of the celebration, have a certain importance and are served by the environment, not the other way around.

12. What else needs to be changed or rearranged? For example, is the lighting to be part of the liturgical environment in any way? Are certain arrangements to be highlighted for any reason? What furnishings need to be moved or removed? Are any works of art to be included?

13. By now, it is time to get to work. Schedule the time to do it and gather the participants.

14. Be sure to take photos of the completed environment for future reference.

15. At the next committee meeting, do a review of your work. What looked right? What didn’t? Make plans to acquire any resources that will be needed for next time.

16. When the event or the season has ended, it is time – and appropriate – to remove the various elements of the environment. All environment is not a permanent fixture. It can become faded and distracting if it’s out of season. Replant, recycle, refurbish, as necessary and store the good things carefully.

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


Building and Renovation Projects ~ A Conversation in Four Parts
Ten Key Principles for Arranging the Worship Environment
The Environment & Art Committee: A Parish Ministry
The Hospitable Environment for Liturgy
Touchstones for Environment & Art Committtees

Photo provided by John Buscemi

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