Consider the following scenarios where art is created for worship:

1: A professional liturgical artist is commissioned to create a work of art. The artist takes into consideration the needs and culture of the community as well as the context of the liturgy the art will serve, and works alone to produce and deliver the completed art for installation.

2: A professional liturgical artist is commissioned to assist with a single installation or is hired as an artist-in-residence for several installations, working with an existing or newly formed art and environment committee made up of local artists, craftspeople, and other interested parishioners. In this case, the artist leads the committee in the process of discerning symbols and metaphors that express the intent of the art being created. The artist either produces the work independent of the committee or closely oversees its creation by members of the committee.

3: An established liturgical art ministry creates art for worship. Comprised of a core group of members of the church (often creative professionals or skilled artisans), plus a larger group of parishioners who share a love for the liturgy, and overseen by a member of the pastoral staff who is educated in the area of liturgical art, the ministry follows a process of theological reflection and discernment which leads to rich, thought provoking prayerful art.

Each of these three scenarios has particular benefits. The first has the least number of people involved, is the least complicated, and promises the most predictable results since the artist controls the project. It is also likely to be the most costly. The second also comes with expenses, but the fruit of having an artist work with a committee is akin to teaching them to fish. The experience is enriching and generative. The committee gains confidence in their collective ability to create quality art for worship and will continue to grow. The third scenario entails the least expense and requires the most organization and pastoral sensitivity. However, under the leadership of pastoral staff, the committee is capable of producing art for worship that not only elevates the assembly’s worship experience; it enriches each person’s own faith and understanding of the liturgy because it emerges from the heart of the parish body.

Every church community needs to determine which of the three options is the most viable for them. Each scenario is possible at different times and for different needs. The key, however, is sustainability. It is beneficial and desirable to work with a professional artist, but most parishes cannot afford the expense indefinitely. At some point members of the art committee will make the decision to go out on their own, take ownership of the process and budget for occasional work with a professional artist. If a parish is fortunate to have professional artists among their membership, they should be extended an invitation to participate.

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