Parish Ministry Model

“Communal Co-Creation is a process, not a product or a program.” —Eileen D. Crowley [1]

In her book, Liturgical Art for a Media Culture, author Eileen D. Crowley, Ph.D proposes a ministerial approach to creating art for worship which she calls   “Communal Co-creation.”[2]   Crowley’s approach is geared for a media arts ministry but lends itself particularly well to the creation of liturgical art for worship as represented here.

Creating art for worship is a liturgical ministry made up of parishioners or congregants who come together to create temporary art installations that adorn the church at various times throughout the year. The creation of the art is a spiritual practice involving a process of theological reflection leading to the development of theologically sound, pastorally sensitive, and aesthetically pleasing imagery.[3]

“Whenever and wherever people reflect on how Scripture and worship relate to their lives and are invited to contribute their thoughts and talents, they participate in a new form of spiritual practice. Those who have had this opportunity usually report that they are much more attentive and engaged when they participate in the liturgy.” —Eileen Crowley [4]

The people who make up the committee

“Communal Co-Creation is a local creative, artistic and spiritual process that welcomes people of all ages to be involved” in the process of creating art for worship.” [5]

A core committee led by a creative director or coordinator might include artistic members of the parish, professional and amateur, fine and graphic artists, textile artists, architects, seamstresses, set and interior designers, and craftspeople. But the committee should be open to the creative input of a broad sample of parishioners and never be viewed as an exclusive “art club.”

The work of the committee is not limited to creating art. There are short term roles for archivists, installers, crafters and individuals who love the liturgy and want to be involved. These are the people who for various reasons feel they cannot be part of the regular committee but who are invaluable to the process; they assist with the installation and removal of the art, they take care of storing, archiving, record keeping, and photographing the work.

A key characteristic of a long-term parish art ministry model is that several individuals who have been invited to lend their expertise will do so only for limited periods of time. Subcommittees for particular seasons might be formed, for example, an Advent/Christmas group, a  Lent group, a Triduum/Easter group, a Pentecost group; and the Ordinary time group. Special feasts and events could be overseen by the core committee but served by ad hoc committees as needed. This way, no member of the committee is overtaxed by the hectic holiday seasons. The core committee should also include the input of a member of the liturgy team who will facilitate appropriate formation for the ministry.

“Foundational is the belief that liturgy is the work of the people who are participating in the ministry of Christ. Unless leaders are committed to an open and collaborative process, though, Communal Co-Creation will never happen.” —Eileen Crowley [6]

The creative experience of study and visual interpretation

The process of creating art for liturgy begins well in advance of the installation with a general invitation to the faith community to participate in a theological reflection. For the purposes of creating liturgical art, this entails coming together one or more times for the prayerful contemplation and study of the season, liturgy or event including an exploration of scripture, rituals and symbols. The fruit of the process is the emergence of images, feelings, and ideas. which are further narrowed and filtered through evaluative frameworks.

Because this is a liturgical ministry it is shared with a member of staff who ensures it agrees with the intentions of the pastor and liturgist. Design ideas are reviewed with members of the liturgy team and/or pastor and upon approval the art is produced and readied for installation and evaluation by the committee, parishioners, and others.

The actual production of the art is coordinated and overseen by one or two artists and is done in community. It is always helpful, suggested even, to have someone on the committee who can act as a project manager to skillfully delegate the art fabrication process either in parts or over the course of time required to complete it.

[1] Eileen D. Crowley, Liturgical Art for a Media Culture (Collegeville, MN, Liturgical Press, 2007) 90.
[2] Eileen D. Crowley, Liturgical Art, 90.
[3] D. Foy Christopherson. A Place of Encounter. Renewing Worship Spaces. (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2004) 53.
[4] Eileen D. Crowley, Liturgical Art, 93.
[5] Eileen D. Crowley, Liturgical Art, 90.
[6] Eileen D. Crowley, Liturgical Art, 97.



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