The Role of a Parish Liturgy Committee


A few weeks ago, Fr David Pascoe in his "Question Box" reply wrote about the important work done "by a competent and representative group of people" who prepare the liturgical celebrations for a particular community.

Most parishes have a liturgy committee which is responsible for carrying out this task, but they do a lot more than I'm sure many people realise. The work of the parish liturgy committee covers several key areas:

For Sunday Mass and other celebrations, the liturgical books set out the order of service, opening prayer, prayer over the gifts and prayer after communion, and the readings for the day. On certain occasions there is also a set preface to be used.

Other parts of the Mass, however, are more flexible. Among the variable aspects are the introductory rites, intercessions, eucharistic prayer and the music. Even among the "fixed" parts there is often a choice of opening prayer or the option of using a shorter form of a reading.

For every act of worship there are prayers of the faithful to be written, texts to be selected, a worship space to be made ready, music to be chosen and practised, liturgical ministers to be rostered and instructed, etc. These tasks fall to the liturgy committee.

In addition to immediate preparation for celebrations, the liturgy committee also needs to undertake long-term planning. This involves oversight of the "big picture" of parish liturgies across the entire liturgical year, establishing parish policy on matters of worship and setting goals for the liturgical life of the parish. A long-term goal might be to improve the standard of proclamation of the scriptures at Mass over the next six months or to overhaul the parish music repertoire in the coming year.

Specialist liturgical ministries are planned and performed by those who have the necessary knowledge and skills. For example, musicians select appropriate music and artists shape the liturgical environment. It is the responsibility of the liturgy committee, however, to co-ordinate these various ministries and to ensure that they are carried out with a common understanding of the spirit and structure of the celebration and season.

The liturgy committee is the avenue for communication between the different liturgical ministry groups in the parish. For example, it needs to ensure that rosters for readers and ministers of communion are drawn up in such a way that an individual performs only one liturgical ministry at a particular Mass.

Inservice training is as important for those involved in liturgical ministry as it is in any job. Another role of the parish liturgy committee is to provide opportunities for spiritual and practical formation for its own members, for the various liturgical ministers and for the parish as a whole. This can be done by arranging guest speakers, using one of the many excellent training videos available and by including information about liturgy in parish bulletins and handouts (copies of the "Liturgy Lines", for example!)
Looking back at the way feasts and seasons were celebrated is an important learning experience for liturgy planners. What worked well that should be retained? What needs to be revised, improved or eliminated in the future?

Some of the big questions that a liturgy committee might ask include: Are our liturgies life-giving? Are parishioners able to participate easily in the liturgies? What criticisms are people making and how do we address these?

Good liturgy doesn't just happen. The members of parish liturgy committees do important work on our behalf to ensure that in worship we encounter the living God and enter into the paschal mystery and are thereby nourished and sent out to continue to be the body of Christ for the world.


Elizabeth Harrington