May 27, 2012


This weekend was Pentecost, that time of year when we celebrate the birth of the church and the coming of the Spirit to aid us. As far as I’m concerned, that deserves a little pomp, or at least some festivity. Cake would’ve been nice, but we didn’t think of that at the time. But after seeing a friend's idea for ascension Sunday, we thought say “hey, balloons would be cool.” And so a dream was born early in the week to make our sanctuary look a little bit party-like, with orange and red and yellow balloons to symbolize both tongues of fire and the birthday-like holiday we were celebrating.

We inflated a LOT of balloons!
I spent a few hours searching Olathe and Shawnee for a place to get everything together, but ended up getting helium from two different Walmarts in their party section (self-contained helium balloon kits, though the balloons were pretty lame inside), and then the packages of balloons from a party store. I managed to convince a few friends in the church to help get everything set up the night before, so we set ourselves up in a room with a relatively low ceiling (don’t let those things go in a room that’s too big, you’ll never get them back) and inflated roughly 130 balloons with helium. These were tied into bunches of six (arranging the balloons at different levels in the bunch to give a teardrop shape) and then a weight was put at the end of the string.

We staggered them on either side of the aisles in our sanctuary, making sure our live-feed camera still had a clear shot of the stage, set the stage lighting to matching colors, and went home exhausted but excited.

The original vision was supposed to look like this
Then I got to the church building this morning.

Not a happy sight this morning
It turns out I should’ve read the boxes a little more closely. Apparently, latex balloons are only meant to last about 5-7 hours when inflated with helium, depending on the quality of the latex. In other words, not enough time to last a night.  The balloons were laying in little heaps on the floor next to each pew, though a few (I would wager these were over-filled the night before) were barely floating above them, and even these were on the floor by the end of the morning.

Our little balloon puddle
I'm not gonna lie, I felt a little queasy when I saw this whole thing. Here, a group of volunteers had put in hours of their time to make something beautiful and before we could use it, it was ruined.  I had to sit down for a few minutes, then went in search of our youth pastor. Lacking any other ideas for how to salvage this little conundrum, Tom and I dragged the balloons back into the choir room. Then, before our modern gathering, as I related my morning to one of our creative team, she suggested pooling the balloons at several places on stage.  It ended up looking rather nice, though not quite as I’d envisioned the whole thing in the first place.

The End Result
The moral of the story, I suppose, is make sure you read up on the whole process, even if it’s a last-minute idea. Still, I learned a bunch, particularly that there are people willing to help with setup for some of this stuff - to you who helped, thank you for your efforts!  I will say this; the space ended up looking beautiful, and people were still together to worship the Creator.  It's a good reminder to me that it wasn't my efforts, but the Spirit we were celebrating, Who makes worship possible.  Not an easy thing to learn, and a lesson of which I seem to need regular reminders.

There are, of course, always the little things that help us.  One of our creative team texted me later to say "I've got it, it's all a wonderful representation of the Holy Spirit descending from heaven to earth."

It made me feel better, at least.