Monday, October 26, 2009

A Group Exercise for Halloween and All Saints/Souls Day

A few weeks ago, I went to Lutheridge for a planning meeting for the Create in Me retreat. One of the women who will be one of our large group leaders at the retreat used the meeting to try out an idea. It worked out well, so I thought I'd share it here.

She gave us balloons and plastic clips that allowed us to blow up the balloon, but not tie it off in a knot. She had us write or draw images/free associations with the word death.

A note on procedure here: for what comes next, it's best if somehow the prompt has people come up with the negative associations with death. Some of us drew nuclear reactors and graveyards and sad faces. That worked well. Some of us drew angels and other images that were warmer and fuzzier. That didn't work as well.

We went around the circle and talked about what we drew or wrote down.

We then wrote down habits/ways of thought/patterns that are harmful to us, either us as individuals or us as a human race. Once again, we went around the circle to share what we were comfortable with sharing. Then we deflated the balloons.

Our leader read one of the Gospel stories of the Resurrection, the ultimate death defeating story. I suspect that any of the Gospel Resurrection stories would work equally as well as any other.

We then received a small rectangle of paper and we each wrote a prayer. We folded up the prayer, put it in the balloon, blew the balloon back up, and tied the end in a knot.

The first part of this exercise as described above will be a getting to know each other activity--something we do on the first night. We plan to collect these balloons at our retreat, put them on sticks, and have balloon bouquets at each table where we will eat our meals. Then, after a few days, we will do the rest of the exercise.

At our retreat planning, it worked just as well to finish the exercise a few hours after we started, which leads me to think that this experience would work well as a Sunday School class or a small-scale retreat, or even to book-end a Bible study.

At the end of our planning meeting, we once again read the Resurrection story. Then we received a balloon. We reminded ourselves that we live in a culture where death looms large, like an inflated balloon. But the Good News of the Gospel is that the death culture is just a illusion, a scrap of plastic, filled with hot air.

We stomped on our balloons (fair warning: this can be a bit chaotic) and then collected the prayers that had flown across the room when the balloon popped. It wasn't important to end up with our own individual prayers that we wrote. We read the prayer that was in our hand and thus ended the exercise.

I like exercises like this one. This exercise uses cheap supplies and can be expanded or contracted to whatever time is available--it seems to be a versatile tool to have in our toolbox. I like exercises that give us a non-rational way of thinking about our culture and about our self-defeating behaviors. I liked stomping on the balloons: out, out, death culture and self-limiting behaviors! I like exercises that are art project, performance piece, and spiritual formation, all at once.


Candice Perera said...

I was searching the internet for a balloon activity for a hospice visit this Sunday. Thank you for the inspiration. I will tailor make it to suit our SriLankan people. I will quote the source in describing the exercise. Hope this finds your favour. god bless

Kristin said...

How wonderful! I write about these experiences both so that I remember them and in the hopes that others might find them useful. Thanks for letting me know that you'll be trying it. I hope it goes well.