Pentecost Flames

Using Vertical Blinds to Move the Imagination

We all know Pentecost is important—after all, living a Christian life would be impossible without the Holy Spirit. That said, Pentecost barely causes a ripple in many churches. There’s no week of preparation the way there is in Lent. No slow unwrapping of Advent to prepare us for celebrating Christmas. Pentecost simply comes and goes.

Here’s a visual idea using God’s original Pentecost symbol to help highlight the significance of Pentecost in the church year.

An Old Flame Burns Anew

The account of the first Pentecost in Acts 2 intrigues me. What did they look like, those “tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them”? How could these flames be represented in a fresh way?

I imagined narrow strips of fabric, colored like flames, hanging from single strings or wires high above worshipers’ heads.

But fabric strips seemed too unpredictable and prone to twisting. Something stiffer would be better. What about vertical blinds? They come in a variety of cloth-like finishes and include a loop (or punched hole) at the top and often a sewn-in weight at the bottom. They’re also fairly easy to come by and are available in a variety of lengths.

Step by Step

We used words from Peter’s sermons in Acts 2:17-21 and 25-28. But the direction you paint the words on the blinds won’t matter a great deal as the canvas of strips you start with will be divided up and hung randomly in your worship space.

Here’s how we did it:

Step 1: Cover the fronts and backs of the blinds with yellow acrylic paint. Spray paint is fine (matte finish, not glossy).

Step 2: Once dry, lay the blinds side-by-side, edge-to-edge, and use tape loops on the underside to keep them in place on your table or floor.

Step 3: With a fairly wide brush, cover the strips with a gradation of red to orange to yellow paint. Don’t worry about a nice smooth gradation. Obvious brush strokes add interest. Let dry completely.

Step 4: For the text, we first tried handwritten loopy script with black paint but found that too much of the background color was covered up. It also took more time than we had. Instead, I’d suggest you use stencils, not worrying if each letter is perfectly colored in. To save even more time, we allowed some strips to go without text.

Step 5: Once complete, randomly hang the finished “flames” from ceiling fixtures or rafters throughout your worship space—perhaps starting a few weeks ahead of Pentecost with just a few strips (and no explanation) to pique the congregation’s curiosity.

Hopefully, these flames will be interesting and attractive enough to keep burning a few weeks after Pentecost, giving visual weight to this significant event in the church year.

Dean Heetderks is a member of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Cutlerville, Michigan, and art director of Reformed Worship. Show and tell him about your experiences at

Reformed Worship 87 © March 2008, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.