There’s a whale in the room

Mary Jo Nikolai was up most of Thursday night painting a moose head. She got her husband, Mike Huber, up at 4:30 so she could try a pair of antlers on him. “I needed to make sure they were going to work,” she said.

The moose head, plus a 25-foot whale, three loons, a couple of coyotes, and a bunch of crickets and bees were key players in the 7:45 a.m. worship service Friday. The service was a story about song––specifically about how a people lost their ability to sing because of oppression, then recovered it through the help of animals.

Friday Morning Multigenerational Worship

As the service unfolded in the large hall where GA’s main events are held, the animals––part puppet, part magic––made their appearance with the help of a number of members of Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul. The whale itself required eight people and a bicycle cart to carry and move its various parts. It literally undulated down the aisle, eliciting many gasps of wonder from the worshipers at this act of creation.

The animals, made of papier mache, nylon cloth, house paint, and other materials, were the inspiration of Nikolai, an artist, art teacher, and puppeteer. All of the animals except for the whale were made just for this presentation. The work required many late hours in Unity-Unitarian’s art room, said Nikolai. “Our work sessions were just amazing,” she said. “We had children and adults, all together creating these creatures. It was truly an intergenerational activity.”

The whale itself had actually been sitting in Nikolai and Huber’s driveway for a number of weeks after it had been used in a local parade. Well, where else could you store something as long and as tall as a motor home?

Nikolai said the animals will be used again next fall at Unity-Unitarian’s ingathering service, part of which will be outdoors. She sees the animals as a way to capture the imagination of people in worship and to draw them into whatever story is being told.

Huber said about 60 people were involved. And what happens to the whale in the meantime? It goes back onto the driveway,” he said. “The neighborhood kids are always coming over to see what we’re building.”

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