As a new school year begins, a “Blessing of the Backpacks” is part of the worship service in many United Methodist churches across the United States.
Usually included in services on the weekend before classes begin, the ritual may focus on the children in the congregation who are invited to bring their backpacks to church. In other places, worshippers dedicate backpacks filled with donated school supplies during prayers for children in need who will receive them. Some congregations include the purses and briefcases of teachers and other school staff – and those who carry them.
The liturgies vary from a simple prayer to litanies that include either the students or the congregation.
Conyers (Ga.) First United Methodist Church gives the children an engraved luggage tag to hang on their backpacks, while Springfield (Va.) United Methodist Church gives key chains. Other congregations distribute flashlights or other mementos that carry a reminder that “Jesus loves you” or “(Name of the church) is praying for you.”
The blessing of the backpacks and a “pizza blast” are part of Rally Sunday at Greene Street United Methodist Church, Piqua, Ohio, wrote the Rev. Arlys Fogt, outreach minister. At www.blessingcenter. org, she says past blessings included a litany, a reading by a teacher in the congregation and ended with this prayer by the Rev. Sandra S. Huber, minister of discipleship at Powell (Ohio) United Methodist Church:
We thank you, God, for the resources and school supplies that help our children and students of all ages learn. We thank you for children and all involved in our children’s education. We ask you to bless workers with children, the children of this extended community, and persons of all ages who seek to learn and to grow. Amen