September 1, 2021
“It’s in my backpack.” How many times have you heard that or have said it yourself? Backpacks carry homework, lunches, hand sanitizer, pens, pencils, snacks, phone chargers and Kleenex. Occasionally they carry stinky socks, rotten bananas and missing permission slips. Backpacks are handy, accessible and often reflect our personalities with the latest cartoon characters and favorite colors, or they may reflect our professional side with the standard black backpack. Backpacks have become part of our “uniform”. They go with us everywhere – school, work, practice, camp and the car, which brings us to the point — a backpack is a blessing.
Many congregations offer backpack blessings inviting students, teachers, school nurses, bus drivers, professors and school staff to come forward with their packs. The litany of prayer often asks God to bless the packs and those who carry them. We ask God to open our eyes to new adventures, help us use our gifts, be good listeners, extend welcome to newcomers and help us enjoy a sense of accomplishment as we learn and grow each day. Many congregations tap it off with a gift for participants such as a keychain, Jesus loves you pencil or tag to add to the pack. This is an important annual faith-filled tradition in many congregations. Thank you.
The Backpack Blessing is a good tradition, but many miss a teachable moment by just focusing on the start of the school year and academics. What if you would take your annual backpack blessing a step further? What if the backpacks you have up front include a couple of backpacks filled by a local food pantry. Many programs addressing food insecurity are school year programs which means backpacks filled with food will be going home with many children. Take advantage of this time in your worship service to turn your attention to those receiving Food Bank and Food Panty backpacks that nourish children and their families. Use the children’s message time to talk about food insecurity, who and how hunger needs are addressed in the community and how your congregation can walk with the students, families and agencies. Unfortunately, some children are bullied because they carry a backpack of food home with them. Being a good friend means having empathy, learning about differences and finding common links. Talk accompaniment and equip your kids to be allies.
Blessings on the school year. Have fun and be ready to listen to some great stories from teachers, staff and students of all ages.
Prayer: Gracious God, we ask that you be with the students, teachers and staff as they start a new school year. In the midst of the many voices that will fill their days, help them to listen most carefully for your voice. May they feel your presence, know they are loved, forgiven and never alone. Watch over them all and keep them safe. Amen.