Our church, like many churches, have been doing virtual services instead of our usual worship schedule. Schools in our area, have decided to begin online classes for all of its students.
Normally, we would have a Blessing of Backpacks the Sunday before school starts and over 100 children would participate. This year is going to be very different. I wanted to still honor the start of the school year, even if it is going to be unusual, with most children remaining at home.
During the Sunday worship Service, live-stream, we will say a prayer and bless the backpack tags we are giving out. Then we are inviting families to drive by with their backpacks and devices. We are asking them to hold them out the window of their car as we bless each one (with water for backpacks) and give them a specially made backpack tag for attaching to their backpack or bag. We, also, made bookmarks with our children and youth online schedule for the fall. We handed these out.
We have scheduled an hour for this and are doing it in a covered area. For those who cannot drive up, we are blessing the tags, so they can attach them to their bag when we can give them their tag.
For the tags, we try to make them as fun and useful as possible. This year, instead of designing our own, we are purchasing a stained glass picture, putting our church on the back and using the luggage tag laminator to make them. (See previous backpack for tag instructions).
As children and youth get ready for the return to school, Blessing the Backpacks (or school bags) is a way for the church to acknowledge something big is happening in their lives and the family is making a shift.
Recognizing the flow of families’ lives allows the church to be seen as a relevant place in their lives and as a resource beyond the box that takes place within the parish’s walls. By this action, we encourage faith to be seen as part of our lives at school.
On the Sunday before the start of school, at the principal service (or family service), we call all the children to the front. A few words are said acknowledging the change in the flow of their lives and then we ask them to raise their backpacks. We remind them that God is with them wherever they go and that we are a family and they are with us even at school. A prayer for courage, wisdom, and faith is said over the backpacks and completed with a blessing. A gift is then handed out for the children to place on their backpacks.
I give out luggage tags with the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and a picture on one side and then a Bible verse or prayer on the other. The luggage tags are sealed so they will last the whole year. I use an inexpensive the tags with the cord also come from Amazon.
To decide what goes on it, we ask the youth for ideas and choose one of their designs. We will use the luggage tag throughout the year in our Newcomers’ Welcome Bags.
We spread the word about the Blessing of Backpacks in our community and invite anyone to come. We encourage our children and youth to bring their friends. We usually have a very large group.
We follow up the service with some hospitality and encourage all to stay after the service and join us.
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