“Live without fear: your Creator has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Go in peace to follow the good road and may God’s blessing be with you always. Amen.”St. Clare of Assisi
Acknowledging the Fullness of Childhood Experience
Backpack blessings offer blessings of encouragement, that the bag and the bearer know that the congregation is holding them in prayer, even when they are not in church. We are called to be reconcilers in the world, to heal wounds and to bring the light of Christ wherever we go. For our students, school is not always a bright light. These litanies reflect the realities school children face as well as the love the church has for the whole child: gladness and pain, lightheartedness and worry.
The Rev. David Henson wrote this Litany for a New School Year to be used by junior and senior high students in addition to a congregations’ backpack blessing. In his original blogpost, David writes, “I’ve always found Blessing of the Backpacks to be lacking…honest engagement with how difficult and turbulent school can be for teenagers. [This liturgy] doesn’t gloss over the anxiety, frustration, hope and fears that will come with new beginnings and with returning to school.” You are welcome to copy, edit and share this liturgy; please credit David Henson.
Adapting the Litany for a New School Year
St. Paul’s, Chattanooga, TN adapted David’s service to serve their wider congregation. Curate Claire Brown writes: “We use this liturgy during our blessing of the backpacks, when we bless donated backpacks and school supplies and those of our congregation. We adapted David’s liturgy to address a couple of ministry goals at St. Paul’s.”
Vocation of Childhood
When we take this time to pray with and bless our kids and their backpacks, we honor our kids, their big life moments, and their vocations, as full members of our baptismal community.
A Refuge from the Storm
As Psalm 17 reminds us, church is a place of refuge, to be “hid under the shadow of [God’s] wings.” In a time when we are more aware of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and when we can no longer take for granted that our schools are safe for students, it’s particularly important to bring kids’ concerns (large and small, ordinary and frightening) to the loving attention of their faith community.
Blessed to be a Blessing
Finally, we work to bring together our community/social action into our liturgy and worship, as a way of integrating these as all being the concern of the church. We pray for the donated supplies and the students who will use them, and this practice forms us as a worshipping and praying community to be mindful of needs beyond our church.
Looking for a few more resources for blessing the beginning of the school year? Here are a few to consider:
- A Backpack Blessing from Faith at Home by Wendy Claire Barrie
- Blessing of the Backpacks: 6 Tips for Success from former Building Faith editor Matthew Kozlowski
- Way of Love Back-to-School Blessing and Backpack Tags (customizable) from FORMA
- Backpack Tags from Illustrated Children’s Ministry
- Print tags on Avery Business Cards #8871 or on cardstock using Avery #8871 Template
- Laminate cards using Laminating Pouches for Luggage Tags (with the loop) or slip into Clear ID Holders and attach with binder rings or caribeaners