If you are a craftsman . . . only look at your tools, your needle, your thimble, your beer barrel, your articles of trade, your scales, your measures, and you will find this saying written on them . . . “My dear, use me toward your neighbor, as you would want him to act toward you with that which is his.”
From Martin Luther, Weimarer Ausgabe 32, pp. 495–496 (The Sermon on the Mount).
For many churches, one of the markers of the beginning of the fall program year is the “Blessing of the Backpacks”. It is a ritual that helps our faith communities bless children as they return back to school, assures both children and adults that God is with them wherever they go and reminds us, as Martin Luther wrote, that everything inside that backpack can be a means by which we can serve and bless our neighbors.
ResourceUMC.org has plenty of articles from Discipleship Ministries and others to guide your own blessing of the backpacks with “God of All Learning", a blessing of the backpacks and the school year, and a United Methodist back-to-school blessing. (See more at the end of this article.)
You may also want to add a “Blessing of the Devices” to your fall rites of passage. Just as we bless the physical symbols and tools of our learning, we can also bless and mark the digital devices through which so much of schooling, work and life are now mediated – or happening remotely from schools and work places. The following is a blessing by Elizabeth Drescher.
Blessing of the Devices
God, you call us to share your Good News of love, justice and peace with a world in need…
You have gifted us with rich resources from scripture, tradition, reason and experience…
Which have allowed people to develop new ways of listening to the voices of many others, attending to their interests and concerns, connecting with diverse peoples and groups, and engaging them as a people of faith…
We ask your blessing on our digitally-integrated ministries and on the many devices we use to love and serve our neighbors in a changing world.
May they never become distractions from relationships or idols in our hands. May we always remember that your Son, Jesus Christ, is the one true mediator of your love and grace in the wired world. Amen.
Backpack blessings often include a tag or pin that allow participants to mark their backpack as “blessed.” Stickers could play a similar role in a blessing of devices. They can be used on the back of cell phones, laptops or tablets. Here are a few suggestions:
Illustrated Ministry offers vibrant stickers including the especially appropriate “blessed to be a blessing” sticker.
Etsy offers an incredible variety of stickers from Henri Nouwen quotes to crosses and scripture stickers.
You can also design and print your own stickers (Avery offers a variety of styles and sizes). This would allow you to add the name of your church, the United Methodist cross and flame or your logo to the sticker. If you want to design the stickers and have someone else print them, check out Sticker Mule or Vistaprint.
This article is adapted from content originally published in the e-newsletter of Building Faith, www.buildfaith.org, a ministry of Virginia Theological Seminary.
More worship resources for the back-to-school season
Praying for teachers and children, a new video from the North Carolina Conference
Pray, bless, support: Ideas and aids for back-to-school ministry
United Methodist back-to-school blessing
“God of All Learning”
A blessing of the backpacks and the school year
Back-to-School Blessing, 21st-century African liturgy