From what I can tell, many churches now have a backpack blessing, either as part of worship or as a separate event. Some churches bless backpacks of supplies that they’re donating to children in need, while others bless the backpacks of children going back to school. Some bless the children, not the backpack.

Our church blesses students and backpacks on the Sunday before school starts. We encourage all students to come up, even college students. Given the future that our students will face, perhaps we should bless them more than once a year.

We also bless teachers, usually on the Sunday before we bless the students, since teachers return to school first. At first, I hesitated to go up with the other teachers. Some of my teacher friends in the church teach seventh grade; I’m sure that my job teaching college level English is easier.

Isn’t it interesting that I felt I didn’t deserve a blessing if my job was the lesser of possible stresses? Our pastor has always been very clear that all teachers should come to be blessed. And so I bow to peer pressure and spiritual direction and go up each year.

One year the children of the church anointed our hands with oil. When our pastor invited the children up to help, the children waited patiently – except for the few who couldn’t contain their enthusiasm and tried to cut back in line to get a second chance at doing some anointing. I wondered about whether any of these children would grow up to be ministers, lay or ordained. Would they look back to the times that they got to participate in worship and see those as important moments?

In recent years, we’ve been including staff. As an administrator, I go up for the blessing. I’m in desperate need of workplace blessings. To an outsider, my job might look easy. And as my grandmother might have reminded us all, it sure beats digging ditches in the heat. But these days, as budgets shrink, it’s not as easy as it once was.

In terms of what we do in a normal week or month in church, I find being blessed to be a profound experience. When I was a child, we did none of this. I’m glad we do it now.

It made me wonder why we only bless teachers. Many of us have jobs caring for our fellow citizens. Many of us hold lives in our hands. Perhaps we’re workers in the medical field, and we literally hold lives in our hands. Perhaps we work with data, and metaphorically we hold lives in our hands. I’d like to see us move to blessing more workers across a variety of fields.

We have a healing service, but that’s a different mission than blessing those of us who are still in the workplace. Many of us spend more time on the job site than with our families or our faith communities. A specific blessing given periodically, or a prayer vigil, or some other concrete form of witness, would help our workers in that particular mission field.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott
Kristin Berkey-Abbott is a lifelong Lutheran, a college teacher and department head. She has taught a variety of English and creative writing classes for the last 20 years. Find a link to Kristin Berkey-Abbott’s blog, “Liberation Theology Lutheran,” at Lutheran Blogs.

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