A young girl wears a large pink Hello Kitty backpack, in this photo taken from behind.

More Unitarian Universalist congregations are holding backpack blessings at the beginning of the school and congregational year: each child (and an invited friend, sometimes!) brings their school backpack to worship on the appointed day, and the congregation "blesses" the children and their backpacks. In some congregations, children also receive a small token (like a special talisman) to clip to their backpack.

In the words of Carolyn C. Brown,* backpack blessings embody two important messages to children:

  1. They realize that they and their lives are important to the church. They see themselves as significant members of the congregation.
  2. They hear that God (or the Source of Love) is with them at school and that their church cares about what happens there. God and church are not “off to the side” or just a Sunday thing.

Rev. Karen Johnston offers the following suggestions for holding a backpack blessing:

  • Choosing a Date & Time
    Some congregations hold their backpack blessing during regularly scheduled worship; others hold a separate event, such as early in the evening (5:00) two nights before local schools begin.
In front of a church altar, about a dozen school backpacks are stacked up.
  • Before the Ritual
    While families arrive, think about providing sidewalk chalk and encouraging anyone – but especially kids – to drawn on the sidewalk or a protected area of the parking lot. This activity leaves beauty behind, but it also allows energies to be channeled.
  • Inclusive Language
    Try using inclusive language regarding educational choices, and reference those who homeschool. One UU congregation invites as much multi-generational participation as possible by including the School of Life: anyone can receive a blessing if they're so moved. Finally, if you invite folks to bring their backpacks (empty), be sure to do two things: normalize if someone forgot to bring their backpack (you might speak of “invisible backpacks”), as well as to let folks interpret “backpack” to mean most anything. (One congregation reports that people asked if they could have their briefcase, their wallet, their cell phone, their purse, the bag that holds their sheet music, and so on blessed!)
A array of charms, with small lettered blocks, spelling out principles like "search for truth" and "everyone is important"
  • The Ritual
    The blessing can include words and blessing elements of water, as well as giving a material reminder of the blessing (e.g., colorful beads that say “UU” or the congregation’s initials, put on a key chain to attach to the backpacks). Rev. Cindy Landrum's blogpost about UU backpack charms is one way to have fun!
  • Celebration
    Depending when you hold your blessing, consider ending the celebration by breaking bread (which could be pizza and brownies) together.

*Carolyn Brown is a Certified Christian Educator in the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA).

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Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

  • By giving your church home here a chance to bless your school supplies, you're carrying their good intentions with you when you go to school.
    Blessing | By Tiffany Sapp | August 4, 2023 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: Backpack Blessing, WorshipWeb, Worship
  • You are sacred, and that energy runs through your hands, through the hands of all Unitarian Universalists. You are part of that interdependent network.
    Ritual | By Austen Petersen | September 10, 2020 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: #COVID19, Backpack Blessing, WorshipWeb, Worship
  • Let’s breathe and remember that it is not the device that has value; the value is found in the connections which the device allows us to sustain.
    Ritual | By Dayna Edwards | August 30, 2020 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: Backpack Blessing, Beginnings, Secular
  • Be it real or metaphor, whatever is in your backpack, or your briefcase, or your purse that you’ve brought into this sanctuary that is weighing you down: leave it behind. Whatever you are carrying that is keeping you distracted, or caught up in shame, or guilt, or hopelessness: leave it behind....
    Opening | By Nathan Ryan | August 28, 2018 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: 1st Principle (Worth & Dignity), 3rd Principle (Acceptance & Spiritual Growth), Backpack Blessing, Community, Hope, Humanism, Integrity, Letting Go, Presence, Purpose, Secular, Unitarian Universalism
  • We carry bags with us throughout the week for many reasons. (If you have a bag with you, and you want to have it blessed, please bring it forward, send it forward with a helper, or lift up your bag when you hear me describe you.) Some of us take books and homework to school Some of us bring our...
    Blessing | By Erika Hewitt | August 28, 2017 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: 3rd Principle (Acceptance & Spiritual Growth), 4th Principle (Truth & Meaning), Backpack Blessing, Children, Community, Courage, Direct Experience, Journey, Love, Playfulness, Presence, Solidarity, Strength, Unitarian Universalism, Work
  • Kids, I want you to do something special: I want you to put on your backpacks, if you brought them, leaving the back pocket open just enough for us to drop in a small gift...and I want you to stand up on your pews....
    Blessing | By Jen Crow | August 2, 2016 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: 1st Principle (Worth & Dignity), 3rd Principle (Acceptance & Spiritual Growth), Backpack Blessing, Caring, Character, Children, Courage, Family, Growth, Individualism, Integrity, Journey, Parents
  • Each person (mostly children but some adults will have brought their backpacks too) comes forward with their backpack and stands in a group. The prayer follows, then worship associates give each person a “luggage tag” bearing a flaming chalice logo. Spirit of Life and Hope and Love, for many of...
    Blessing | By Maureen Killoran | August 1, 2016 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: 3rd Principle (Acceptance & Spiritual Growth), 4th Principle (Truth & Meaning), Backpack Blessing, Beginnings, Caring, Challenge, Children, Community, Courage, Fear, Friendship, Joy, Love, Unitarian Universalism