Richard Hyatt

Blessed are the backpacks

Blessing the backpacks sounded like a hollow ritual. What meaningful words could a preacher say about a bag filled with unsharpened pencils and blank sheets of notebook paper?

Contrived or not, the Rev. Jimmy Elder invited the children at First Baptist Church to bring their book bags on the Sunday morning before the first day of school.

I didn’t understand the moment, but the kids did. Backpacks on their shoulders they gathered around Mr. Jimmy. On a day of anxiety and doubt, he embraced them and assured them that everything was going to be all right.

That day is here again. Summer’s ending, school is starting and this morning that ageless transition begins.

This morning our second-grader will put on her brand new backpack with her name on the side and walk down the aisle with her friends to receive a special blessing.

I thought this was a ceremony created by Elder himself. Now I find that the blessing of the backpack came out of the Lutheran faith. It has spread to other congregations in other parts of the country.

For young people, it is a milestone. Monday they embark on a new path with teachers they don’t know. They will be measured, judged and tested at every stop.

But on Sunday morning, their church family is behind them and the pastor is blessing the backpacks and the children that will use them.

I understand it now. The children’s glowing faces explain it best. And if your child’s backpack hasn’t been properly blessed here is one man’s prayer:

Lord, bless these backpacks and the children and youth who carry them as they begin yet another year of school. Give them peace when they feel nervous, focus when they feel distracted, energy when they feel tired. Open their minds to the lessons they will learn both in and outside the classroom. Help them to make friends that build one another up, and be friends to those who need them. Guide them in making good choices as they grow in wisdom and maturity. Be ever-present with them in the classroom, on the school bus, on the playground, and at home, and may they feel your loving care in all they do. Amen.

Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at