“And Jesus took the children (and the teachers, school administrators, school staff, cooks, bus drivers, janitors, parents, grandparents) in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”Mark 10:16
I vividly remember where I was when I received the email notifying all UNC Asheville students that spring break had been extended by two weeks due to rising COVID infection rates in North Carolina. Looking back, it’s humorous to think that we initially believed that this would all be over in a matter of weeks. Now, 18 months later, we are preparing to begin another school year filled with uncertainty. What do we do when overwhelmed with fear and anxiety? We turn to prayer. Not because prayer is a list of demands that God will meet, or that prayer is a form of magic that can fix any issue we encounter, but because prayer is an opportunity to open our minds and hearts to God. When we open ourselves to hear what God has to say, we become instruments of God’s grace, and if there’s one thing we all need right now, it is grace. Friends, join me in prayer this week as we pray for: grace for our educators, who have to make incredibly difficult and complex decisions; grace for those in the service industry, who are showing up in times of short staffing; grace for those on the frontlines of this pandemic, who put their own lives at risk to be of service to others; grace for one another, and most importantly, grace for ourselves.
The Rev. Canon Carrie Schofield-Broadbent, in prayer for the upcoming school year, offers these words of hope and encouragement: This is a new school year. May we all meet this time of year with a renewed commitment to our individual callings. May we all continue to grow in wisdom, knowledge, curiosity, humility, confidence, and compassion even when we are not in school. Help us to look toward the outskirts, toward the margins for people in need of compassion and generosity. May we never stop including those who sit on the edge of the playground. May we never stop sharing our pencils and sandwiches with those in need. May we never cease to see your Spirit and goodness in each person we meet.
This Sunday, August 22nd, will be the Blessing of the Backpacks. During both services on Sunday, each youth will be given a luggage tag to place on their backpack. This tag will have a message of hope that they can carry with them as they embrace the school year that lies ahead, whatever that may look like. Whether you find yourself in the classroom, at the kitchen table, or behind the computer screen, know that there is an abundance of resources available to you and your family, and that God’s love is all around you.
May this blessing from Kimberly Knowle-Zeller, an ordained ELCA pastor, bring you comfort in the coming days and months as we send our beloved youth and children back to school: Bless the school year ahead – fill it with compassion for those making difficult decisions, comfort to parents wondering how to manage home, work, and school, and strength to teachers navigating new ways of learning. Bless the school year ahead – reminding us to see our neighbors as ourselves and Christ in all that we meet. Bless the school year ahead – remembering that God always goes before us and claims us as beloved children of God. Bless the school year ahead – trusting your grace in our lives and hope for what is to come. Be with us this year. Grant us your wisdom, Lord, that we continue to seek it, and look for signs of your love all around us.
If there is any way, no matter how small, that I can offer support, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to chat and get to know you and your family. You can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (828)-755-6700.