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Backpacks blessed for new year

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church holds service to bless students, backpacks for back-to-school

Posted: August 25, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 25, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Children play on the slip and slide during the BBQ after the church service.

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Many local children returned to school last week after summer break. The first day of school means purchasing school supplies or buying new shoes, but for others it was something entirely different.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Newhall held its annual back-to-school bash last Friday. The church holds an annual church service for, and led, entirely by children, with a barbecue and water slide event following the service.

Blessing backpacks

The Blessing of the Backpacks event, held last Friday from 6-8 p.m. was open to the entire community, not just parishioners of St. Stephen’s, and offers students, parents, teachers and administrators a blessing to help start the new school year off right.

This year, the bash included a new tradition, a blessing over the backpacks and lunch boxes. While every year, the church prays for families and administrators, this year the kids were allowed to place their backpacks on the altar as Rev. Kelly O’Connell offered a blessing over the items.

“The backpacks are a symbol for kids, since they carry them from home to school,” she said. “It becomes personal for them, to send them off with a symbol of their school year with a blessing.”

“It really made it something substantial that the kids get to take with them,” said Heather Ippolito, director of Youth and Children’s Ministries and organizer of the event.

Kids lead

The service, which was led by the children, allowed kids to assist with different portions of service; including bell ringing, prayers, Bible readings and even assisting with the Eucharist.

“Church services are normally only done by adults,” said Ippolito. “This was fun for the kids, for them to deliver communion and say prayers, they thought it was really special.”

Sam Potter, a 15-year-old sophomore at Canyon High, participated in the Blessing of the Backpacks service by assisting with communion and carrying to the rector to receive the blessing.

“Our church is really great about letting kids help,” said Potter. “It was a lot of fun to have at church.”

Potter, who has attended the service for the last three years, looks forward to attending again next year and hopes more people from the community will come.

“It really is a wonderful way to start the school year,” O’Connell said. “It is a very informal service for kids of all ages. They were in church in their swimsuits. The kids loved it.”

Ippolito called the event a “fun twist” on church service and a great back-to-school fellowship event for families to get together.

After the service, children were welcomed to stay and attend the barbecue, which served a hot dog dinner, and welcomed kids to play on the slip and slide. O’Connell even joined in the fun and tried out the slip and slide a few times.

This is the first year a blessing specifically for the backpacks was included. The church even found a prayer uniquely blessing backpacks to coordinate with the theme.

“It was interesting, since we have never blessed the backpacks before,” Potter said. “Now that it’s blessed, it definitely helps me remember God while I’m at school.”

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