The COVID pandemic has made people all across the world change school year traditions.
The First United Methodist Church of Gautier is not allowing the virus to get in the way of an annual tradition it does for students.
In preparation for the first day of school for the Pascagoula-Gautier School District, the First United Methodist Church of Gautier held its annual Backpack Blessing on Sunday. Senior Pastor Rev. M.J. Kirby said, “In years past we have always sent our kids and educators back to school with all of our love and prayers with a backpack blessing and this year it’s a little different. With COVID, we couldn’t do our traditional service.”
The back to school event this year was staged as a drive-thru with church members and leaders wearing masks and gloves as cars drove up to receive their blessing. Although the service wasn’t the same as in years past, the sentiment behind the Backpack Blessing was. Children’s Coordinator Heather Brewer said, “Well it’s just– sending them off with love and with confidence, knowing that there are people who are rooting for them and thinking about them. It’s just a good way to start off the year with good feelings and just strength ready to go.”
With the First United Methodist Church still holding its services virtually, the blessing gave Brewer a chance to see some familiar faces in-person for the first time in a while. “It has been so exciting and it also tugs on my heart strings because I miss them so much. I’m used to seeing them virtually every week and for the past several months I haven’t seen them hardly at all. So, it’s a joy to see them and just be able to wave at them and tell them that we love them.”
The Backpack Blessing doubled as a school supply drive. All supplies collected by the church will be distributed to the three Gautier elementary schools and Court Appointed Special Advocates children.
Despite the debate across the country about whether or not to send children back to school, Reverend Kirby says supporting the children is most important. “Now more than ever, we just need to come together as a community, regardless if you think schools should go back in session or not right now, it’s time to come together in unity of the spirit and pray our kids back into schools.”