Back-to School Letter

July 31, 2019

By: Jay Bissett, Chair United Methodist Advocates for Public Schools

July 2019
 
Dear United Methodist Clergy and Churchmembers:
 
            We hope you and your congregants will celebrate educators and students with Back to School activities and recognitions in August.  UMAPS (United Methodist Advocates for Public Schools) is a joint advocacy committee of the North Carolina and Western North Carolina United Methodist Church Conferences. In the WNCCUMC this falls under Congregations for Children (C4C). UMAPS focuses on advocacy for public education and strives to engage in support of students and educators for the crucial work they do. (Please visit umapsnc.org.)
 
            Monday, August 26 will be the first day of school for nearly 1.8 million K-12 grade students; check the calendar of your local system.  There are numerous examples of supporting educators (which include teachers, administrators, assistants, bus drivers, child nutrition workers, custodians, counselors, crossing guards, volunteers).  We hope you will recognize those in your church and in your community for their dedication and care of the children of North Carolina.
 
Here are some suggestions for HOW you may want to celebrate educators and students as they begin another year of learning and growing:

  • Write about Back to School activities in your newsletter, bulletin or outgoing emails.
  • Hold a Back to School service.  Consider partnering with other churches for this service.
  • Focus the children's sermon on the importance of teachers and learning.
  • Add a prayer or responsive reading for teachers and students.
  • Offer a laying on of hands for educators and students.
  • Host a Back to School ice cream party; collect and/or distribute school supplies.
  • Plan a Blessing of the Backpacks.
  • Invite an educator to speak at a service or other meeting.
  • Ask everyone who works with children to stand to be recognized during a worship service.
  • Send an email or note to your child’s/grandchild’s teacher showing your appreciation.
  • Ask children in Sunday School classes to make cards for their teachers.
  • Write an email or letter to your local or state representative expressing your support for public education and its importance for all children.
  • If you have not done so, build or strengthen your church and school partnership through support offered in both conferences through Congregations for Children (C4C).
 
Please join us as we pray a back-to-school prayer by The Rev. Carrie Schofield-Broadbent, Canon in the Episcopal Diocese of Lower New York.
            Holy God, source of wisdom and grace, you know the prayers of my heart, yet it helps me to write them anyway.  It’s the beginning of the school year, God, and my heart is full of prayers.
 
            For the students who are beginning a new school year, give them curious minds, critical thinking skills, the ability to tell right from wrong and the courage to act with integrity. Help them to learn deep truths about this world and about people so that they may be good citizens for the good of the whole.
            For the students who struggle with learning, give them patience, confidence, and grace. Help them to know the many ways that you’ve gifted them, even if reading, math, or memorizing don’t come easy. For the students for whom learning does come easily, help them with the gift of humility. May they all know enough challenges to keep them sharp, strong, and grateful and enough successes to keep them engaged, confident, and proud of themselves.
            For the students who are lonely, hurt, unsafe, unwell, anxious or depressed. Breathe your peace and health into them; may they be supported by people who understand them and love them.
            For the teachers, for the brave souls who wake each morning at the crack of dawn to educate other people’s children and love them like their own. It’s a tough job, God, please keep them from growing weary and cynical. Wrap them in your love, your peace, your wisdom, and your goodness. Help them to see the many ways that their gifts inspire learning, creativity, and compassion. And, please make sure they get enough good coffee, chocolate, and support from parents and administrators to keep ‘em going.
            For those who support learning, for the bus drivers, crossing guards, school safety officers, administrators and aids. Bless those who keep our children safe. For cafeteria workers, nurses, and helpers. Bless those who help our children stay healthy. For librarians, music and art teachers, counselors, therapists, chaplains, volunteers and administrators. Bless those who tend to our children’s hearts and souls.
            For those who grieve, for those grieving the loss of children. This day can be so hard for them as first-day-of-school pictures populate their social media feed. Wrap them in your love and grace, Gracious God.
            This is a new school year. May we all meet this time of year with 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.
I pray in the name of Jesus, our great teacher, prophet and Savior. Amen. 
 
Thank you for joining us in this effort to celebrate and encourage.  Tell us about your events and ideas by emailing: jbissett@wnccumc.net or bheymans@mindspring.com.
 
Sincerely,
Pastor Jay Bissett, Western Carolina Conference, MAYLO UMC, Gastonia
Brian Heymans, Chair, Board of Church and Society, NCC: UMAPS Committee Co-chairs
 

Follow Jesus. Make Disciples. Transform the World.