St. John’s United Methodist Church is gearing up for its annual Blessing of the Backpacks event – a church initiative that gets kids ready for the upcoming school year.


The event, open to anyone who wants to attend, will he held on Sunday, Aug. 17 at the church, located at 104 Newberry St.


Each year, the church dedicates both its 9:02 a.m. and 11 a.m. services to the children.


During the services, children will get to read scriptures, pray, serve as ushers and greeters, enjoy music and listen to a kid-friendly sermon.


The children are asked to bring their backpacks so the pastor can bless them, a symbol that encourages them to carry their faith into the next school year. Parents are also encouraged to bring along extra school supplies to share with the church’s mission partners to go to children in need.


Stephanie Lord, the director of children ministries, said there’s an understandable focus on getting children ready for school through grocery shopping and buying clothes, school supplies and other necessary items.


However, she said, it is equally important to make sure the kids are spiritually ready, as well.


“We like to put that extra emphasis on the Christian faith to make sure our kids are spiritually ready to start the school year, as well,” she said. “They’re invited up to the front of the church and the blessing is done for all the kids.”


For more information, call 803-648-6891 or visit www.stjohns-umc.org.


Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.