A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Monday, October 1, 2012

School Kit Sunday

As we mark time in a more intentional way this final year in the life of my congregation, each annual event takes on the added significance of “for the last time”. Yesterday was our final school kit packing extravaganza. There is talk about continuing our school kit making legacy after some fashion, but it is doubtful we will ever again gather to pack over 1,000 kits in a few hours (As I write this, I am so hoping to be proved wrong!).

School Kit morning is such a joyful time of being church together. Some of us might even suggest it is Bergthal’s purest expression of what it means to be church. Months in advance our most amazing school kit coordinator begins assembling our supplies. Weeks before the big day, a small mountain of school supplies stands at the ready in our church basement.

School kit bags, sewn from remnant pieces of material, steadily trickle in. In one noteworthy accomplishment, a woman from our community who grew up in the church and remains a good friend of the congregation, sewed 300 bags this last year. Having a significant stake in our project, she comes with her husband, daughter and two granddaughters.

We begin the morning with a short worship service, but so tantalizing are those beautiful supplies laid out on our basement tables, one by one, in the moments before the service begins, people find themselves at the table prematurely ready to sort and tape and organize.

The benediction concluded, we all make a mad rush to our stations. Some of us gather around the pencil taping table. Others make their way to the back to unpack, sort and stack notebooks. In the middle, in assembly line fashion, most of the participants line up to grab a bag full of four notebooks and proceed down the line adding a ruler, eraser, colored pencils and standard pencils, before handing the bag off to the final station and starting the process over again. At the last table, completed kits are tabulated and boxed up and we all watch with satisfaction the precarious stack of boxed kits that continues to multiply and grow.

A cheerful buzz of banter keeps a steady beat to the frenzy of activity.  One person, on his umpteenth time through the line, wonders aloud how to figure out how far he has walked.  At regular intervals the tabulators cry out, "One hundred kits done!", "Four hundred kits completed!", and we all grin at each other and feel good.  My back hurts from bending over notebooks.  I don't care.

At each station, children are encouraged to take part. One grandpa travels repeatedly through the assembly line with his three year old grandson, carefully explaining the process time and time again. A mother carries her one year old on her hip as she makes her way through the line. Children gather to carefully wrap tape around pencils. My daughter explores and participates in each station in turn. My son sticks to sorting notebooks. Both of them beam with delight having eagerly anticipated this morning, counting down the days til School Kit Sunday.

In my congregational prayer I speak of our rich harvest, reaping that which we have spent the year growing. Even more importantly, we plant a new crop, sowing seeds of compassion and service in our youngsters that will hopefully, with time and care, sprout and grow.

These kits, over the next few months, will slowly make their way to the MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) Center in Newton, Kansas - carload by carload, until the harvested crop is finally delivered. From there, they will be sent around our world to children in need.  We may be small at Bergthal, but on School Kit Sunday, we create a mighty expression of church!

For more information on MCC”s school kit project go to mcc.org click on “get involved” and then “make kits and blankets”

Here’s a school kit litany I wrote several years ago to dedicate our kits each School Kit Sunday.

Litany for School Kits
Leader: God, we circle a stack of school supplies, thankful for the ways in which this little mountain of abundance will go now to meet needs in an ocean of scarcity. We ask your blessing upon these school bags, sown with love and dedication, not knowing all the imaginative ways these bags will be put to use, whether to store things or to wear…

All: As our hands have gathered and sent, may you care for the little hands who will receive and use.

Leader: We ask your blessing upon shiny new notebooks, crisp and ready to receive the hidden thoughts, the assigned essays, the figures and translations of lessons yet untaught…

All: As our hands have gathered and sent, may you care for the little hands who will receive and use.

Leader: We ask your blessing upon rulers and erasers, knowing an education’s benefits cannot be measured and the gift of education may well be able to erase not all, but at least a few of the disadvantages poverty extorts…

All: As our hands have gathered and sent, may you care for the little hands who will receive and use.

Leader: We ask your blessing upon pencils - standard pencils that teach necessary realities and colored pencils that encourage the imagination to dream new possibilities…

All: As our hands have gathered and sent, may you care for the little hands who will receive and use.
Leader: We do not know the children who will receive these school kits, but we ask you to shelter and encourage these little lives and help us find creative ways to advance their cause. Though the need around our world is as fathomless as the ocean, we are thankful for this defiant little mountain of supplies that boldly seeks to meet some of those needs.
All: As we pack and prepare, bless the children who will use these supplies to learn and to live. In your loving name we pray, Amen.

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