Despite being forced to host online services and cancel their annual Blessing the Backpacks event, the Atascocita United Methodist Church (AUMC) was able to pull off a socially distanced parade Sunday, Aug. 9, where hundreds of parishioners and members of the local community drove through a pre-planned route inside the church’s parking lot.

Traditionally, the church holds an annual Blessing the Backpacks, in which students from the local community bring their backpacks to the church and receive a blessing and prayer from church leaders as they enter the new school year. Such an event, given the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, would obviously did not take place this year.

Leigh-Anne Williams, pastor of family ministries at AUMC, explained the rationale behind the Aug. 9 parade.

“In the past, we have always been very supportive of teachers and students and we have an annual Blessing the Backpacks event, which we unfortunately could not have this year because of the circumstances. We thought it would be fun to have a parade and invite all the teachers and students in the community to be blessed as they begin a very unprecedented school year. We hope all of the teachers working in our schools and their students are able to stay safe and we will be praying for their safety today,” said Williams. “We have socially distanced cheerleaders (members of the church) applauding teachers and students as they move through the parade.”

As the families of teachers and students drove through, they received loud cheers from AUMC members, who expressed their support for all those in attendance. The cheerleaders came equipped with horns, decorative regalia and signs supporting those that drove through.

One of the church’s cheerleaders, Betty Haskins, explained what brought her out to this virtual parade.

“The love of the teachers and of the students brought me here today. I have grandchildren in the school district and this is a great way to bless everyone ahead of the school year,” said Haskins.

After receiving applause from church members, each student and teacher received a blessing bag from the church and Williams blessed the individuals in every car as they passed through.

Senior Pastor Debra Hawboldt said, “Because of COVID-19, we had to do things differently this year. This is an exciting opportunity and it is a great way for our students and teachers to know that we are here to support them throughout these unforeseen and uncertain circumstances.”

AUMC’s support for local students and teachers did not end with this parade; the church aims to distribute thoughtful packages to teachers across several Humble ISD schools.

“We have also made over 1,000 teacher blessing bags that we are going to be taking to public schools throughout the district. We are partners with Oaks, Timbers and Maple Brook elementary schools, as well as Atascocita Middle School, which we will be supporting through these gifts,” added Hawboldt.

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