ALEXANDRIA, Va. — "May their screens be strong and uncrackable. May their battery life be long. May their internet be strong."
After almost 250 years in the community, Trinity United Methodist Church held a special prayer on Sunday for the first time ever as students and teachers get set to head back to school this week.
The event, called "The Blessing of the Chromebooks," was held outdoors and attracted families facing both the stress and excitement of a new school year.
Normally, Pastor Grace Han blesses backpacks before the first day of school. However, due to the circumstances of the pandemic, this year's event brought some changes.
"People aren’t really using backpacks this year because you are doing school from home. So what maybe needs to be blessed isn’t a physical backpack but what represents school," Pastor Han told WUSA9. "We thought we would re-envision this idea of blessing Chromebooks and tablets and whatever families are using.”
Trinity United Methodist Church has been closed for in-person services since March.
On Sunday, the blessing ceremony marked the first time some of the members could gather together while social distancing.
"I have never done anything like this with the masks," Pastor Han said beforehand. "We have so much hand sanitizer I don’t even know what to do with it all."
While the gathering brought joy for families who attended, it also helped spread needed spirit and encouragement as many people continue to feel stress and anxiety during the pandemic.
"To get together to share in some anxiety, to share in some excitement, to know you’re not alone in this time, I think is what church is about," said Hannah Donoghue, who helped organize Sunday's ceremony.
With the Chromebooks and other school materials now blessed, Pastor Han hoped families and children could focus on the year ahead and remember their community of support.
"Especially this year, families need a special blessing and a special word of encouragement," she said. "We know there’s a lot of unknowns as we face this year and we want to encourage them they aren’t alone and that we will be walking with them and journeying with them.”
Alexandria City Public Schools begins virtual learning on Tuesday for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Tuesday will also mark the beginning of the virtual school year for students and staff in areas like Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties.