Maundy Thursday Footwashing

Consider using this family based footwashing service, or check out the other Holy Week activities in this year’s Lent at Home booklet.

(Maundy comes from the Latin, “dies mandatum” which means “the day of the new commandment”.)

On that first Maundy Thursday, Jesus surprised his disciples by washing their feet. This was something that servants regularly did when people came inside, because the Palestinian roads were dusty and their sandaled feet were dirty. But Jesus was their teacher! By kneeling in front of them and washing their feet as a servant would, Jesus taught them something very important. Jesus expects his followers to be like servants to each other, instead of trying to boss each other around. “After he had washed their feet…he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.’” John 13: 12-14.

Even though Canadians don’t wear sandals and walk on dusty roads in April, we can still wash each other’s feet, obey Jesus’ new commandment, remember what Jesus taught us about serving, and imagine what it is like to have our Lord Jesus, the Son of God, kneeling in front of us and washing our feet.

Perhaps your church has a Footwashing service on Maundy Thursday in which you can participate. If not, here’s a way you can have one in your home.

Getting Ready:
Invite the family that joined you on Shrove Tuesday to join you again for this activity.
Gather and/or prepare:
• A stack of towels, one for each person who is participating.
• A large bowl or plastic dishpan to catch the water.
• A jug filled with warm water for pouring over feet.
• Music CDs with suitable songs to accompany the activity.
• Readers practice reading the scripture and prayers so that they will communicate well.


Opening song: STS 49 I will come to you in the silence (CD: Sing The Story 2, track 18)

Scripture Reading: John 13: 1-20.

Leader’s Words of Invitation:
Because Jesus, our Lord and Teacher washed all of his disciples’ feet, and told us to wash each other’s feet, we invite you to do so with us, even if your feet aren’t dusty and dirty. When Jesus washes us, his love cleans us, even on the inside, where bad attitudes can dirty our lives. Because we follow Jesus, we can help each other be cleaned by Jesus’ love. (Pause.) Quietly take off your shoes and put them to the side so no one can trip on them. Take a moment to breathe out all the ideas and attitudes that make it hard for you to follow Jesus.

Leader: Lord Jesus, you washed the feet of your disciples
to show us what you expect us to do.
Let our participation in this footwashing
strengthen us for your service,
and fill us with your fairness, love and peace.

All: To you be glory forever. Come, Lord Jesus.

Sing, or listen to: STS 40 We will follow (Sing the Story2, © 2008 Herald Press track 15)

Footwashing instructions:
Everyone sits around the worship centre during the footwashing. It begins with the oldest person washing the feet of the youngest.

Invite the youngest person present to come and sit on the chair with the basin in front of it. Kneel down in front of the child and place a dry towel over your arm. Take one bare foot in your non-dominant hand, making sure it is centered over the basin, and then pour some warm water over the foot from the pitcher. Put down the pitcher and rub the foot gently. Rinse with some more water from the pitcher. Dry the foot gently and then do the same with the other foot. After this is completed; get up and share a hug with the person whose feet you washed. Then that person will wash your feet.

This process continues until everyone’s feet have been washed. If there are an odd number of people, the first person to wash feet can also be the last. After everyone’s feet have been washed and dried, they pass the peace of Christ to each other, by shaking hands and saying, “The Peace of Christ be with you.” All return to their seats for the final blessing.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for showing us how we can kneel and serve each other. Thank you for honouring our willingness to serve and to be served. Thank you that your peace and love fill us as we obey and follow you. And now we pray the prayer Jesus taught us: (recite the Lord’s Prayer together).

After the footwashing ritual it would be good to share a snack and remember the way Jesus ate with his disciples. If you wish to have a Seder meal together, and celebrate Passover, follow this link for a number of resources.


About Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel

As a young senior whose life could easily have ended in a nasty car crash in 2012 I live with an extra dose of gratitude to God, humanity, and the wonders of our human bodies. I am a passionate advocate for ministry WITH children and seniors in the life and ministry of the church. I started working in Faith Formation with Mennonite Church Canada in 2002. Thinking and writing about faith helps me see God at work in all kinds of surprising places. I'd like to be remembered as one who encourages others to live into God's good dream for our world. My book, Please Pass the Faith: The Spiritual Art of Grandparenting, is one big way I'm trying to share that encouragement with my peers. This blog is another way I'd like to engage people who care about growing in faith across the generations.
This entry was posted in Child Faith, Church season, Family life, Intergenerational worship, Lent and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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