Liturgical Footwashing

This service was designed to be a full service of Word and sacrament. It was also designed to allow worshipers to share in the intimacy Jesus experienced with his disciples through foot washing and during the meal in the hours prior to his arrest and crucifixion.

Instead of using our more formal communion setting, we used two long, narrow handmade wooden tables that were placed in the space between the chancel and the front pews on either side of the center aisle. Each table was surrounded with chairs and set with a homespun cloth and baskets of grapes and bread.

The liturgy was very traditional. When I began planning this service, I wondered how I could preach the gospel authentically without incorporating into the service some aspect of foot washing—a practice that was definitely not a part of our tradition! I wanted to introduce it, yet I did not want to challenge people beyond their comfort level. Perhaps I could offer a taste of this powerful sign of servanthood and love through liturgical ritual. Perhaps we could bring the Maundy Thursday Scripture alive!

After the hymn “Jesu, Jesu,” the lay reader stood next to me as we said the creed. Then she and I spoke the foot washing liturgy, a direct command from the gospel of John. Carefully and deliberately I poured the water into the bowl and used it to wash the reader’s feet. She in turn washed my feet. Both of us had towels draped across our arms and used them to dry our hands.

All of this happened in the mystery of silent worship, and when we were finished we began the prayers of the people. We were able to incorporate the act of foot washing in our congregation in this reverent ritual while avoiding the anxiety that might have been produced had we entered into corporate foot washing without any prior experience.

After the Eucharistic prayer, I invited the congregation to come forward for the meal. People came forward and sat at the tables, rotating as space was available. I went to each table and greeted them, saying, “Jesus said, ‘Little children, I am with you only a little longer. Where I am going you cannot come. I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’” Then I offered each one a large chunk of bread, saying, “This is my body broken for you,” and a cup of wine, saying, “This is my blood shed for you.” When all had eaten and drunk, I said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Go in peace.”

Obviously, this manner of sharing in the Lord’s Supper was time-intensive, and I worried that people would be unhappy with an extra-long service. This was not the case. Most people agreed that the 1½-hour service went by very quickly, and all were greatly nurtured and fed by it.

Gathering to Worship

Prayer of Preparation for Worship

God of love, as we prepare to remember the events of this poignant night, open our eyes to see the beauty of Jesus’ self-giving love, and by your Spirit work in our community a desire and commitment to serve each other and our hurting world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tolling of the Bell

Prelude “Come, Share the Lord” (Leech/Tabell)

Bearing of the Light (Christ candle is processed in.)

Solemn Declaration (Sung Amen)

Call to Worship

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
In worship on this night, we testify to God’s love shown perfectly in Christ.
We recommit ourselves to love one another as a community of faith.
O taste and see that the Lord is good!
Come, let us worship the Lord!

Hymn “What Wondrous Love” CH 314, PH 85, PsH 379, SFL 169, TH 261, WR 257


The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Invocation (Prayer for the Holy Spirit to work through the service)

Call to Confession

As we remember this night of betrayal and desertion, let us confess our sins before God and one another.

Prayer of Confession

Merciful God, we have not loved you with all our heart and mind and strength and soul.

[Silent prayer]

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
We have not loved our neighbors as you have taught us.

[Silent prayer]

Christ, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
We are indifferent to the saving grace of your Word and life.

[Silent prayer]

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Forgive and heal us by your steadfast love made known to us in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Words of Pardon

Hymn of Praise: “A New Commandment” SNC 134

“Christ, the Life of All the Living” PsH 371

“Friends in Faith SNC 135

The Word

Old Testament: Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14

Psalm: Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Gospel: John 13: 1-17, 31b-35


Hymn: “Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love” PH 367, PsH 601, SWM 249, SFL 251, WR 273

Affirmation of Faith: The Nicene Creed

Ritual of Footwashing

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done for you.

Call to Prayer

As Jesus prayed to his Father in the shadows of the Garden of Gethsemane, let us pray together now in the shadow of his love.

Prayers of the People

For the leaders of the world, that they may put aside their differences and seek the peace of Christ, we pray,

Lord, hear our prayer.

For the Church, that she may become a servant offering hope, life, and compassion to all who seek God’s love, we pray.

Lord, hear our prayer.

For all who receive daily bread in welfare lines, food banks, and at this table, that they may forgive our daily trespasses, we pray,

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, gather your people around your table, that we who celebrate this sacrament may understand what Christ does for us and follow in his way, we pray,

Lord, hear our prayer.

That we may long for the day when all may feast at the table of our Lord, no one will be an outsider, and all will be loved, we pray,

Lord, hear our prayer.

As our Lord continues to make intercession for us, let us unite in this prayer, remembering those who asked us to pray and those who need our prayers.

[Silent prayer]

Gracious God, as we eat and drink the sacrament of the body and blood of your Son, given for us on the cross, help us in turn to give ourselves to you by giving ourselves to others. We pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Hymn of Response: “Lift High the Cross” CH 450, PH 371, PsH 373, SWM 243, SFL 171, TH 263, WR 287

We Give Our Offerings



[After the offertory, the ushers brought the offering forward with two first-grade children walking behind, presenting the elements in the earthenware flagon and bread plate that had been placed at the back of the church. They were received by the pastor as we said the Great Offering and Blessing.]

Great Offering and Blessing

[A child hands the leader the bread, which is held high as an offering.]

Blessed are you, Lord God of the Universe, you are the giver of this bread, fruit of the earth and of human labor. Let it become the bread of life!

Blessed be God, now and forever!

[The other child hands the leader the flagon of wine, which is held high as an offering.]

Blessed are you, Lord God of the universe, you are the giver of this wine, fruit of the vine and of human labor. Let it become the wine of the eternal kingdom!

Blessed be God, now and forever!

As the grain once scattered on the fields and the grapes once dispersed on the hillside are now reunited on this table in bread and wine, so, Lord, may your whole church be gathered together from the corners of the earth into your kingdom!

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

The Meal


Prayer of Thanksgiving

Hymn: “Go to Dark Gethsemane” PH 97, PsH 381, WR 272

Stripping of the Table

[The Elders strip the table of its sacred vessels and remove all table furnishings and paraments. This is symbolic of Christ’s humiliation at the hands of the soldiers in their stripping off of his garments.]

Anthem: “Christ at Table There with Friends” Emma Lou Diemer

Silent Prayer

The people leave in silence



Bulletin Note

At the direction of the ushers, please come forward to the wooden tables by the center aisle and participate in the Lord’s Supper. You may take a seat and wait for the pastor to give you bread. When you receive it, say “Amen” and eat the bread. When you receive the cup of wine, say “Amen” and drink the wine. When your whole table has communed, the pastor will give a blessing and you may return to your pew using the side aisles. Children may come forward for a blessing with a parent.

Lyn Reith ( is the pastor of St. Luke’s United Church of Christ, Lititz, Pennsylvania.

Reformed Worship 82 © December 2006, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.