Monday, January 23, 2012

Year B - Holy or Maundy Thursday (April 5, 2012)

This is another service for which the texts are the same for all three years of the lectionary.  So go to Year A - Holy or Maundy Thursday.  Then, find two additional ideas below.

This book appears in different
covers.  This is the most recent. 
Instead of reading John’s complicated account of this meal, stay with Mark or, even better, read an account from a children’s Bible story book.  My favorite is in The Children’s Story Bible in 365 Stories, by Mary Batchelor.  The 3 stories about the meal include “Preparing the Passover Meal” which explains why it was important to Jesus to celebrate Passover without going into great detail about Passover, ”Looking After Others” which fills in very human details about the significance of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, and “The Passover Meal” which says “As they went on eating the meal, Jesus did something new and wonderful.  He changed the old Jewish Passover into a supper with special meaning, that Christians have kept from that day to this” connecting what Jesus did with the sacrament we celebrate today.  To read all 3 stories takes about 8 minutes.  To read John’s version takes 5 minutes.  Mark’s takes 3 minutes. 

Hand washing is for us what foot washing was for people in Jesus’ day.  Walking around barefoot or in sandals, they worried about dirty feet.  We worry about germs on our hands.  So consider reading about washing feet, but inviting people to have their hands washed.  This is actually a year-round tradition in the Mayan culture.  Hosts pour water over the hands of honored guests and dry them off with a towel before serving a meal. 

Greeters at the door of the sanctuary could use moist towelettes to gently wash the hands of each entering worshiper before handing him or her a printed order of worship.  One or two families or an older children’s church school class could provide this service.

Worshipers could also stop at a hand washing station on their way to receive communion at the front of the sanctuary.  The hand washers could be adult leaders or families or a children’s church school class.

If worshipers are seated around tables to share a meal as well as communion, have small packs of moist towelettes spread among the tables.  Invite worshipers to use one to wash the hands of at least one of their neighbors.  Encourage them to wash hands gently, thoroughly, and with love. 

This is a new idea to me.  I’ve never seen it done.  But it seems promising.  I, and I’ll bet others, would love to hear from those with experience how it works.  Also, if anyone knows of a way to do this with real water and towels without raising concerns about germs, please tell us.  


  1. I had a couple washing hands as people entered the sanctuary for a Maundy Thursday service. It was meaningful and I didn't have to explain the purpose other than read a portion of scripture. We had a pitcher and basin to pour water over hands. They dried hands with a collection of hand towels or wash clothes from the church kitchen.
    For the entire service each scripture read had a visual to match like crown of thorns, rooster.

  2. We gathered at tables last year and participated in a number of activities. The hand washing was right before communion, served at tables, and was very powerful. We had bowls, pitchers, towels and soap and asked people to wash one another's hands. The DCE and I demonstrated first - poured water on the hands to wet, soaped with liquid soap, then poured more water to rinse, and dried with dish towels from the kitchen. I don't know which was more moving - washing her hands, having mine washed, or watching others.


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