Easter -- With Humility and Joy: Footwashing Service for Families

Maundy Thursday

Book of Worship provides a formal service of Footwashing on pages 197-206. This service is an intergenerational adaptation of that service, geared toward involving families in the congregation. It needs to take place in a flexible space, where the whole group may gather to hear the story from John 13, and then families may move into smaller circles to talk with each other, pray the litany, and wash each others' feet. A spirit of informality should make room for the sweet, the serious and even the silly as concerns are shared, shoes come off, water is poured, and feet are washed and dried.

Bowls, towels and pitchers of warm water are needed; perhaps each family could come prepared with their own, with back-up supplies provided by the congregation.

A simple supper could conclude the evening.

Tell the Story: John 13: 1-17 is adapted as a dramatic reading in Book of Worship, pp 201-203. You may wish to use this, or create another adaptation of the story. Children or youth may act out the story for the congregation.

Offer a Word of Interpretation: Engage the congregation either with a brief homily or a guided discussion about the story, and about the symbol of footwashing. Make some suggestions about how a family might use the next few minutes as they gather together to wash each others' feet. What does it mean to offer humble, joyful, loving service to each other? Help them make this into a moment to open hearts to each other, to speak lovingly, to admit to difficulties, to ask forgiveness and to forgive, to promise to make some changes where they are needed. Look over the litany below; it is meant to be a model for conversations among the family members. Each member of the family will need to find their own words.

Gather Families Together: Move chairs into circles; make sure each family has basin, towels and warm water; make sure that there is at least one copy of the Litany in each family group to help guide the conversation.

Pray the Family Litany: This litany is formed out of conversation among family members about how they might serve one another humbly and joyfully. We offer below some models of what different members of the family might say to each other, but each person should speak their own words. After each person has spoken, the family replies, saying,

"Like Jesus, we'll offer humble, joyful, loving service!"

Family Litany

Leader: How do we honor and serve one another in humility,
following the example of our beloved Jesus?
Especially in our family relationships,
how can we serve humbly, joyfully?
If you have something in your heart, say it now!

Child to parents/caregivers: Help me to hear and to answer you when you call; I won't pretend I did not hear because I would rather play!

Family: Like Jesus, we'll offer humble, joyful, loving service!

Teen to parents/caregivers: Bother me with your requests for help, even while I'm on the phone with my friends!

Family: Like Jesus, we'll offer humble, joyful, loving service!

Young and older parents/caregivers to child and teen: Forgive me when I am defensive because I hear an answer which challenges my intellect.

Family: Like Jesus, we'll offer humble, joyful, loving service!

Young adult to parents/caregivers: Challenge my attitude that "I know better because I am now a grownup;" I will pay attention to your opinions.

Family: Like Jesus, we'll offer humble, joyful, loving service!

Middle aged parent to senior parent: Be patient with me as I am patient with you as we face difficult decisions together.

Family: Like Jesus, we'll offer humble, joyful, loving service!

Senior parent to whole Family: Forgive my "Been there, done that" attitude; let me offer my wisdom freely and respectfully.

Family: Like Jesus, we'll offer humble, joyful, loving service!

Wash Each Others' Feet: When everyone in the family has had a chance to take their part in the Family Litany, the footwashing may begin, with humble, joyful, loving care! Each family can figure out how to proceed; perhaps everyone will pour a little water on the feet of the one being washed; perhaps one will pour water and another dry; members should freely help each other.

Gather Together for the Closing Prayer: As families finish the footwashing, encourage them to gather back in the large circle. Clean up can wait until everyone has gathered, and the concluding prayer has been said.

Closing Prayer

Leader: O Jesus, in this Holy Week you prayed
that we would love one another
as you have loved us.
Tonight we have tried to practice what you have taught us!
Let the love, joy and humility
we have known here with our families
continue to bless us,
and let us share that blessing with world
you love and gave your life for.
May the peace we feel together in this place
Point us toward the hope of Easter.


With Humility and Joy: Footwashing Service for Families was written by Lutie O. Lee, Minister for Children and Families, Worship and Education Ministry Team, Local Church Ministries.

Copyright 2008 Local Church Ministries, Worship and Education Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100. Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved.


Rev. Susan A. Blain
Minister for Worship, Liturgy and Spiritual Formation
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio 44115