I saw one of those fun quizzes on Facebook recently that I couldn’t resist: “Which Saint Has Your Myers-Briggs Personality?”
I got St. Catherine of Siena because, it said, “You absolutely love contemplating unity with Christ and the beauty of the Eucharist during Maundy Thursday. It’s so fulfilling. You especially love to contemplate this while hiding in the bathroom during the foot washing portion.”
When I read that to a friend, she exclaimed, “That is so you!” And so it is. I’ve always loved the Maundy Thursday aspect of the institution of Holy Communion. And I’ve never, ever once in my 25 years of parish ministry planned a service that included foot washing. I will modify that to say that I’ve participated in such a service the past two years because we’ve had joint services with two other congregations. So I went along. But, yeah, I wanted to hide out in the bathroom.
I’m grateful to St. Catherine for assuring me that I’m not alone. But the quiz results also got me thinking about another form of foot washing, that is the lovely scented bath that precedes a pedicure. From there my mind went to the seminar we had several years ago about human trafficking, where we learned that women who work in nail salons are often victims of trafficking for prostitution and/or forced labor. Ever since I’ve been mindful of the usually young, usually Asian women who wash my feet. I’ve read articles on how to look for signs of trafficking and frequent places I know are reputable. Still, knowing that this problem exists is troubling. And I’ve been pondering how it fits in with the message of Maundy Thursday.
Then I heard about another congregation, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Chicago, which did something extraordinary this year. In preparation for Maundy Thursday for washing, they gathered together a team of podiatrists and podiatrists-in-training to provide foot care to some of the members of the church, as well as members of the community who are served by their food pantry and community dinners.
I’m intrigued with the idea of re-imagining Maundy Thursday’s foot washing tradition as a way to concretely, not just symbolically, serve the needs of the people around us. In a city like San Francisco, which has one of the highest homeless populations in the country, there is ample opportunity to offer foot care that’s not a spa day luxury, but a health care necessity.
San Francisco is also a center for human trafficking. Maundy Thursday could be a day to promote awareness of the issue, publish warning signs and resources, and include survivors, victims and the agencies who work to eradicate trafficking in our worship service.
You might have other creative ideas.
As we seek to translate ancient rituals into modern ways of thinking and being, I wonder how we can convey the humble servitude of Maundy Thursday foot washing in our post-modern, post-Christian, spiritual-but-not-religious city. And if we can, I might even come out of the bathroom.