But I Won’t Do That


A Post on My Refusal to Participate in Foot Washing Services

Christians are weird.

Don’t believe me? Go to a good ol’ foot washin’ service.

I grew up in a pretty conservative Southern Baptist church that didn’t follow too many Christian rituals, except for getting dunked, of course. We observed communion once a quarter, but we called it the Lord’s Supper so as not to be confused with the Catholics down the street. In my early church experience, most rituals besides baptism were reserved for Catholics, Whiskopalians, or snake handlers.

So, imagine my surprise, after having left The Church for several years, when I found myself in a worship planning meeting for a Maundy Thursday service. I was a choir director for a beautiful UCC congregation, and the UCC folks, well… they LOVE a ritual. I was just getting used to having communion every single Sunday, when the pastor began talking about having a foot washing service for Maundy Thursday. I thought she was joking, because we ALWAYS joked and generally had a good time. I was convinced that she and the associate pastor were trying to pull one over on me when they would not let up on the idea of having a foot washing service.

I just laughed at the idea, but then the associate pastor said, “No, we’re serious. See, I just washed the two big salad bowls to use as basins,” and she gestured to two big metal bowls in the corner. I looked in their eyes, and at that moment knew that they were serious.

I tried to hide my horror, but it didn’t go so well. I had a total diva fit. “You mean to tell me that you want me to get on my hands and knees and wash someone ELSE’s FEET? Do you even know how disgusted I am by FEET? Aren’t we taking this ritual a little bit too literally? I know that we do what Jesus did. I get it. And, I get that Jesus’s feet were disgusting. They had good reason to wash feet back then. But we have EVOLVED. We wear shoes now.” And I kept going. “I have the perfect solution. I’ll program a solo for me to sing while everyone else is washing feet. Because I’m not doing it. No. Way. Oh, and by the way… salad bowls? I’m never eating salad here again. I. Just. Can. Not. Deal.”

And with that, the associate pastor grabbed the bowls and ran downstairs. I was sure that I had totally ruined everything and made her furious, because we suddenly heard a weird banging noise. But, five minutes later, she emerged with a giant smile and said, “I have a solution. I banged up this bowl with a hammer so everyone will know it’s the foot washing bowl from now on. You can still eat salads at the next pot luck.” I looked at them and said, “I’m not going to get out of this, am I?” They just smiled—wicked, evil smiles—and I prepared my heart for the vilest ritual that I can think of.

I would like to say that I have grown since then—that I participated in the foot washing and I emerged a new person, appreciative of the beauty of the ritual. But, I haven’t changed a bit. I am still completely disgusted by it. And I’ve tried to get past it. I have. But I just can’t.

I love what the ritual means. I love that it shows that we can serve each other, and it’s also a lesson in being served. But… ew!

I wish that I could just look everyone in my church family in the eye, take them by the hands (NOT THE FEET), and say out loud what this foot-washing ritual is really all about:

I want to serve you.
I am trying to have the grace to let you serve me to.
I honor your journey.
Your journey, and your story, are welcome here.
Let’s do this journeying thing together.

Hear those words today. Whether you are a foot washer or a scoffer like me, know that I honor your journey and that I truly want to serve you. And I’m trying really, really hard to learn to let people serve me, too. That’s probably the hardest part of the lesson. I want you to hear those words, because I will do anything in my power to get out of ever washing someone’s feet again. (Why are we Christians so strange?)

There are many, many things that I would do for love. But, when it comes to foot washing, in the words of dear Meatloaf…

I would do anything for love (but I won’t do that).

This post originally appeared on Clothesline Confessional.

Ashley Robinson_smAshley Robinson is executive assistant for Baptist Women in Ministry. She is also a storyteller and has performed at the Peach State Storytelling Festival, Stories on the Edge of Night, and the Listen to Your Mother Show. Ashley blogs at Clothesline Confessional.

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