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A Story of Foot Washing

by Jim Leaman, Chaplain

One spring I was inviOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAted to help facilitate a foot washing service in one of the memory support houses at Landis Homes. I had some reservations, but I liked that this idea had originated with team members who wanted to honor the residents in this act of serving and caring.

The service provided an opportunity for all of us to participate in a ritual of worship and practice which had previously been meaningful for many of the residents. The planning went forward, and the event was scheduled for an evening during Holy Week.

That evening a group of about twenty-four residents and team members gathered in the living room and began overflowing into the adjoining hallway. One of the Lititz House residents played prelude music on the keyboard and accompanied the group in singing the hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Following a reading from Luke 22, I shared the bread and the cup of communion with those gathered.

footwashing400pxThe highlight of the evening was the service of foot washing. I read from John 13, which records Jesus washing feet, and shared some thoughts about humble service and cleansing of the heart. Then we team members, taking prepared basins of water, each knelt in front of one of the residents to gently and lovingly bathe and wipe the resident’s feet. Following this we shared hugs and blessings.

The resident whose feet I had washed approached me and warmed my heart with a big “Thank you!”

Then unexpectedly one of the residents said she wished to wash the feet of a team member. Without any preplanning, she was assisted by others to kneel, and then she washed and dried the feet of a team member. When she was finished and was assisted to her feet again, she gave the team member a hug and kiss.