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Maundy Thursday Worship Service
April 6 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
What a Maundy Service is:
On this night Christians commemorate the supper Jesus shared with his disciples before his crucifixion, when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:1 –17) and instituted the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26 –29; Mark 14:22 –25; Luke 22:13 –20; 1 Corinthians 11:23 –25).
Six actions traditional on this night are included in the following service. They are (1) confession and pardon, (2) proclamation of the Word, (3) footwashing, (4) the Lord’s Supper, (5) stripping of the church, and (6) Tenebrae. Of these, (1), (2), and (4) are essential; (3), (5), and (6) are optional and are thus marked with brackets. They require careful preparation when introduced to a congregation.
Footwashing is a powerful symbolic response to the Word, dramatizing the servanthood of Jesus, both on the night before his death and in his continuing presence in our midst. The alternative title for this day, Maundy Thursday, recalls the new commandment (mandatum novum in Latin) in John 13:34 . The service may appropriately be called Maundy Thursday when footwashing occurs in imitation of Jesus’ actions and as a response to his new commandment to love one another. Careful advance planning and advance notice to the people are essential. It may be suggested that participants come without socks or hose and that persons are welcome to observe rather than participate. Representatives of the people or those volunteering to participate may come forward to the place(s) where chairs, a basin and pitcher of water, and towels have been placed. Mutual footwashing among pastor(s) and laypersons should be clearly visible, yet not overly dramatic. Love and care for one another may be expressed in the gestures. During the footwashing the congregation or choir may sing, or the footwashing may be done in silence.
The ancient practice of stripping the Lord’s table and sanctuary following communion is a vivid and dramatic way of showing the desolation and abandonment of the long night in Gethsemane and what followed. Designated persons pick up the cloths on the Lord’s table and the pulpit and other hangings, banners, candlesticks, and decorations and quietly carry them from the sanctuary. This may be done in silence, or Psalm 22 (UMH 752) may be used. The church then remains bare until the Easter Vigil, when the process is reversed.