How often do we get to do something for the first time? I haven't been ordained very long--almost 6 years--but in that time I've had a number of firsts. Most of them, however, are behind me. First sermon, first funeral, first Eucharist, first intervention. This year, I get to experience another first...and all the uncertainty, anxiety, and nervousness that come with it.
I've never been a part of a foot-washing before. I came close once. I was asked to officiate at a foot-washing service for a youth group, but time ran out, and we didn't get to wash each other's feet. This time, it seems certain that I'll be immersed in the messiness of water and buckets and towels and touching. Since this is my first time, I'm hoping the congregation will be gentle. They've done this before, and I'm new here--both to them and to their Maundy Thursday tradition. I've looked to them for guidance, of course, but they have such a mixture of opinions that I'm unsure which direction to take.
Facebook has actually been helpful here. After asking the question about how it should work, I received dozens of helpful suggestions. Most people who chimed in seem to think that letting people wash each other's feet is a good idea--that the duty and honor of doing the washing shouldn't be reserved only for the ordained people in the room. I'm still unclear how all of that will work--what if someone wants to be washed but not wash? Will we define the protocol for washees who don't wash or washers who don't want to be replaced or washers who want to be replaced but can't find another washer to take their place?
What I really feel God calling me to do is embrace the messiness and chaos of Maundy Thursday. It's supposed to be uncomfortable. Peter makes that clear: "You will never wash my feet!" I don't know how it will work, but I trust it will--at least I'm trying to. All our vulnerabilities are supposed to be brought out that night. For some, it's letting another human being touch their feet. For me, it's watching the service unfold with no real sense of where it's going to go.