Maundy Thursday Service: Footwashing, Communion and Tenebrae


All are invited to sit and gather around the table



*Opening Song                                                         “Will You Let Me Be Your Servant”

*A Meditation on Beautiful Feet

*Prayer of the Day

Holy God, remind us on this special day of the many ways we know you: as strong deliverer, as humble servant, as the One who bids us love one another, that the world might know you. Lead us not only to the beauty of solitary reflection but also to community, as we remember together your words and your example. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.

Source: Touch Holiness edited by Ruth Duck and Maren Tirabassi


Scripture Reading

Tonight’s Scripture reading is a dramatic version of the Last Supper story, as written by the Wild Goose Worship Group (Stages on the Way: Worship Resources for Lent, Holy Week and Easter, pages 112-114.)

NARRATOR: On the first day of unleavened bread, when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered, Jesus’ disciples said to him:

DISCIPLE B: Where would you like us to go and prepare for the Passover supper?

NARRATOR: So Jesus sent two of his disciples with these instructions:

JESUS: Go into the city and tell a certain man, “The Teacher says, My appointed time is near; I am to keep the Passover with my disciples at your house.’”

NARRATOR: The disciples did as Jesus directed.  They prepared for the Passover and in the evening Jesus came to the house with the twelve.

(Musical interlude, disciples return with bread and wine.)

Jesus knew that his hour had come, that he must leave the world and go to the Father.  He had always loved his who were in the world, and now he was to show the full extent of his love.

(During the next passage, Jesus walks from the back to the front with a basin and towel and as he nears the front, Peter rises.  Jesus stands motionless during Peter’s speech and the first part of the Narrator’s next speech.)

During supper, Jesus, rose from the table, laid aside his garments and taking a towel, tied it around him.  Then he pour water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with a towel.

PETER: You’re not going to wash my feet.  You’re not going to wash my feet!  I mean it and I won’t let you.  It’s not your job, such dirty work.  It’s not your place to be seen doing this.  You are the one we call our Lord.  You are the one on whose own word all our words hand.  You are the one we’ll always follow, the one we’ll never reject, never betray, never deny.  Why empty yourself of dignity to go down on the ground like a servant?  If you’re down on your knees won’t the world walk on by, thinking you are feeble and weak?  Why not rule from the sky, stretch your arms round the world, not my ankles?  You’re not going to wash my feet.  You’re not going to wash my ….

NARRATOR (interrupting): Peter, this is what Jesus must do.  And this is what you must let Jesus do.  To prevent it … is to pretend to be perfect, and you are in need of as much washing as us all.

(Pauses while Jesus approaches and Peter sits.  The following words are said as water can be heard washing Peter’s feet.)

This, who you call “servant” is your Lord.  To be the Lord means to be the servant; to do the dirty work and to do it in love.  And that is very costly, although you count it stupid.  For a good world, a person may lie down their life in pride; but for a bad world and for people who reject, betray, deny, it is much harder.  Christ’s power is in weakness.  And you may not know that today, and you will not think it tomorrow, when from a cross against the sky, Jesus hangs helpless.  But this is the way the world is transformed … by loving the unlovely, by dying for the lifeless, by forgiving those, like you, whose hearts are too stubborn to see what they are or know who Jesus is.  Be still, and let your feet be washed and let your mouth be closed.  Think not always to act, always to speak.  But first let your Lord do for you what you must do for each other.

 (move now into the hand and  foot washing. When everyone has finished, continue with the Gospel)

NARRATOR: After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table.

JESUS: “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them … I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Song                                                                                “Ubi Caritas”

Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas deus ibi est.

Translation: Where there is charity and love, where there is charity, God is there.


One: We remember that on the night before Jesus was betrayed, Jesus gathered around a table, much like this one, with a motley crew of friends.

Many: Jesus welcomed all the disciples to the table, regardless of where they had been or how much dirt was matted on their sandals.  

One: Jesus took their sore, calloused feet in his hands, washing off the caked dirt and muddy layers until their skin shone clean.

Many: After the foot washing, Jesus and his disciples supped together. 

One: While they were eating, Jesus took bread, lifted it up, giving thanks to you O God, and he broke it, saying: This is my body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.

Many: In all times, we may be sure that the Bread of Life will sustain us. 

One: On that same night, Jesus took the cup, blessing it, giving thanks to you O God, and gave it to his friends, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

Many: This is the cup of reconciliation.  We are nourished in our bodies, our spirits, our minds and our hearts as we share this cup.

One: And so, let us now join together as the priesthood of all believers in blessing the elements before us,

 All: Come Holy Spirit, come and pour out your Spirit upon us and on these gifts of bread and fruit of the vine. Transform them and us into the Body of Christ that we might truly become the hands and feet of Jesus. Strengthen and energize us to love and to serve. We ask this through Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus. Amen.

Distribution while singing, “Jesus Remember me”

Prayer after communion

Eternal God, we thank you for your presence in the simplicity and splendor of this holy meal. By the power of your Holy Spirit, unite us with all whom Christ welcomes, that we may be the servant church of the servant Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Source: Touch Holiness edited by Ruth Duck and Maren Tirabassi


After each reading, one of the candles will be extinguished. The person doing the reading will extinguish the candle.  An usher should dim the lights bit by bit following each reading.  Members of the congregation may extinguish their own candles at any time during the readings. At the end of the readings, the sanctuary should be completely dark, except for one remaining candle.

First of the Shadows                                                                                                                               Mark 14: 32-42

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34 And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” 37 He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41 He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise!  Let’s go!  Here comes my betrayer.

Second of the Shadows                                                                                                                            Mark 14:43- 50

43 Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.”45 So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. 47 But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48 Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.”50 

Third of the Shadows                                                                                                                                  Mark 14: 53-65

53 They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. 54 Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. 56 For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree.57 Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 But even on this point their testimony did not agree. 60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?”61 But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’”

63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? 64 You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death. 65 Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him.

Fourth of the Shadows                                                                                                                                   Mark 4:66-72

66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. 69 And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.”70 But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” 72 At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Fifth of the Shadows                                                                                                                                           Mark 15:1-5

15 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

Sixth of the Shadows                                                                                                                                   Mark 15: 16-20

16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Cover the Cross (One candle remains burning)

Song                                                                             Were You There?

                                                                                      First verse only

 Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Print in the bulletin:

There is no Benediction because the events of this night do not conclude until Easter morning resurrection.  Keep the faith in vigil through Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  Please depart in silence.

For altar designs that transition your service from the Last Supper to Tenebrae, please see this page by Preaching in Pumps.

This liturgy is a combination of Nadia Bolz Weber’s suggested Maundy Thursday liturgy (click here) and a United Church of Christ Maundy Thursday Tenebrae service (click here).

1 Comment »

  1. Thank you so much Joy for this meaningful service of liturgy, scripture and music. I have used many of these resources and appreciate how you weave them together. Blessings.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s